Dou miao, also known as pea shoots or snow pea shoots, is the Chinese name for the pea plant’s young shoots, Pisum sativum. These tasty treats are quick and easy to grow at home and don’t even require a garden.
Read on to discover the best way to grow snow pea shoots yourself.
What is dou miao?
Dou miao is a common microgreen in many Asian dishes, but especially in China, where their wide use in cooking has led to ‘Chinese peas‘ as a common English name.
Snow pea shoots can be grown from either sugar pea or snow pea seeds, although the latter is usually preferred.
Unlike snow peas, which are cultivated for their edible pods, dou miao is grown for its small, tender shoots. It is harvested when the sprouts are only a few inches tall and can be used as either a garnish, lightly steamed or stir-fried, and even eaten raw.
What is the difference between dou miao and pea tips?
Although dou miao (豆苗) translates to ‘pea sprouts,’ it’s likely you will come across cases in which the phrase is used for both the young shoots and the mature pea tips. Many Chinese restaurants differentiate between the sprouts, called ‘shao dou miao,’ and the tips of mature snow peas, called ‘da dou miao.’
In terms of taste, there’s a significant difference between dou miao and pea tips. Dou miao has a milder, green flavor, and it is very tender. Meanwhile, snow pea tips from mature plants are crunchier, with a more pronounced pea flavor and a mild bitterness. They are both delicious in their unique way, but they are different in terms of aroma.
How to grow snow pea shoots
Growing dou miao is slightly different from growing other types of vegetables. Essentially, you only need to germinate the seeds and look after the seedlings until they’re ready to harvest a couple of weeks later. Given that dou miao needs to be harvested when the stems are very young and tender, it’s not worth taking up space in your garden to grow it.
Dou miao is always best grown in containers, and it’s the perfect year-round crop for indoor gardens.
Also, given that they grow very fast and can be harvested in a matter of weeks after sowing, we recommend planting a new batch every week so that you always have a steady supply of these fresh microgreens.
There are two ways you can grow snow pea shoots:
- Sowing them in soil
- Growing in a hydroponic system
Let’s take a look at what you will need for each growing method.
1. How to plant snow pea seeds in soil
– Step 1
Prepare a wide plastic container with drainage holes at the bottom. Snow pea shoots don’t develop an extensive root system, so the container doesn’t have to be too deep. A 3 inch (8 cm) deep pot should be more than enough.
– Step 2
Fill the container with an organic, nutrient-rich potting mix. Make sure that the soil is kept loose and aerated, so don’t press it too hard. Spread the presoaked snow pea seeds evenly on top of the soil.
The seeds can be placed very close, but avoid piling them on top of the other, as the top seeds will not germinate properly. After laying the seeds in the pot, sprinkle a thin layer of soil on top, and use a spray pump to mist them with water.
– Step 3
Keep your pot in the dark place, with temperatures between 64 °F and 72 °C (18 °C to 22 °C). Make sure to mist regularly so that the soil and the seeds do not go dry. Although the seeds need water to germinate, snow pea is very sensitive to overwatering and can quickly rot before germination occurs. Finding the right balance is a must.
– Step 4
After 3 or 4 days, you should start seeing the first seedlings. At this point, you can move the container to a sunny spot. Keep the same temperature range needed for germination and water regularly.
– Step 5
Snow pea plants grow very fast and can start developing 1 or 2 pairs of leaves the week after germination. As they grow, the stems become more challenging and can acquire a green vegetable flavor.
One trick you can use to grow longer, tender shoots is to keep them in the dark for the first week after the seeds have sprouted. Afterward, you can move them to a brighter spot, and they will turn a vivid green color by the next day.
2. How to grow hydroponic snow pea shoots
It has become increasingly popular among gardeners in recent years, and it works very well for growing snow pea shoots. Its main appeal is that it is a lot tidier, it requires fewer resources, and it also provides plants with easier access to the nutrients they need.
If you’re thinking about growing dou miao in hydroponics, the main thing to pay close attention to is water itself. Snow peas are susceptible to too much water, which can cause the seed to rot. Growing them in a hydroponic system may seem counterintuitive, but it can be just as easy as sowing them in soil with the right preparation.
