Shelling peas reminds me of visits to my Grandmother’s house, sitting on her balcony with a huge bucket of peas. I surmise that bucket is huge only in my memory, and likely contained no more peas than our family would eat for supper that night. I liked sitting there, shelling peas, chasing after the peas that got away while pealing. Back then, eating them was another matter altogether, I was not a picky eater, but peas I did not like. These days I cannot resist a peas straight of the vine
Peas belong to a very important family of edible plants, the legume family, second in importance only to the grasses the seeds of which give us wheat, maize, and rice. Legumes are known for their high protein content and are used in many parts of the world as a dietary staple in lieu of animal proteins. Legumes are good at producing protein due to their symbiotic relationship with Rhizobium, a soil bacterium that invades its roots and fixes nitrogen from the air for the plants use.
Peas have been cultivated for over 9,000 years and are native to the Mediterranean region and East Asia. Traditionally, peas are eaten when the fruit is fully mature – referred to today as split peas. Split peas were an important source of protein in Europe during the middle ages, and only during early modern times did the consumption of immature peas become common. In England, the distinction between garden peas (immature peas) and field peas (mature peas) dates to the 17th century.
What is, to me, by far most interesting about peas is their contribution to our understanding of genetics. Through the work of Gregor Mendel, we understand the laws that govern how traits are passed down through generations, called the laws of Mendelian inheritance. Mendel followed 7 different characteristics of peas (such as seed shape and color) through multiple generations to define these laws.