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Everything You Need To Know About Garden Peas

Everything You Need To Know About Garden Peas
Reading Time: 6 minutesGarden peas, otherwise known as sweet peas or English peas, are part of the legume family. Unlike their brothers, the snow and snap, the pods of this variety of garden pea are not edible. These little peas are firm and round and can be consumed both raw and cooked. They are commonly found frozen in the grocery store, and can be used as an ice pack for an injury too! [1] However you decide to enjoy these small yet nutritious morsels is up to you, but get ready for flavor and nutrients in a small package.

Garden Pea Fun Facts

  • “The average pea weighs between 0.1 and 0.36 grams.
  • Pea leaves are considered a delicacy in China.
  • The earliest pea is thought to have dated back to 4800 BC to 4400 BC in the Nile Delta area.
  • Only five percent of peas grown are sold fresh. Most are either frozen or canned.
  • In the mid-19th century, Austrian scientist Gregor Mendel observed the pea pod, leading him to create his principle of Mendelian genetics, the foundation of modern genetics.” [2]
  • “The Romans grew over 37 varieties of peas.
  • The Latin name for the pea is pisum sativum.
  • Field peas are used in factories for freezing.
  • Dried peas are used to make mushy peas, which serve as a famous side dish to fish and chips in the UK.
  • The first frozen peas were introduced in the 1920s by Clarence Birdseye.” [3]
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Garden Pea History/Mythology

The garden pea has a long and rich history throughout different ages and cultures, and it dates back to 4000 BC, as mentioned above. Archaeologists have discovered evidence in regards to the garden pea and its existence during the Bronze Age. It is one of the oldest cultivated vegetables in the world and has been found buried in caves during this time period. Many of the people gardened and grew these peas for nutrition, and it was recorded that the Romans and Greeks were growing these veggies back around 500 BC. Once they grew the peas, they would sell hot pea soup on the street in Athens, Greece. Historians believe that the first peas originated near Switzerland over to India.

According to the Best Cooking Pulse,

“Field pea (Pisum sativum, L.) was among the first crops cultivated by man. Some say the word “pea” came from Sanskrit; however, most concur that the Latin pisum, resembling the older Greek pisos or pison, is the true origin of the word. The Anglo-Saxon word became pise or pisu, and later in English, “pease”. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, by 1600, the last two letters were dropped because people believed the word was plural, forming the singular “pea” that we know today.” [4]

Many people in the Middle East, Africa, and parts of Europe incorporated the garden pea into their diet very early on. It wasn’t until the 17th and 18th century that it became truly popular to eat peas raw in countries like France and England. They made their way over to North America shortly after and it was said that Thomas Jefferson cultivated over 30 different varieties of peas on his estate. [5] Typically pea plants require cooler weather to harvest a good crop, and they do not grow well in temperatures over 80 degrees Fahrenheit. In many places peas are grown in both the fall and winter or even into spring, rarely are they grown in the summertime.

Gregor Mendel performed a garden pea experiment, which later landed him in the history books. He was an Austrian monk who was referred to as the “Father of Genetics”, but his work was not discovered until the 20th century. He raised and monitored over 20,000 pea plants inside of his monastery and studied their inheritance traits. According to New World Encyclopedia,

“The fact that Mendel’s reported results concentrate on the few traits in peas that are determined by a single gene has also suggested that he may have censored his results, otherwise he likely would have stumbled across genetic linkage, either in peas or in the other species he studied. Genetic linkage occurs when particular alleles (different DNA coding’s of the same gene) are inherited together.” [6]

His work was later summarized as Mendel’s laws of segregation, and there were four different parts to it.

