Pea (Pisum sativum) also called garden pea, herbaceous annual plant in the family Fabaceae, grown virtually worldwide for its edible seeds.
It is one of the first plants cultivated by humans and remains an important food crop today.
The pea is native to western Asia and North Africa. Wild peas can still be found in Afghanistan, Iran, and Ethiopia.
The pea was present in Egypt and Georgia in the 5th millennium BC.
In the early 3rd century BC Theophrastus mentions peas among the pulses that are sown late in the winter because of their tenderness.
In the first century AD, Columella mentions them in De re rustica, when Roman legionaries still gathered wild peas from the sandy soils of Numidia and Judea to supplement their rations.
In the Middle Ages, field peas are constantly mentioned, as they were the staple that kept famine at bay, as Charles the Good, count of Flanders, noted explicitly in 1124.
In England, the distinction between field peas and garden peas dates from the early 17th century.
European colonization introduced the crop to the New World and other regions throughout the globe.
Thomas Jefferson grew more than 30 cultivars of peas on his estate.
In the mid-1800s, peas in a monastery garden in Austria were famously used by the monk Gregor Mendel in his pioneering studies of the nature of heredity.
They do not thrive in the summer heat of warmer temperate and lowland tropical climates, but do grow well in cooler, high altitude, tropical areas.
The pea plant is a hardy leafy annual with hollow trailing or climbing stems that reach up to 1.8 meters (6 feet) in length.
The stems feature terminal tendrils that facilitate climbing and bear compound leaves with three pairs of leaflets.
The reddish purple, pink, or white flowers, growing two to three per stalk, are butterfly-shaped.
The fruit is a pod that grows to 10 cm (4 inches) long, splitting in half when ripe. Inside the pod, 5 to 10 seeds are attached by short stalks. The seeds are green, yellow, white, or variegated.
In modern times peas are usually boiled or steamed, which breaks down the cell walls and makes the taste sweeter and the nutrients more bioavailable.
There are only 81 calories in 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of peas.
Green peas are a very good source of vitamin K, manganese, dietary fiber, vitamin B1, copper, vitamin C, phosphorus and folate. They are also a good source of vitamin B6, niacin, vitamin B2, molybdenum, zinc, protein, magnesium, iron, potassium and choline.
The health benefits of peas include anti-aging, strong immune system, high energy, prevention of wrinkles, alzheimer’s, arthritis, bronchitis, osteoporosis, candida, healthy bones, blood sugar regulation, heart disease prevention, reduces bad cholesterol and stomach cancer prevention.
Processed peas are mature peas which have been dried, soaked and then heat treated (processed) to prevent spoilage — in the same manner as pasteurizing. Cooked peas are sometimes sold dried and coated with wasabi, salt, or other spices.
In Japan, China, Taiwan and some Southeast Asian countries, including Thailand, the Philippines and Malaysia, peas are roasted and salted, and eaten as snacks.
In the UK, dried yellow or green split peas are used to make pease pudding (or “pease porridge”), a traditional dish.
The term pea originates from the Latin word pisum, which is the latinisation of the Greek πίσον (pison), neuter of πίσος (pisos) “pea”. It was adopted into English as the noun pease (plural peasen), as in pease pudding.
In 2005, a poll of 2,000 people revealed the pea to be Britain’s seventh favourite culinary vegetable.