Most of the winter greens at the markets are the sturdy, cold-loving varieties that can take a firm hand on the stove: leathery kales and chards, crispy cabbages, tightly bound Brussels sprouts. But as the chills start to dissipate and the Southern California sun warms the soil, tender pea tendrils fill the market crates.
The six to eight inch starts of future pea plants — mostly of the sugar snap or snow varieties — are a welcome change on the plate, marking a return to lighter dishes. A few vendors will have them available still attached to their soil blocks. But McGrath Family Farms picks them fresh for market day and supplies a few local restaurants with this sweet, grassy green.
Canele in Atwater Village recently served pea tendrils underneath a fluffy halibut filet, simply dressed and barely wilted with a little butter and salt. And really that's the best way to go, says Rachael Narins, one part of the two part cooking duo and secret supper club Chicks with Knives.
“It's a seasonal food that does best simply prepared,” said Narins. “Pea Tendrils should be treated like any other tender green. You can sauté them very quickly over high heat with some minced garlic and salt. Finish with a squeeze of lemon. Serve over fresh pea risotto or as a side dish with fish.”
They're also an attractive and textural raw addition to salads, adding an almost clover-like fragrance.
When selecting your tendrils, choose stems that are firm and juicy and evenly green from the cut end to the curly tendrils. No yellow leaves or stem should be present.
Other beautiful greens still abound in this cooler “winter” weather. The rainbow chard over at Finely Farms was plentiful with gorgeous, unblemished leaves. Both they and ABC Rhubarb have fresh dandelion greens as well, which make a tart and nutritious soup or salad.