I have a love-hate relationship with pea tips. When they are perfect, shot through with tenderness and spring-fresh pea flavor, I’m in a state of bliss. But they are an iffy vegetable to buy, a potential pain in the butt. If you’re not thorough in prepping them or buy a bag full of mature tips, you end up with a stir-fry riddled with dental floss-like pieces. Sometimes the pea tips resemble damp toothpicks. In other words, you don’t want to eat them because you can’t chew them. Pea tips thrill but can frustrate.
What are pea tips? A variety of snow pea that’s grown only for its tender tips. Sold at Chinese markets, they’re called dou miao in Mandarin. Pea tips look like pea vines but they only grown a foot or two; they are not trellised. (If you want to grow pea tips, here is a seed source.)
A few years back, I visited with an Asian-American farmer who explained that harvesting pea tips is very time consuming. To get a bag of good tender ones you have to be careful and knowledgeable when snipping. She showed me some plants in a hot house and while they all looked the same to me, they were over the hill to her. We had to squat to get at them. Pea tips are a bargain at $3 to $5 a pound, given the amount of labor that’s required to get them to market.