A pea is most commonly the small spherical seed or the seed-pod of the legume Pisum sativum.Each pod contains several peas. Peapods are botanically a fruit,since they contain seeds developed from the ovary of a (pea) flower. However, peas are considered to be a vegetable in cooking. 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.
Food features:The pea is a green, 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. Generally, peas are to be grown outdoors during the winter, not in greenhouses. Peas grow best in slightly acidic, well-drained soils.
Place of origin:The wild pea is restricted to the Mediterranean basin and the Near East. The earliest archaeological finds of peas come from Neolithic Syria, Turkey and Jordan. In Egypt, early finds date from ca. 4800–4400 BC in the Nile delta area, and from ca. 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 ca. 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 the Gangetic basin and southern India.
Nutrition:In early times, peas were grown mostly for their dry seeds. In modern times, however, peas are usually boiled or steamed, which breaks down the cell walls and makes the taste sweeter and the nutrients more bio-available.
Dietotherapy function: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) are used in stir-fried dishes, particularly those in American Chinese cuisine.