Sweet, delicious green peas, also popular as garden peas, are one of the ancient cultivated vegetables grown for their delicious, nutritious green seeds. Peas probably have originated in the sub-Himalayan plains of northwest India. Today, this versatile legume is one of the major commercial crops grown all over the temperate, and semi-tropical regions.
Botanically, pea plant is a herbaceous vine. It belongs to the family of Fabaceae, in the genus: Pisum. Scientific name: Pisum sativum. Some of the common names include English peas, sweet peas, garden peas, pease,…etc.
Pea is a quick growing, an annual herbaceous vine which requires the trellis to support its growth. It flourishes in well-drained, sandy soil supplemented with adequate moisture and cold weather conditions. Short-stalked, green pods appear by late winter or early spring. Each pod measures about 2-3 inches long, swollen or compressed, straight or slightly curved, filled with a single row of 2-10, light-green, smooth edible seeds.
In general, the pods harvested while just short of reaching maturity, at the point when their seeds are green, soft, sweet and edible raw. Allowing the pods to mature further would turn seeds dry, light-green to yellow, less sweet, and bitter to taste.
Pea tendrils are also edible delicacies. They are delicate, tender top shoots of a young pea plant. Pea tendrils have a flavor akin to peas. The tendrils and leafy shoots are one of favored item in salads and cooking in many East and South-east Asian regions.
Snow peas or sugar snap peas are different species of peas wherein whole immature green pod, including its outer peel, can be eaten as a vegetable.
Health benefits of green peas
Green peas are one of the most nutritious leguminous vegetables rich in health promoting phytonutrients, minerals, vitamins and antioxidants.
Fresh, tender peas are relatively low in calories in comparison to beans, and cowpeas. 100 g of green peas carry just 81 calories and no cholesterol. Nonetheless, they are good sources of protein, vitamins, and soluble as well as insoluble fiber.
Fresh pea pods are excellent sources of folic acid. 100 g provides 65 µg or 16% of recommended daily levels of folates. Folates are one of the B-complex vitamins required for DNA synthesis inside the cell. Studies suggest that adequate folate-rich foods when given to expectant mothers would help prevent neural tube defects in their newborn babies.
Fresh green peas are healthy sources of ascorbic acid (vitamin-C). 100 g of fresh pods carry 40 mg or 67% of daily requirement of vitamin-C. Vitamin-C is a powerful natural water-soluble antioxidant. Vegetables rich in this vitamin would help the human body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful, pro-inflammatory free radicals from the body.
Peas contain phytosterols, especially ß-sitosterol. Studies suggest that vegetables like legumes, fruits, and cereals rich in plant sterols help lower cholesterol levels inside the human body.
Garden peas are also good in vitamin-K. 100 g of fresh seeds contain about 24.8 µg or about 21% of daily requirement of vitamin K-1 (phylloquinone). Vitamin-K has been found to have a potential role in bone mass building function (mineralization) through the promotion of osteoblastic activity inside the bone cells. It also has an established role in the cure of Alzheimer’s disease patients by limiting neuronal damage in the brain.
Fresh green peas also carry adequate amounts of antioxidants flavonoids such as carotenes, lutein, and zeaxanthin as well as vitamin-A (provide 765 IU or 25.5% of RDA per 100 g). Vitamin-A is an essential nutrient required for maintaining healthy membranes, skin, and eyesight. Additionally, consumption of natural fruits/vegetables rich in flavonoids helps to protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.
In addition to folates, peas are also good in many other essential B-complex vitamins such as pantothenic acid, niacin, thiamin, and pyridoxine. Furthermore, they are a rich source of many minerals such as calcium, iron, copper, zinc, and manganese.
Selection and storage
Green peas are winter crops. Fresh peas can be readily available from December until April in the markets. However, dry, mature seeds, and split peas, flour…etc., can be found in the markets around the year.
While shopping for green peas look for fresh pods that are full, heavy in hands and brimming with seeds. Avoid those with wrinkled surface, or over-matured, yellow color seed-pods.
Green peas are at their best soon after harvest since much of their sugar content rapidly convert into starch. To store, place them inside a vegetable container in the home refrigerator set at high relative humidity where they keep fresh for 2-3 days. Frozen seeds, however, can be used for several months.
Preparation and serving methods
Trim away stalk end and peel its thin thread along the suture line. Split open its outer husk to release round to oval, green seeds.
Here are some serving tips:
Peas mix well with other complementing vegetables like potato, carrot, beets, onion, artichokes,…etc in the preparation of a wide variety of dishes.
Peas can be added to soup as a flavorful side-dish.
Green peas, known as mutter, are one of the common ingredients in winter season dishes in the Indian-subcontinent. Fresh peas added to a variety of mouth-watering recipes like Aaloo-mutter, mutter-paneer, mutter-gajjar…etc with added spices, garlic, coriander leaves, onions, and tomato.