The pea is most commonly the small spherical seed or the seed-pod of
the pod fruit
Pisum sativum. Each pod contains several peas, which can
be green or yellow.
Pea pods are botanically fruit, since they
contain seeds and develop from the ovary of a (pea) flower. The name
is also used to describe other edible seeds from the
Fabaceae such as
the pigeon pea (Cajanus cajan), the cowpea (Vigna unguiculata), and
the seeds from several species of Lathyrus.
P. sativum is an annual plant, with a life cycle of one year. It is a
cool-season crop grown in many parts of the world; planting can take
place from winter to early summer depending on location. The average
pea weighs between 0.1 and 0.36 gram. The immature peas (and
in snow peas the tender pod as well) are used as a vegetable, fresh,
frozen or canned; varieties of the species typically called field peas
are grown to produce dry peas like the split pea shelled from the
matured pod. These are the basis of pease porridge and pea soup,
staples of medieval cuisine; in Europe, consuming fresh immature green
peas was an innovation of Early Modern cuisine.
The wild pea is restricted to the Mediterranean basin and the Near
East. The earliest archaeological finds of peas date from the late
neolithic era of current Greece, Syria,
Turkey and Jordan. In Egypt,
early finds date from c. 4800–4400 BC in the
Nile delta area,
and from c. 3800–3600 BC in Upper Egypt. The pea was also
present in Georgia in the 5th millennium BC. Farther east, the finds
are younger. Peas were present in
Afghanistan c. 2000 BC, in
Harappa, Pakistan, and in northwest
India in 2250–1750 BC. In
the second half of the 2nd millennium BC, this pulse crop appears in
Ganges Basin and southern India.
3 Modern culinary use
4 Manufacturing frozen peas
5 Nutritional value
7 Pests and diseases
8 Peas in science
9 Peas in medicine
10 Nitrogen-fixing ability
12 See also
15 External links
A pea is a most commonly green, occasionally golden yellow, or
infrequently purple pod-shaped vegetable, widely grown as a cool
season vegetable crop. The seeds may be planted as soon as the soil
temperature reaches 10 °C (50 °F), with the plants growing
best at temperatures of 13 to 18 °C (55 to 64 °F). 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.
Many cultivars reach maturity about 60 days after planting.
Worldwide pea yield
Peas, green, raw
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
339 kJ (81 kcal)
Vitamin A equiv.
Link to USDA Database entry
μg = micrograms • mg = milligrams
IU = International units
Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for
Source: USDA Nutrient Database
Peas have both low-growing and vining cultivars. The vining cultivars
grow thin tendrils from leaves that coil around any available support
and can climb to be 1–2 m high. A traditional approach to
supporting climbing peas is to thrust branches pruned from trees or
other woody plants upright into the soil, providing a lattice for the
peas to climb. Branches used in this fashion are sometimes called pea
brush. Metal fences, twine, or netting supported by a frame are used
for the same purpose. In dense plantings, peas give each other some
measure of mutual support.
Pea plants can self-pollinate.
Pea in a painting by Mateusz Tokarski, ca. 1795 (National Museum in
In early times, peas were grown mostly for their dry seeds. From
plants growing wild in the Mediterranean basin, constant selection
since the Neolithic dawn of agriculture improved their yield. 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.
Green "garden" peas, eaten immature and fresh, were an innovative
luxury of Early Modern Europe. In England, the distinction between
field peas and garden peas dates from the early 17th century: John
Gerard and John Parkinson both mention garden peas.
Sugar peas, which the French soon called mange-tout, for they were
consumed pods and all, were introduced to France from the market
Holland in the time of Henri IV, through the French
ambassador. Green peas were introduced from Genoa to the court of
Louis XIV of France
Louis XIV of France in January 1660, with some staged fanfare; a
hamper of them were presented before the King, and then were shelled
by the Sovoyan comte de Soissons, who had married a niece of Cardinal
Mazarin; little dishes of peas were then presented to the King, the
Cardinal Mazarin and Monsieur, the king's
brother.[clarification needed] Immediately established and grown
for earliness warmed with manure and protected under glass, they were
still a luxurious delicacy in 1696, when
Mme de Maintenon
Mme de Maintenon and Mme de
Sevigné each reported that they were "a fashion, a
Modern split peas, with their indigestible skins rubbed off, are a
development of the later 19th century.
Modern culinary use
Split peas (raw)
Yellow split peas
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
1,425 kJ (341 kcal)
Pantothenic acid (B5)
μg = micrograms • mg = milligrams
IU = International units
Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for
Source: USDA Nutrient Database
Fresh peas for sale in their pods on a UK market stall
Frozen green peas
A basket of peas in pods
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. Along with broad beans and lentils, these formed an
important part of the diet of most people in the Middle East, North
Europe during the Middle Ages. By the 17th and 18th
centuries, it had become popular to eat peas "green", that is, while
they are immature and right after they are picked. New cultivars
of peas were developed by the English during this time, which became
known as "garden" or "English" peas. The popularity of green peas
spread to North America.
