Sprouts and Shoots: What’s the Difference?

In a little over two weeks, our first week of the Pea Shoot Program will begin!

Thanks to those of you who have already registered– we are looking forward to seeing you weekly (or bi-weekly) very soon!

For those of you who are still considering it, all the info you need to know is available on our website here: Pea Shoot Program


As the program goes on, we’ll be sharing recipes and information about these yummy shoots.  Yes, Shoots, not Sprouts!  You’ll never hear us farmers call them Sprouts, though it’s a totally understandable misnomer.  The growing processes are totally different for Shoots and Sprouts, which is why we make the distinction between the two… And the health department does, too!

Sprouts are seeds that are sprouted to the first leaf stage of the plant by soaking and rinsing in water, usually for about 3 – 5 days, depending on the type.  Jon and I have worked on a farm that produced Sprouts (alfalfa and broccoli), and been closely involved with the process as well as obtaining the necessary certification from the health department.  It required extensive record keeping, as well as a growing space akin to a commercial kitchen. The health department views Sprouts as a potentially hazardous food because they are highly perishable and due to the way they are grown in water they can be susceptible to bacteria growth if not handled properly.  It’s not out of the question that we may look into what it would take for us to produce Sprouts in the future, but we have a long way to go to get our facility and water up to snuff, first.

IMG_0052Shoots are baby plants, grown in soil in trays and often sold already cut.  In the case of pea shoots, you are eating a small pea plant at the stage when it first starts to send out tendrils (the long curly climbing bits).  The process of growing Pea Shoots is totally different that growing peas: We crowd the plants, starve them of light, and harvest them long before they start flowering or growing peas.  Pea Shoots should be rinsed before you eat them, but are as safe as any other vegetable and not considered an potentially hazardous food like Sprouts.  It may feel like the difference is splitting hairs a bit– and it probably is!– but the difference can have a lot of implications for our farm, so I just want you to be clear on what you’re getting!

(On a related note, Microgreens are a similar process to growing Shoots as they are also seeds grown in soil.  Our farm does not currently produce any microgreens, but do let us know if this is something you may be interested in as we do have the capacity for it, we just don’t feel there is enough of a market for them in Brandon.)

Next question… Can you Sprout Peas??
You sure can!  I haven’t done it in a while, but one of my roommates used to regularly sprout lentils, beans, and peas in our kitchen.  They were great, especially in winter to add to salads for a nice fresh taste.  Pea Sprouts aren’t something we’ll be adding to our product mix anytime soon, but Sprouts are something that you can easily produce in your own kitchen in just a few days.  (Please do your research first, I recommend Mumm’s Sprouting Seeds in Saskatoon as a great resource: http://sprouting.com/)

IMG_0050We’ve been doing trials in our production space to determine just the right number of days required for the Pea Shoots in this new space, and tonight the seeds for Week 1 (Feb. 6th) are being planted!  The number of days changes depending on the time of year (light) and temperature, and the shoots can also be very affected by humidity, water, airflow, etc.

We’re excited that you are all also excited about Pea Shoots, and we’re looking forward to Feb. 6th!  Option B is nearly sold out, but there is still space in our Option A and C groups, so if you are considering joining we’d love to have you! Get all the info here.

We’re so grateful you are willing to support our farm and eat pea shoots that we are saving our storage veggies for you!  If you are in Option A or B and getting delivery on Feb. 6th, you’ll be getting an order form for the optional ordering of other veggies by early next week (Jan. 29 at the latest, I will post it here on our blog when it is available!).

If you have any questions, please feel welcome to email us!


Recipe: Stir-fried Pea Shoots
Anytime I have an abundance of Pea Shoots I treat us to this great side dish!  It can use up an entire tray of shoots (to serve 4 people or so), or you can substitute bok choy, broccoli, or cabbage for some of the pea shoots and make them stretch longer that way.

1 tablespoon coconut oil (or any vegetable oil)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon honey
1 lb pea shoots
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Rinse the pea shoots thoroughly in cold water & lightly drain.
In a large wok or skillet over high heat, heat oils and add garlic and honey. Toss and add shoots and soy sauce, saute 1 – 2 minutes until wilted (if you are using other veggies add them first if they need longer to cook).  Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve immediately.


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