Latin Name: Pisum sativum
What are Peas?
Peas are legumes, plants that bear fruit in pods enclosing the fleshy seeds we call beans. Peas are one of the few members of the legume family that are prepared in the same way as fresh vegetables. 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 garden pea we are familiar with today is thought to have originated from a field pea native to central Asia and Europe that has been consumed by humans for thousands of years. Indeed, peas were prized by the great ancient civilizations of Egypt, Greece, and Rome. Yet, it was not until the sixteenth century, when cultivation techniques created more tender varieties, that people began to consume peas in their fresh state rather than eating dried peas.
Many types of peas can be eaten fresh; snow peas and snap peas even having edible pods. Currently, most of the world’s peas are dried, frozen, or canned. Often used in soups, or even cooked and dried and with such ingredients as salt, wasabi, or other spices, peas are a very versatile and enriching ingredient in cuisines throughout the world.
What are the health benefits of Peas?
In traditional Chinese medicine, peas are used to promote urination, ease indigestion, treat edema, and alleviate constipation.
In recent studies, peas have been found to be extremely good for the bones. Their content of vitamin K helps maintain high levels of calcium in the bones, while vitamin B6 and folic acid contribute to healthy collagen and bone matrix formation. Vitamin K also aids the blood in clotting when necessary, and B6 and folic acid keep atherosclerosis at bay. Since peas are high in vitamin C, they help boost the immune system, ensure cardiovascular health, and fight cancer. Antioxidants like vitamin C reduce the oxidation of cholesterol in the arteries that can cause strokes and heart attacks. Vitamin C protects against virtually all cancers by protecting cellular DNA from damage and mutations that allow the proliferation of cancers.
One of the most wonderful benefits of peas is that they are a natural energy supplier. This is owed to their rich content of many B vitamins, which promote the lipid, protein, and carbohydrate metabolism that provides us with more energy. Their high levels of iron also keep pea consumers away from the cognitive and energetic decline associated with anemia.
Where can I find Peas?
Peas are available year round in grocery stores and some outdoor markets. Peas are freshest when they have been frozen or about a month after the cold season has ended.
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