  1. The first part is “Alternative versions of genes account for variations in inherited characters. This is the concept of alleles. Alleles are different versions of genes that impart the same characteristic.”
  2. The second part is “For each character, an organism inherits two genes, one from each parent.”
  3. Third is “If the two alleles differ, then one, the dominant allele, is fully expressed in the organism’s appearance; the other, the recessive allele, has no noticeable effect on the organism’s appearance.”
  4. Fourth, “The two genes for each character segregate during gamete production.”[6]
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Garden Pea Nutritional Facts

The nutritional value of the garden pea is quite phenomenal for such a small vegetable. They contain calcium, vitamins A and C, and Niacin, just to name a few key nutrients, as well as iron and fatty acids.  The amount of carbohydrates in garden peas was unexpected, with about a half cup running 13 grams, which is high for such a small food. [7] Other important nutrients to note from the garden pea are vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, and K. Even though they are small, they hold a good amount of protein with 6 grams per 100 gram serving. Finally, they also have a decent amount of folic acid, which is great for mothers who are expecting a child, or anyone for that matter!

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Garden Pea Health Benefits

Garden peas are one of the greatest sources of plant based protein, which gives it multiple health benefits right off the bat. They are also loaded with healthy fiber, which will make you feel fuller for longer periods of time and in turn, might reduce your overall caloric consumption throughout the day which could result in weight loss. These pea plants also have a low glycemic index, will helps regulate the body’s blood sugar levels at a healthy rate. Due to the amount of fiber in the pea, it will naturally slow down the rate in which carbohydrates are absorbed in the body. A spike in blood sugar happens when carbohydrates hit the bloodstream quickly, thus causing an insulin spike, which the fiber prevents. [8]

The amount of fiber present is also extremely helpful with digestion and gut health, because the fiber is feeding on good bacteria in your stomach. Common stomach issues, like irritable bowel syndrome, irritable bowel disease, and even colon cancer, is offset by the consumption of healthy fiber. Please note, however, garden peas do not cure cancer. They are also extremely beneficial to your heart’s health because of their magnesium, potassium, and calcium content. High cholesterol can then lead to heart problems later on down the line, but the high fiber content can reduce bad LDL cholesterol in the body.

Be mindful that the consumption of too many peas can cause bloating due to the presence of fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides, and polyols in the pea pods. They are carbohydrates that take president in your gut, which then results in gas as a byproduct. [9] Overall, there are no downsides outside of a little gas that will affect your health: there are only benefits!

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Garden Pea Varieties

Every gardener’s dream is being able to grow multiple types of peas for different nutritional values, tastes, and textures. Peas are planted early on, and then harvested in spring which makes them one of the first fresh plants to be eaten from the garden. Although there is only one type of garden pea, there are others close by that are grown in the same season. The snow pea, English pea, snap pea, and even the sugar snap pea are all different varieties available for both growth and consumption to date. You can eat all of these varieties right off of the vine, or you can cook them in a delicious dish of your choice. [10]

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Garden Pea Uses

There is an abundance of different uses when thinking about consuming or preparing a dish with garden peas. It is important to know how to properly cook peas from the garden, as it is different than cooking frozen peas. There are a few ways you can do it; either by boiling or steaming them lightly, or sautéing them with a little butter. Garden peas do not take long to cook, so watch them carefully or they will turn to mush! This green pea and coriander spread can go great with breads or multi grain crisps as a light and refreshing snack. This recipe comes straight from The Guardian, and is a crowd favorite!

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Green Pea and Coriander Spread Recipe

Serves 4

Comes from The Guardian

  • 300g shelled green peas, fresh or frozen
  • A small bunch of coriander, leaves picked
  • 2 tablespoons whole almond butter
  • 1 garlic clove, minced (optional)
  • 1 dash tabasco sauce
  • Salt and black pepper

Instructions

“Steam the peas until tender, then let cool to just above room temperature. Blitz the peas, almond butter, coriander, garlic (if using), tabasco sauce, a little salt, and some pepper until smooth. If the mixture is a bit too thick for the blade of the food processor to mix properly, add just a little bit of water, a teaspoon at a time, until soft enough to mix. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Spread on slices of multigrain crispbread and serve.” [11]

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