Hello my dear readers,
Ready to discover another wonderful food that this planet give us?
Because is spring time, let’s discover today the green peas, one of my spring symbols 🌸
You will find in this post:
green peas’ origins
green peas’ varieties
green peas’ seasonality
how to choose and buy green peas
green peas cultivation (even in a pot)
how to cook green peas
And that being said, let’s start!
Green Peas Origins
Peas are legumes with a green colour and round shape, contained in the pods of a herbaceous and annual plant with the scientific name Pisum Sativum, which belongs to the Fabaceae family, the same as beans, chickpeas, peanuts and lentils, and are among the most consumed legumes in the Mediterranean diet.
Both dry as farinaceous and in its fresh or frozen version, the pea has therefore contributed for thousands of years to defining the diet of the Mediterranean and beyond, to such an extent that today it is consumed practically seamless throughout the world, and during the entire year.
The green peas, which are a symbol of the spring, it is not clear where they come from.
It is thought from Asia imported by the people of Arii; but they have been found in Turkey, in the excavations of Halicat as early as 5,500 BC, as well as in the ruins of Troy and in the Egyptian pyramid.
Certainly they were known to the Egyptians and also to the Greeks and Romans who found them delicious, as evidenced by the Latin Pliny and the Greek Theophrastus.
But the real fame came in 1600 when it became fashionable for the aristocracy to eat peas with the consequence that their price reached the stars and only the richest could afford them.
For thousands of years they have not been eaten fresh but dried after harvest thanks to their excellent storage capacity.
Symbol of luck and prosperity, in the past the white and yellow flowers of this legume were intertwined in garlands for the brides, while the green spheres of the pod were one of the main sources of nourishment.
In gastronomic literature they appear for the first time in France, dried in a kind of milk puree.
«The chapter of peas still lasts: the impatience to eat them, the pleasure of having eaten them, the joy of being able to eat them again are the three points that our principles have been dealing with for four days. There are ladies who, after having dinner with the king, they make peas prepared at home to eat them before going to sleep, at risk of indigestion. It is a fashion, a fury ».
This letter from Madame de Maintenon, dated 10 May 1696, tells of the passion for green legumes that raged at the end of the seventeenth century in France, at the court of Louis XIV. “It’s amazing,” wrote a biographer from Colbert the year before, “to see people so dedicated to pleasure that they buy green peas for huge sums.”
The peas that the Court of France liked so much were very green, before ripening: “The younger they are, the more excellent they are,” describes them Nicolas de Bonnefons, a master of the dining room serving the king. They were not the only fashionable vegetables at that time: artichokes, zucchini, mushrooms, asparagus are equally widespread in seventeenth-century haute cuisine, which gradually abandons the strong flavors of the medieval tradition (the huge meat dishes covered with spices) in favor of softer and more delicate flavors.
Court gastronomy discovers new elements of distinction when the use of exotic products such as spices no longer serves to mark the differences, now that the commercial flows opened by ocean voyages make them less expensive and more accessible: and paradoxically it it does by rediscovering products with a ‘peasant’ aftertaste.
The farmers certainly could not afford to give up the volume and nourishing capacity of well-ripe peas, ‘wasting them’ still in the grass. They preferred to make them grow well, perhaps dry them and then reduce them in flour, to mix with that of cereals or other legumes. With these flours the farmers made baby food, polenta, sometimes bread.
In the Italian tradition, peas have a prominent place especially fresh (today also frozen which can be used as fresh).
Green Peas Varieties
There are several varieties of peas, such as climbing peas, dwarf peas, half-pea peas and the sugar peas or edible-pod peas or snow peas variety.
Among the varieties to be shelled, there are peas with a smooth seed and peas with a rough seed.
Fresh peas ripen during the spring season, and can be eaten both cooked and raw, when they are tender.
Green Peas Seasonality
Fresh peas begin to appear in the markets and in the large retailers around April, but the best time to buy them is certainly from May to June.
The seasonality of the peas is in fact rather reduced, and it is therefore useful, if you choose to keep them, to buy them in this period, before they “disappear” from the market.
During the other seasons, frozen or dried peas can be eaten after soaking them for several hours. There are also peas in tin or glass cans. The advice is to always prefer fresh products, and possibly at km 0 and organic.
How to choose and buy peas
In the spring – summer period, the choice should always be fresh peas if the ambient allows it. I live in a city where is always summer but fresh peas are not available unfortunately.
Tasty, excellent to eat even raw, fresh peas can then be stored in the freezer for the months to come.
The pod must be of an intense green colour and not yellow, uniform and with a turgid consistency. The individual seeds, if fresh, are also green, slightly hard to the touch and with good flavor.
Canned peas are a useful variant for those who have little time to spend in the kitchen but, in the preservation of the original flavour, it is preferable to choose the glass jars over the metal cans.
Dry peas and frozen peas, however, can be purchased without difficulty all year round and eaten after soaking and cooking.
Green Peas Cultivation
The pea plant is a hardy leafy annual plant with hollow trailing or climbing stems that reach up to 1.8 meters (6 feet) in length.
If you intend to grow green peas in your garden the best option is to start with dwarf peas.
Climate and soil
This vegetable does not like humidity, so the soil must be well prepared with a process that makes it draining correctly and throughout the cultivation it must be ensured that the earth does not make a crust, intervening when necessary with the hoe.
The pea seed needs a few degrees to come out, 7-8 degrees are enough and once is out it resists the cold very well, even ten degrees below zero. It can be sown in October -November or between the end of February and the beginning of March.
Typically a pea plant from sowing to harvest takes 90-100 days. When the pod is turgid it must be harvested, before it becomes wrinkled, otherwise the seed becomes hard.
Cultivating the green peas in our balcony
Is this even possible? Well, yes.
If you are like me and you live in an apartment and don’t have the possibility to have a garden, you still can enjoy fresh green peas grown in your balcony.
Peas are vegetables that we can grow even with little space and, depending on the variety, without too much care and in marginal places.
Why deprive ourselves of this pleasure?
Here are a few simple tips for growing peas in pots on the balcony.
If you have decided to grow peas in your garden on the balcony, choose a vase at least 40 centimeters wide.
Choose a location in full sun, especially if you live in the northern regions; however, this legume produces well even in partially shaded areas.
Choose a medium-textured soil, well worked and avoid those that are too compact, or with a strong presence of calcium.
Regular watering and mulching made with natural materials will suffice. Always avoid stagnant water.
Harvest your pods when they are still tender. Better, in fact, to harvest them in advance, before they become wrinkled! Remember that the heat they receive accelerates their maturation; gently remove the pods, from top to bottom.
Once harvested, have fun shelling them to finally consume them very fresh.
If you have too many you may freeze them, but try to savour at least one dish made with your freshly picked peas and you can no longer give up!
A small natural wonder! How not to love it?
How to cook green peas
Peas are very versatile in the kitchen. They can be eaten with pasta or other cereals, in order to complete the protein picture. In this way, also associated with other vegetables, they become a complete dish.
Or they can be used to make velvety cream soups, but also meatballs or vegetable burgers.
Peas can also be used to prepare hummus, a cream made from legumes and tahin sauce, an excellent appetiser spread on slices of toasted bread.
Green peas are a well loved legume, that can be used as a complete dish or side dishes but also to accompany fish and meat.
Do you like green peas? Are one of my favourite 😉
Join me next time and we will see green peas nutrition facts, benefits and contraindications.
See you next time!
Thank you all for reading.
And if you would like to discover more about our food, you may enjoy my previous posts
Wish you a wonderful day!
And please stay at home and stay safe!
Photo credit: Pixabay & Canva edited by Popsicle Society