Green Peas: Varieties, Nutrition Facts, Recipes, and Poems
A Useful Vegetable
Green peas are a tasty and very nutritious vegetable that should be a part of almost everyone's diet. They're a great source of protein, vitamins, minerals, and soluble fiber. They are also very versatile. Peas can be cooked and prepared in many different ways and can add flavor and interest to many dishes. Another advantage of peas is that they are often inexpensive to buy.
In addition to being a component of a meal, green peas can be used to make other foods, including soups, puddings, and porridges. They also make a great addition to items such as salads, stews, pies, pasta, and omelettes.
Green peas have been cultivated for at least ten thousand years and have become a very popular vegetable. They have also inspired people to create stories and poems, which often have an imaginative, humorous, or playful theme. It may be a fun experience to trap peas as they roll around on a plate, but people should seriously consider making the vegetable part of their diet.
Like beans and other peas, green peas belong to the family Fabaceae, which used to be called the Leguminosae family. Beans and peas are said to be "legumes". In some parts of the world they are known as pulses. Green peas are often referred to as vegetables, however, because of their green colour.
Types of Green Peas
The scientific name of the green pea plant is Pisum sativum. The plant is also known as the garden pea or simply "the pea". There are many closely related varieties of Pisum sativum. These have slightly different characteristics. Somewhat confusingly, the different varieties of green pea often have different common names.
Biologically, a pea pod is a fruit and the peas inside are seeds. In some varieties of green pea the pods are edible and in others they aren't. Inedible pods have a fibrous inner layer which edible pods lack.
Some popular varieties of green pea are described below.
- Snow peas have flat, edible pods. They are picked when the peas are very small and are eaten whole. Snow peas are also known as Chinese pea pods and are often eaten raw or stir fried.
- Sugar snap peas also have edible pods and are eaten whole. The pods are sweeter and rounder than snow pea pods and have a crunchy texture when raw.
- Marrowfat peas are green peas with unusually large and starchy seeds.
- Yellow peas are varieties of the green pea plant that have yellow seeds instead of green ones.
Split peas are dried peas which have been allowed to split naturally into two sections or are helped to do so mechanically. They are produced from both green and yellow varieties of the pea plant.
The most nutritious and delicious peas are ones that are homegrown and freshly picked. When fresh peas are unavailable or when convenience is desired, frozen, dried, or canned peas can be used instead. These are available in stores all year round, so peas can always be part of the diet. If canned peas are used, it's a good idea to look for a version that has no added sugar and salt and is sold in a can made of safe materials.
Protein, Carbohydrate, and Fat
Green peas are a good source of protein. Three quarters of a cup of green peas contains about the same amount of protein as an egg (around six grams).
Peas are also a good source of soluble fiber. This type of fiber helps to lower the blood cholesterol level and is believed to help lower a high blood sugar level, too. Peas do contain some natural sugars, but the amount isn't excessive (four grams per half cup of peas).
Peas are very low in fat. Since they are part of a plant, they contain no cholesterol. Cholesterol is only found in animal bodies.
Vitamins and Minerals
Raw peas are loaded with vitamins and minerals. They are an excellent source of vitamins C and K. Some of the vitamin C is lost when peas are cooked, however. Green peas are also a very good source of vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene), thiamine, and folate. Peas contain lesser but significant amounts of niacin, vitamin B6, and riboflavin (vitamin B2). A small amount of healthy fat eaten at the same time as peas will enhance the absorption of fat soluble vitamins, such as vitamins A and K.
Vitamin C and vitamins in the B family are water soluble. This means that cooking peas in a lot of water for a long time isn't a good idea, unless the water is drunk. Water soluble vitamins leach out of the peas into the surrounding water.
Green peas are high in manganese and are a significant source of phosphorus, copper, zinc, magnesium, and iron. They are low in sodium.
Green peas can be eaten raw. Some people love the taste of uncooked peas. Raw peas are also eaten after they have sprouted.
Peas also contain phytonutrients. Phytonutrients, or phytochemicals, are substances in plants that aren't essential for our survival but do have health benefits, such as helping to prevent disease. One important type of phytonutrient in green peas is the flavonoid group, which belongs to the polyphenol family. Flavonoids are antioxidants and may reduce the risk of several diseases.
Researchers need to determine whether a typical serving of peas contains a significant amount of each phytonutrient and whether the chemicals can be absorbed into our body from our small intestine. The researchers also need to discover whether the phytonutrients are beneficial once they are in the body. The initial research looks promising.
Cooking Green Peas
Green peas can be boiled, steamed, stir fried, fried, or microwaved. They can also be baked in foods such as quiches and savory pies.
In some parts of the world roasted peas are very popular. I've never tasted roasted peas, but they are reportedly nutty, crunchy, and delicious. They are often mixed with spices before being roasted, which adds to their enjoyable flavor.
Cooked peas are often processed further, such as by being pureed or mashed. They are also mixed with other ingredients to make many different foods, including soups, stews, casseroles, fish cakes, curries, pastas, omelettes, and salads.
In general, cooking peas at a lower temperature, for a shorter time, and with less water preserves more of their nutrients. This is why steaming vegetables is considered to be a healthier cooking method than boiling. If peas are boiled, they should be covered with the minimum amount of water needed and simmered for only a few minutes.
