It is said that peas are among the Earth’s oldest vegetables. Their cultivation became widespread so early in history that it is uncertain where peas came from; although the most likely places of origin are China, the Middle East, Sri Lanka, Malta or Italy. Fossils found in Switzerland point to the fact that peas were already in existence in the Bronze Age. During the Middle Ages, peas were already table staples because they were easy to cultivate. The Europeans’ fondness of peas is clearly demonstrated by the prominent role that was accorded to it in the famous fairy tale, “The Princess and the Pea,” written by Danish author, Hans Christian Andersen.
Throughout the years, the popularity of peas has not waned. From Britain’s mushy peas to India’s aloo dum and China’s stir-fries, peas continue to be an essential component in many of the modern dishes enjoyed by people around the world today. In addition to their remarkable history, here are other interesting facts about peas.
- Peas are at their height of sweetness right after they are harvested. As soon as the pods are picked from the plants, the sugars in the peas start to transform into starch. To preserve flavor, peas are frozen within 3 hours from the time of harvest.
- Peas are green because they are harvested when not fully mature. If peas are left to ripen, they turn yellow in color.
- During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, peas were considered a luxury and were very expensive.
- A famous French pea variety, petits pois, which is distinctive for its small size and sweet flavor, was developed by a royal gardener in the time of Louis XIV.
- Only 5% of peas produced are sold fresh. The rest are either canned or frozen.
- The “Father of Modern Genetics,” Gregor Mendel, conducted his experiments and research studies using peas.
- Aside from the pods, the young tendrils that grow from the leaves of the pea vine are also edible. In China, young pea leaves are stir-fried and consumed as a delicacy.
- Peas are ideal for weight watchers because they are very high in fiber and very low in fat and calories.
- The world’s largest producer of peas is India; and most of the frozen peas that Europeans consume come from the United Kingdom.
- Peas have recently been hailed as health food. One of the primary reasons for this is the presence of a phytonutrient called coumestrol, which effectively lowers the risk of stomach cancer.
- The “pea-souper” is a type of fog that was once prevalent in London and other cities in the United Kingdom, so named because it was greenish and very thick, like pea soup.