Thomas Jefferson grew more than 30 cultivars
of peas on his estate. With the invention of canning and freezing
of foods, green peas became available year-round, and not just in the
spring as before.
Peas in fried rice
Fresh peas are often eaten boiled and flavored with butter and/or
spearmint as a side dish vegetable.
Salt and pepper are also commonly
added to peas when served. Fresh peas are also used in pot pies,
salads and casseroles. Pod peas (particularly sweet cultivars called
mange tout and "sugar peas", or the flatter "snow peas," called hé
lán dòu, 荷兰豆 in Chinese) are used in stir-fried dishes,
particularly those in American Chinese cuisine.
Pea pods do not
keep well once picked, and if not used quickly, are best preserved by
drying, canning or freezing within a few hours of harvest.[citation
In India, fresh peas are used in various dishes such as aloo matar
(curried potatoes with peas) or matar paneer (paneer cheese with
peas), though they can be substituted with frozen peas as well. Peas
are also eaten raw, as they are sweet when fresh off the bush. Split
peas are also used to make dal, particularly in Guyana, and Trinidad,
where there is a significant population of Indians.
Dried peas are often made into a soup or simply eaten on their own. In
Taiwan and some Southeast Asian countries, including
Philippines and Malaysia, peas are roasted and salted,
and eaten as snacks. In the Philippines, peas, while still in their
pods, are a common ingredient in viands and pansit. In the UK, dried
yellow split peas are used to make pease pudding (or "pease
porridge"), a traditional dish. In North America, a similarly
traditional dish is split pea soup.
Pea soup is eaten in many other parts of the world, including northern
Europe, parts of middle Europe, Russia, Iran,
Iraq and India. In
Sweden it is called ärtsoppa, and is eaten as a traditional Swedish
food which predates the Viking age. This food was
made from a fast-growing pea that would mature in a short growing
season. Ärtsoppa was especially popular among the poor, who
traditionally only had one pot and everything was cooked together for
a dinner using a tripod to hold the pot over the fire.
In Chinese cuisine, the tender new growth [leaves and stem] dou miao
(豆苗; dòu miáo) are commonly used in stir-fries. Much like
picking the leaves for tea, the farmers pick the tips off of the pea
In Greece, Tunisia, Turkey, Cyprus, and other parts of the
Mediterranean, peas are made into a stew with lamb and
Hungary and Serbia, pea soup is often served with dumplings and
spiced with hot paprika.
In the United Kingdom, dried, rehydrated and mashed marrowfat peas,
known by the public as mushy peas, are popular, originally in the
north of England, but now ubiquitously, and especially as an
accompaniment to fish and chips or meat pies, particularly in fish and
Sodium bicarbonate is sometimes added to soften the peas.
In 2005, a poll of 2,000 people revealed the pea to be Britain's
seventh favourite culinary vegetable.
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.
North America pea milk is produced and sold as an alternative to
cow milk for a variety of reasons.
Manufacturing frozen peas
In order to freeze and preserve peas, they must first be grown,
picked, and shelled. Usually, the more tender the peas are, the more
likely that they will be used in the final product. The peas must be
put through the process of freezing shortly after being picked so that
they do not spoil too soon. Once the peas have been selected, they are
placed in ice water and allowed to cool. After, they are sprayed with
water to remove any residual dirt or dust that may remain on them. The
next step is blanching. The peas are boiled for a few minutes to
remove any enzymes that may shorten their shelf life. They are then
cooled and removed from the water. The final step is the actual
freezing to produce the final product. This step may vary
considerably; some companies freeze their peas by air blast freezing,
where the vegetables are put through a tunnel at high speeds and
frozen by cold air. Finally, the peas are packaged and shipped out for
Pea grading involves sorting peas by size, in which the smallest peas
are graded as the highest quality for their tenderness. Brines may
be used, in which peas are floated, from which their density can be
Peas are starchy, but high in fiber, protein, vitamin A, vitamin B6,
vitamin C, vitamin K, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, iron, zinc and
lutein. Dry weight is about one-quarter protein and one-quarter
Pea seed peptide fractions have less ability to scavenge
free radicals than glutathione, but greater ability to chelate metals
and inhibit linoleic acid oxidation.
There are many varieties (cultivars) of garden peas. Some of the most
common varieties are listed here. PMR indicates some degree of powdery
mildew resistance; afila types, also called semi-leafless, have
clusters of tendrils instead of leaves. Unless otherwise noted
these are so called dwarf varieties which grow to an average height of
about 1m. Giving the vines support is recommended, but not required.