– Use the right container
To grow hydroponic snow pea shoots, it’s essential to use the right container. We recommend a rectangular plastic container and a flat-bottomed plastic sieve that can rest on top of it. The sieve needs to be shallower than the container and allow at least 1 inch (2.5 cm) of space between the bottom of the sieve and the bottom of the container.
– Provide nutrients
The other key element is water. Tap water typically has a neutral pH, perfect for growing snow pea shoots, but it is deficient in nutrients. Therefore, you will need a liquid fertilizer solution for optimum growth. An N-P-K ratio of 2-1-6 is ideal. When using tap water, our tip is to let it sit in an open container overnight. This will allow the chlorine to dissipate, as well as bring the water to room temperature.
– Step 1
Start by soaking your snow pea seeds for 4 to 6 hours. Then, spread out the seeds in the sieve, making sure that they’re evenly spaced out and not piled on top of each other. Place the sieve on top of the container, and fill the container with a water and nutrient solution.
Make sure that the water only reaches the bottom of the sieve. If the seeds are submerged in water, they will fail to germinate. Lightly mist the seeds, cover them with a damp layer of paper towels, and keep in a dark place.
– Step 2
Change the water for your hydroponic snow peas every day, replacing it with fresh water and nutrient mix. Mist gently ensure that the seeds do not dry out and keep covered with damp paper towels. After 3 or 4 days, you will notice that the seeds have germinated.
You can now move the container to a sunny spot or, as in the guide for growing in soil, keep the seedlings in a dark spot for another week. Continue misting and changing the water daily until the dou miao is ready to harvest.
Transplanting to grow mature snow peas
It is worth pointing out that, once they have two sets of leaves, both soil and hydroponics grown snow peas can be transplanted to the soil.
This is important if you want to harvest snow pea pods, which the mature plants only produce after the snow pea flowers appear. But if you’re after the juicy and tender dou miao, that won’t be necessary. With that in mind, it’s time for the last step: the harvest.
When to harvest snow pea shoots
Dou miao can be harvested as early as one week after germination. Plants kept in the dark for an extra week, to allow the shoots to grow longer, can be harvested after 10 to 14 days. The general rule of thumb is to allow the snow pea shoots to reach between 3 and 4 inches (8 to 10 cm) in height. When it’s this size, dou miao is at its best, with an intense flavor and a tender texture.
To harvest dou miao, use a pair of scissors and cut the shoots down to the plant’s base. If you want to enjoy a second and third harvest from the same crop, cut just above the first pair of snow pea leaves on the stem’s bottom.
This is essentially the cut-and-come-again method, and you will see new stalks begin to grow, ready to harvest in another week or so. If you’re harvesting dou miao this way, only use it a maximum of 3 times, as the shoots will become bitter after each cutting.
The shoots are very delicate and should always be eaten fresh. If you’re growing your own, we recommend using them straight away, but they can be kept in paper towels in the vegetable drawer of your fridge for a couple of days.
Uses for snow pea shoots or dou miao
Dou miao is an excellent microgreen that packs plenty of taste and health benefits. The taste is quite similar to that of raw snow pea pods, but greener, with fresh, grassy notes and crisp stems hollow on the inside. The young shoots are full of nutrients, low carbohydrates and calories, and vitamins A, B9, K and C, fiber, and protein.
When cooking with dou miao, the secret recipe is ‘less is more.’ Aim for a short cooking time, and don’t overdo the seasoning. Snow pea shoots have so many nutrients and vitamins that we recommend eating them raw, whether in salads, sandwiches, or as a garnish in cooked meals.
Allow their unique aroma to come through by pairing with just a touch of aromatics, such as garlic and sesame oil. You can use dou miao in stir-fries, soups, or just steamed or sautéed. One minute in the pan is more than enough.
Snow pea shoots are a quick and easy way to grow delicious, healthy greens with minimal effort.
Let’s go over the basics.
- You can grow dou miao either in soil or a hydroponic system.
- The tender shoots are typically ready to harvest within a week or two of germination.
- Using the cut-and-come-again method, you can enjoy around 3 harvests of shoots per plant.
- You can also transplant the seedlings to grow mature snow peas.
It really couldn’t be easier, so no matter your gardening experience, growing snow pea shoots is something that anyone can try.