Saturday, April 4, 2009

spring greens...peas…

I think that my all-time favorite vegetable is the pea. It is not just that green peas are bursting with nutrients. It is that they are always so accessible all year round and tasty addition to any meals. But during spring peas are at their tastiest.

I have just planted my own peas in trellised pots on my balcony. But that will be another post as I will let you know about their progress and growth.

Keeping with the theme of spring peas I thought that you would be interested in the nutritional value of this simple vegetable as well as a bit of history and fun-facts about the green pea.

Green peas are one of the important foods to include in your diet if you oftentimes feel fatigued and sluggish. That is because they provide nutrients that help support the energy-producing cells and systems of the body.

Peas are also a good source of iron, a mineral necessary for normal blood cell formation and function, whose deficiency results in anemia, fatigue, decreased immune function, and learning problems. In addition, green peas are a very good source of vitamin C, which protects many energy-producing cells and systems in the body from free radical damage.

The pea provides nutrients that are important for maintaining bone health. They are a very good source of vitamin K, some of which our bodies convert into K2, which activates osteocalcin, the major non-collagen protein in bone. Osteocalcin anchors calcium molecules inside of the bone. Therefore, without enough vitamin K2, osteocalcin levels are inadequate and bone mineralization is impaired.

Green peas also serve as a very good source of folic acid and a good source of vitamin B6. These two nutrients help to reduce the buildup of a metabolic byproduct called homocysteine, a dangerous molecule can obstruct collagen cross-linking, resulting in poor bone matrix and osteoporosis. One study showed that postmenopausal women who were not considered deficient in folic acid lowered their homocysteine levels simply by supplementing with folic acid by itself.

pea history

The modern-day garden pea 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 highly 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 has been 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.
a fun food chronology of the pea

6000 B.C.
Swiss lake dwellers keep dried peas and apples in their houses built on stilts.

4000 B.C.The people of the Indus Valley (an area that lies between present day India and Pakistan ) raise green peas wheat and date palms on irrigated fields.

100 B.C.
The Chinese envoy Jang Qian returns from Ferghana ( present day Russia and Uzbekistan) and introduces peas, grapes, pomegranates and walnuts to China.

765 A.D.
European writings make the first mention of the crop rotation system. It describes a system in which spring plantings with more protein value like peas supplement the winter plantings.

The Cookbook :Mastery of the Kitchen (Küchenmeisterei) is published at Nuremberg and has a large section devoted to peas. This book will remain in print for 200 years.

Fresh green peas come into use in England to a limited extent. But dried peas are more commonly used as “pease porridge”.

When famine grips England, the people discover that peas taste good green as well as dried.

When the Mayflower arrives on November 11th with 100 Pilgrims, one of the provisions that the people survived on was dried peas.

Louis XIV of France had greenhouses at Versailles that were expected to provided him and his court with an unlimited number of peas all winter.

Green peas continue to create a sensation at the French court. It has been documented that many of the women at court decorated their hair with pea shoots to attract men. The ladies at court also ate several bowls of pea shoots before retiring as it was thought to boost their libidos.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis urged southerners to plant peas and beans instead of cotton and tobacco.

Austrian botanist Gregor Mendel began studying the genetics of garden peas.

I hope that you have enjoyed this bit of nutritional and fun historical facts about the pea.

In my next post I will share my favorite spring pea salad recipe that is not only healthy for you, but I think really delicious. And in every delicious morsel, this salad is exactly what you would expect what Spring would be like in you mouth, crunchy, sweet, green, succulent and fresh...

Stay tuned...!


Culinary Cory said...

I love spring peas. They are so good steamed with a little butter and salt.

A Brush with Color said...

I love them also. I could eat a bowl of them just for a snack. I happen to love vegetables, so I'm fortunate--I'm drawn to foods that are pretty good for me. Even your photos are making me wish I had a bowl of 'em right now! Interesting post, Terrie!

jeanette, mistress of longears said...

I am so besotted by edible pod peas...but I have not planted them in 2 years now, since the RABBITS (who else?) mowed down the shoots!

feasting-on-pixels (terrie) said...

Merci mille fois to you all for your kind comments.

Cory, I agree, I love eating fresh green pea pods that way as well.

Merci chêre Sue, I also love the fresh pods off my vines with nothing at all...there are ever so sweet fresh picked...vegetable candy.

Merci Jeanette, perhaps you cou;d grow your pods in pots away from the garden the rabbits inhabit.
Rabbits stay away from my lettuce garden as I surround it with cat hair...just a thought.
At least the longears in my area are afraid of the smell of my tiny

Anonymous said...

Peas are my absolute favorite summer veggie. I really enjoyed the historical timeline. I'm going to tie peashoots to my hair like the French courtisans.