Mushy peas are often eaten with fish and chips. They have a soft texture that resembles that of thick, puréed peas. Soft, semi-intact peas are present in the mush.
Mushy peas can be made at home or bought in restaurants and stores. Products that are bought may have artificial color added, which can give them an unnatural, bright green appearance.
Mushy peas are generally made from marrowfat peas, which easily turn into a mush. Marrowfat peas are usually sold in a dried form but are sometimes sold in cans. To make mushy peas, dried marrowfat peas are soaked overnight in water containing a small amount of sodium bicarbonate (one teaspoon per cup of peas). Next day, the peas are rinsed in cold water and placed in a saucepan with fresh water. They are then boiled gently for thirty to sixty minutes—or longer—until the peas turn into a mush.
A Quick Pea and Pesto Soup Recipe
With the right ingredients, pea soup can be both nourishing and delicious. The soup can range from a simple blend of peas, seasonings, and water to a more complex and hearty mixture containing other vegetables in addition to peas. Ham may be added as well.
Ingredients that are often added to pea soups besides peas are carrots, celery, potatoes, onions, garlic, salt, pepper, and water. Bay leaves or thyme are often included, too.
Cream is sometimes swirled over the surface of the soup as a finishing touch. Small crackers or biscuits may be used for a topping instead of cream.
Split Pea and Ham Soup Recipe
Sprouted, blanched, or cooked and chilled peas are added to salads. Blanching is a technique in which a vegetable is plunged into boiling water, left there for a very short time, and then removed and quickly chilled to halt the cooking process. Frozen peas bought in a store are already blanched.
Pea salads often contain a mixture of peas, cheese, celery, nuts, onion, herbs, pepper, and salt. Mayonnaise or salad dressing is added for a creamy salad. Some people like to add other ingredients, such as hard boiled egg, tomato, bell pepper, bacon bits, diced apple, garlic, lemon juice, or a flavorful vinegar.
Green Pea Salad With Goat Cheese Recipe
Pease Pudding, Porridge, or Pottage
Pease was the Middle English name for pea. The plural word was peasen. Pease pudding or porridge is made from green or yellow peas and has a smooth texture similar to that of a thick pea sauce. It was popular in the Middle Ages, when it was known as a pease pottage. It's still enjoyed in some parts of the world today, including parts of the United Kingdom. It often contains pork as well as peas.
Some communities in the UK are named in honor of peas. For example, Pease Pottage is a village in West Sussex and Peasenhall is a village in Suffolk. The Peasenhall Pea Festival was until quite recently an annual event. The festival involved music, food, games, and contests. It offered pea eating and pea throwing contests as well as the World Pea Podding Championship. A pea-themed costume contest was also held. Among the other culinary delights that were available at one year's festival was a pea, mint, and honey ice cream. Perhaps the festival will be resurrected at a later date.
Pease porridge hot,
Pease porridge cold,
Pease porridge in the pot
Nine days old;
Some like it hot,
Some like it cold,
Some like it in the pot
Nine days old.— Anonymous
Poems About Peas
Peas are a very popular vegetable, so it's not surprising that people have written poems about them. The poems are often humorous, just like the sight of peas rolling over a surface.
The origins and author of the pease porridge poem are unknown. The poem as shown above was published in 1916 in a children's rhyme book called "The Real Mother Goose". This book can be read at the Project Gutenberg website. The poem was published in a slightly different form in 1760 in a book called "The Original Mother Goose's Melody" by John Newbery. This book can be read at the Google Books website.
Similarly, the date of origin and the writer of the poem shown below about eating peas with honey are unknown. According to the Poetry Foundation, the poem was recited at a 1944 radio broadcast in the United States. However, the author wasn't announced. The poem may have been created earlier.
I eat my peas with honey;
I've done it all my life.
It makes the peas taste funny,
But it keeps them on the knife.— Anonymous
The Man in the Green Pea Soup
The following poem was written by me. It's a fantasy that describes the adventures of a miniature man in a large tureen of green pea soup.
The man was looking quite green
As he swam within the tureen
Until he spied a few peas ahead
He climbed on a green pea boat
And shook out his lavender coat
Before eating some pumpkin bread
Then onion fish bit all his toes
And salt water licked his dear nose
Leaving him sore and red
Carrots surfed over the waves
And gathered in celery caves
To consider the words that he said
"I didn't!" he cried loud and clear
And retreated from garlic in fear
As it bounced over and started to shed
Pepper flew over the salt
And tickled his nose with a jolt
Creating sneezes that filled his head
The sneezes wriggled and twirled
So he held a tissue unfurled
"I'm ready if you are" he said
Sneezes left in disgust
Surprise for them was a must
The man cheered aloud once they'd fled
Potatoes lined up to parade
Carrots spun round as they played
And the man rode on peas as they sped
Then bay leaves sailed in from the west
With thyme woven mats for a nest
And carried him off to bed
"Peas, green, raw." United States Department of Agriculture. https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/3052 (accessed September 23, 2017).
Stanton, Meredith. "Green Peas: A Vitamin Powerhouse." WebMD. http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/green-peas-vitamin-powerhouse (accessed September 23, 2017).
Peters, Rick. "Seasonal Food: Green Peas." The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2010/jul/28/seasonal-food-green-peas (accessed September 23, 2017).
Questions & Answers
© 2014 Linda Crampton