The Garden Pea – trivia and a starring role

  • The garden pea has an interesting history. It was even the star of a broadway play and movie entitled “the Princess and the Pea.” The most well known version of the “princess and the Pea starred Carol Burnett
  • Early archeologists have found peas in cave dwellings dating back to 9750 B.C.
  • Studies suggest the early peas were probably peeled and roasted over a fire.
  • According to Norse legend, peas were sent to earth by the God Thor, and were only to be eaten on his day, which was Thursday.
  • In the Middle Ages they were dried and stored for use throughout the year.
  • Peas reached North America in 1493 when Columbus planted them on Isabella Island. They did not gain popularity in the United States until the 1600’s.
  • Gregor Mendel, a 19th century Austrian monk, used the pea in experiments. He repeatedly crossed varieties of pea plants in an effort to observe how specific genetic traits were imparted to its next generation. Out of these observations came the laws that founded modern hereditary theory.
  • The garden pea was a favorite of U.S. President Thomas Jefferson. He cultivated more than two-dozen varieties at his plantation in Virginia.
  • The garden pea is technically a legume. It likes and grows best in a short cool growing period.
  • The pea is one of the first crops that can be grow I the spring. Many consider the planting of peas to signify the return of spring. The pea can be planted as soon as the soil is warm enough to work in very early spring.
  • Peas need to be planted in soil that drains well to get healthy plants and crops.
  • The most popular pea for home gardening is the smaller dwarf varieties of snap or sugar peas (snow peas). They are fast growing, need little staking or trellis support, and can be eaten pod-and-all.
  • For an additional yield of fresh garden peas, plant heat-resistant varieties in late spring or early fall. When cooked peas a re a great side dish. They can be added to salads and casseroles or soups. But if you steam or stir-fry peas in fresh oil they have a fresher flavor and more of the nutrients remain in the pea.
  • Peas are a good source of vitamins A, B, and C. They also contain potassium, iron and calcium.
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