Garden Pea

Pisum sativum - L.

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Leaves; Seed; seedpod.

Immature seedpods - raw or cooked. The young seedpods have a sweet flavour, but there is only a thin layer of flesh with a fibrous layer beneath it. Immature seeds - raw or cooked. Sweet and delicious, they can be added to salads, or lightly cooked. The mature seeds are rich in protein and can be cooked as a vegetable or added to soups etc. They can also be sprouted and added to salads, soups etc. The mature seed can also be dried and ground into a powder, then used to enrich the protein content of flour when making bread etc. The roasted seed is a coffee substitute. Leaves and young shoots - cooked and used as a potherb. The young shoots taste like fresh peas, they are exceptionally tender and can be used in salads.

100 gm of fresh green peas contain around 45 Calories. They are rich in the B vitamins thiamine, riboflavin and niacin, and contain significant amounts of potassium and phosphorus. The fresh pods are rich in dietary fibre. The dried seeds are more energy-dense but contain lesser amounts of vitamins. Surprisingly, carbohydrate forms a big chunk of the energy pie in a pea. Most of the carbohydrate is in the form of starch. Like all vegetable protein, the amino profile of the pea is deficient in some essential amino acids- the sulphur-containing cysteine and methionine aminos in this case. Flour made from dried pods is rich in energy, but since most pea flour ends up in fried snacks, the end product is likely to be a real heart-stopper and artery-clogger.

Medicinal Uses

Contraceptive; Skin.

The seed is contraceptive, fungistatic and spermacidal. The dried and powdered seed has been used as a poultice on the skin where it has an appreciable affect on many types of skin complaint including acne. The oil from the seed, given once a month to women, has shown promise of preventing pregnancy by interfering with the working of progesterone. Seeds are thought to cause dysentery when eaten raw. In Spain, flour is considered emollient and resolvent, applied as a cataplasm. It has been reported that seeds contain trypsin and chymotrypsin which could be used for ecbolic.

Peas are a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, thiamine (vitamin B1), iron and phosphorus. They are rich in protein, carbohydrate and fibre, and low in fat. Peas may help prevent certain types of cancer: for example, in one study they were linked to lower rates of prostate cancer. They are good for the heart because they are a rich source of soluble fibre, which enables the body to reduce its blood cholesterol level. They may also protect against appendicitis. On the negative side, they contain oestrogenic chemicals, and so may decrease fertility in males.

The small amounts of digestive enzymes in peas got them working in folk cures for fungus infections. The skin-softening effect of these enzymes leads to the use of in the pod in the world of beauty packs and herbal plasters.

Drinking the water in which peas had been cooked was once said to help measles. Legume starches contain a higher amount of amylose than most cereal or tuber starches. These are considered helpful in the prevention of many gastric ailments.


Cultivation details

Requires a well-drained moisture retentive soil. Prefers a calcareous soil. Prefers a pH in the range 6 to 7.5. Prefers a rich loamy soil. A light soil and a sheltered position is best for early sowings. There are two basic types, those with round seeds and those with wrinkled seeds. Round seeded varieties are hardier and can be sown in the autumn to provide an early crop in May or June, wrinkled varieties are sweeter and tastier but are not so hardy and are sown in spring to early summer. Peas are good growing companions for radishes, carrots, cucumbers, sweet corn, beans and turnips. They are inhibited by alliums, gladiolus, fennel and strawberries growing nearby. There is some evidence that if Chinese mustard (Brassica juncea) is grown as a green manure before sowing peas this will reduce the incidence of soil-borne root rots. This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby. When removing plant remains at the end of the growing season, it is best to only remove the aerial parts of the plant, leaving the roots in the ground to decay and release their nitrogen.