Extra dwarf are suitable for container growing, reaching only about
25 cm. Tall varieties grow to about 2m with support
Alaska, 55 days (smooth seeded)
Tom Thumb / Half Pint, 55 days (heirloom, extra dwarf)
Thomas Laxton (heirloom) / Laxton's Progress / Progress #9, 60–65
Mr. Big, 60 days, 2000 AAS winner
Little Marvel, 63 days, 1934 AAS winner
Early Perfection, 65 days
Kelvedon Wonder, 65 days, 1997 RHS AGM winner
Sabre, 65 days, PMR
Homesteader / Lincoln, 67 days (heirloom, known as Greenfeast in
Australia and New Zealand)
Miragreen, 68 days (tall climber)
Serge, 68 days, PMR, afila
Wando, 68 days
Green Arrow, 70 days
Recruit, 70 days, PMR, afila
Tall Telephone / Alderman, 75 days (heirloom, tall climber)
Other variations of P. sativum include:
Pisum sativum var. saccharatum is commonly known as the snow pea.
Pisum sativum var. macrocarpon is known as the sugar snap pea or snap
Both of these are eaten whole before the pod reaches maturity and are
hence also known as mange-tout, French for "eat all". The snow pea pod
is eaten flat, while in sugar/snap peas, the pod becomes cylindrical,
but is eaten while still crisp, before the seeds inside
Pests and diseases
Main article: List of pea diseases
A variety of diseases affect peas through a number of pathogens,
including insects, viruses, bacteria and fungi. In particular,
virus disease of peas has worldwide economic importance.
Additionally, insects such as the pea leaf weevil (Sitona lineatus)
can damage peas and other pod fruits. The pea leaf weevil is native to
Europe, but has spread to other places such as Alberta, Canada. They
are about 3.5 millimetres (0.14 in)—5.5 millimetres
(0.22 in) long and are distinguishable by three light-coloured
stripes running length-wise down the thorax. The weevil larvae feed on
the root nodules of pea plants, which are essential to the plants'
supply of nitrogen, and thus diminish leaf and stem growth. Adult
weevils feed on the leaves and create a notched, "c-shaped" appearance
on the outside of the leaves.
Peas in science
In the mid-19th century, Austrian monk Gregor Mendel's observations of
pea pods led to the principles of Mendelian genetics, the foundation
of modern genetics. He ended up growing and examining about 28,000
pea plants in the course of his experiments. Mendel chose peas for
his experiments because he could grow them easily, develop pure-bred
strains, protect them from cross-pollination, and control their
pollination. Mendel cross-bred tall and dwarf pea plants, green and
yellow peas, purple and white flowers, wrinkled and smooth peas, and a
few other traits. He then observed the resulting offspring. In each of
these cases, one trait is dominant and all the offspring, or Filial-1
(abbreviated F1) generation, showed the dominant trait. Then he
crossed members of the F1 generation together and observed their
offspring, the Filial-2 (abbreviated F2) generation. The F2 plants had
the dominant trait in approximately a 3:1 ratio. Mendel reasoned that
each parent had a 'vote' in the appearance of the offspring, and the
non-dominant, or recessive, trait appeared only when it was inherited
from both parents. He did further experiments that showed each trait
is separately inherited. Unwittingly, Mendel had solved a major
problem with Charles Darwin's theory of evolution: how new traits were
preserved and not blended back into the population, a question Darwin
himself did not answer. Mendel's work was published in an obscure
Austrian journal and was not rediscovered until about 1900.
Recently, extracts from garden pea have shown inhibitory activity on
porcine pancreatic lipase in vitro.
Peas in medicine
Some people experience allergic reactions to peas, as well as lentils,
with vicilin or convicilin as the usual allergens.
Favism, or Fava-bean-ism, is a genetic deficiency of the enzyme
glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase that affects Jews, other Middle
Eastern Semitic peoples and other descendants of the Mediterranean
coastal regions. In this condition, the toxic reaction to eating most,
if not all, beans is hemolytic anemia, and in severe cases the
released circulating free hemoglobin causes acute kidney
Peas, like many legumes, contain symbiotic bacteria called Rhizobia
within root nodules of their root systems. These bacteria have the
special ability of fixing nitrogen from atmospheric, molecular
nitrogen (N2) into ammonia (NH3). The chemical reaction is:
displaystyle N_ 2 +8H^ + +8e^ - to 2NH_ 3 +H_ 2
Ammonia is then converted to another form, ammonium (NH4+), usable by
(some) plants by the following reaction:
displaystyle NH_ 3 +H^ + to NH_ 4 ^ +
This arrangement means that the root nodules are sources of nitrogen
for peas and many legumes, making them relatively rich in plant
proteins. All proteins contain nitrogenous amino acids.
therefore a necessary ingredient in the production of proteins. Hence,
peas and many legumes are among the best sources of plant
When a pea plant dies in the field, for example following the harvest,
all of its remaining nitrogen, incorporated into amino acids inside
the remaining plant parts, is released back into the soil. In the
soil, the amino acids are converted to nitrate (NO3−), making the
nitrogen available to other plants, thereby serving as fertilizer for
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. However, by analogy with other
plurals ending in -s, speakers began construing pease as a plural and
constructing the singular form by dropping the -s, giving the term
pea. This process is known as back-formation.
The name marrowfat pea for mature dried peas is recorded by the Oxford
English Dictionary as early as 1733. The fact that an export cultivar
Japan is called Maro has led some people to assume
mistakenly that the English name marrowfat is derived from
Dixie lee pea
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