Sweet, delicious green peas, also popular as garden peas, are one of the ancient cultivated vegetables grown for their succulent nutritious green seeds. Peas probably have originated in the sub-Himalayan plains of north-west 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 an 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.
|Green pea. Note for bright green pod encasing round light green color edible peas.|
Pea is a quick growing, annual herbaceous vine which requires trellis to support its growth. It flourishes under well-drained, sandy soil supplemented with adequate moisture and cool 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 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 as raw. Allowing the pods to mature further would make seeds less sweet, bitter and turn light-green to yellow.
|Garden pea vine with pods.|
Pea tendrils are also edible. They are delicate, tender top-shoots of young pea plant. Pea tendrils have 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 like a vegetable.
Green peas are one of the most nutritious leguminous vegetables rich in health benefiting phyto-nutrients, minerals, vitamins and anti-oxidants.
Fresh, tender peas are relatively low in calories on 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 an 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 very good in 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 anti-oxidant. Vegetables rich in this vitamin would help 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 promotion of osteotrophic activity inside the bone cells. It also has established role in the cure of Alzheimer's disease patients by limiting neuronal damage inside the brain.
Fresh green peas also carry adequate amounts of anti-oxidants flavonoids such as carotenes, lutein and zea-xanthin 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 eye-sight. 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 rich source of many minerals such as calcium, iron, copper, zinc, and manganese.
|Fresh green peas in a market.|
Green peas are winter crops. Fresh peas can be readily sold from December until April in the markets. However, dry, mature seeds, and split peas, flour...etc., can be made available 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 pods.
Green-peas are at their best soon after harvest since much of sugar content in them would rapidly convert into starch. If you have to store at all, place them inside 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.
|Green peas sauteed with oil. garlic, onion.
Photo courtesy: Old Fashin'd.
Trim away stalk end and peel its thin fiber along the suture line. Split open its outer husk to release round to oval, green seeds.
Here are some serving tips:
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 are 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.
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Research articles on nutrition.
1. Refer Stanford School of Medicine Cancer information Page- Nutrition to Reduce Cancer Risk (Link opens in new window).
2. The journal of nutrition by American society for nutrition. (Link opens in new window).