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 escribe 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 through to early summer depending on location. The average pea weighs between 0.1 and 0.36 grams. The species is used as a vegetable, fresh, frozen or canned, and is also grown to produce dry peas like the split pea. These varieties are typically called field peas.
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. The modern-day garden pea is thought to have originated from the field pea that was native to central Asia and Europe and has been consumed by man for thousands and thousands of years. In fact, peas are mentioned in the Bible and were prized by the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Greece and Rome.
Yet, it was not until the 16th century, when cultivation techniques created more tender varieties, that people began to consume peas in their fresh state as opposed to just eating dried peas. It seems that the Chinese, a culture that had consumed this legume as far back as 2000 BC, were the first ones to consume both the seeds and the pods as a vegetable.
The French king Louis XIV popularized peas in the 17th century by making them an item of high regard on the menus of parties held at his palace; it is suggested that snow peas were developed in Holland around the same time. Peas were introduced into United States soon after the colonists first settled in this country.
In the 19th century during the early developments of the study of genetics, peas played an important role. The monk and botanist, Gregor Mendel used peas in his plant-breeding experiments.
It was only recently, in the 1970s, that sugar snap peas were developed, the result of a cross between garden peas and snow peas. Today, the largest commercial producers of fresh peas are the United States, Great Britain, China, Hungary and India.
This food is very low in Saturated Fat, Cholesterol and Sodium. It is also a good source of Protein, Vitamin A, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Copper, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Thiamin and Manganese.
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