In simple terms, pea is a green-colored seed obtained from a legume called ‘pisum sativum’. Several seeds are enclosed in pod and each seed is called pea. It is basically a fruit but in culinary world pea is used as a vegetable. Pea pod is mainly grown in cold weather. Pea is widely used to make side dishes, salads and main pea dishes. Almost all households use pea in their meals as it is a readily available vegetable. It comes in fresh form as well as in packed frozen form. Peas pulao, potato peas curry and pea salad are some of the most popular pea recipes that are well liked in global cuisine.
History of Pea
Turkey and Jordan are believed to be the place of origin of pea because the earliest evidences of peas cultivation are found there. Neolithic Syria and Egypt are also the places where peas were grown on very early dates. Peas were also grown in Afghanistan, India and Pakistan in 2250- 1750 BC.
Culinary Use of Peas
Usually, fresh peas are boiled and seasoned with butter, salt and pepper to make a nice side dish. Fresh peas are often eaten raw as they are more tender. Peas are widely used in making salads, soups, casseroles and pot pies. Many stir-fry peas dishes are made with pod peas. Meat and potato stews also contain peas as one of the ingredient. In curry dishes, peas can be added in combination with potato or cottage cheese. Peas stir-fried with butter and spices make a nice pea dish. Peas are often mashed and pureed after boiling to add in various gravy pea dishes. Pastas, omelets and sauces are the other dishes that contain pea as an ingredient.
Popular Pea Recipes
There are many exotic and well-liked pea recipes in various cuisines. Here are few examples:
• Pea Soup- A soup containing pea as the main ingredient along with spices and other ingredients. It is famous in northern and middle Europe along with Russia and Iraq.
• Aloo matar – A curried dish made with potatoes and peas. It is one of the most popular Indian pea recipes.
• Paneer matar – This dish, particularly famous in northern India, contains cottage cheese with peas cooked in gravy.
• Pea and corn salad – This is one of the healthiest pea dishes served as a side dish.
• Peas pulao – It is a rice dish made with peas. Peas pulao is a very commonly served peas dish in Asian cuisine.
Cuisines Commonly Making Pea Dishes
Though peas is a popular vegetable all over the world, Asian and European cuisines are famous for making variety of peas dishes since Middle Ages. In French and English cuisines, eating green peas became a ‘fashion’ during the time period of 1600-1700. North Americans are also fond of using peas in their dishes. Chinese cuisine and Indian cuisines make various stir-fried and curried dishes using peas. Along with all these cuisines, Mediterranean cuisine also makes good use of peas in stews and soups.
Preferred Methods of Making Pea Dishes
• Stir-fried – Peas are stir-fried with butter and spices to make side dish.
• Boiled – Fresh peas are boiled and fondly eaten with seasoning. Boiled peas are often served as side dish along with grilled meat.
• Baked – Peas are often baked with beans and potatoes to make casseroles.
• Curried – Curried pea dishes are very commonly served as main dishes in Indian as well as Pakistani cuisines.
• Stuffed – Peas are also used as a stuffing in potato, tomato and capsicum.
• Pureed – Peas are often boiled and pureed to make fat-free sauce to accompany meat, pasta or fish.
Nutritive Value of Peas
Raw and fresh peas contain proportionately less protein and more vitamin C. The nutritional properties of pea and pea dishes are as follows:
• Rich source of thiamin (vitamin B1) .
• Useful source of vitamin C.
• Contain protein, fiber, Folate and phosphorous.
Buying and Storing of Peas
• Always buy bright colored and crisp pea pods.
• Fresh peas are always the best choice but frozen or canned peas can also be purchased in absence of fresh peas.
• Small peas are good to buy.
• While storing peas, wrap them in a plastic sheet and store in refrigerator.
• Frozen peas should be kept in freezer and thawed before cooking.
• Never keep thawed peas again in freezer.
• Cooked leftover pea dishes should be stored in refrigerator for not more than 2-3 days.
Types of Peas
There are several types of peas now available. Here are the different varieties of peas mentioned below:
• Magnetouts – These peas are eaten ‘whole’ due to its delicate flavor. Magnetouts are a good option for salads and stir-fried peas dishes.
• Petis pois – This is the dwarf variety of peas. These type of peas are often used for canning and freezing purposes and not sold in grocery stores.
• Sugar snaps or sugar peas – These type of peas are relatively sweet than magnetouts and suitable for eating raw.
• One serving of peas contains as much vitamin c as present in two apples.
• Peas are also helpful in maintaining bone health.