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Potatoes: Maincrop »« Parsnips


Pisum sativum


While peas are readily available all year round in the freezer section of your supermarket, there’s something very special about fresh peas straight out of the pod.

Peas are legumes, coming in bright green pods that somewhat resemble beans. Press open the pod and push out the peas with your thumb; it will take a while to get enough peas but it’s said that shelling peas is one of the most relaxing kitchen tasks. And it’s worth it.

There are a few varieties of peas: the ones you find in the freezer are usually sugar snaps, while petits poi are a dwarf variety. Flat snow peas, or mangetout, (French for ‘eat all’) are just an under-developed pea, with the pod being the main event rather than the seeds inside.

Peas are rich in vitamins B6, C, and K, as well as folate, iron, and calcium. They’re also a good source of other essential minerals, such as magnesium, zinc, and potassium.

If you’re buying fresh peas, look for velvety and smooth pods that are a vibrant green colour. Avoid any that are too dark or too light or are yellowing. The pods should be plump and not rattle too much when shaken. Fresh peas don’t keep well, so refrigerate them and eat as soon as possible.



Peas have been eaten for thousands of years; archaeological evidence that shows them to have been around in 3000BC and they were prized by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. They were once grown for their dry seeds, but as more tender varieties were cultivated from the 16th century, people began to eat them fresh, as we do today. In 17th and 18th century France, eating peas was said to be ‘a fashion and a madness’.

In China, peas have been eaten since 2000BC; it’s thought that the Chinese were the first to consume both pea and pod.

Peas have played an important role in science; the 19th century Austrian monk Gregor Mendel used peas in his cross-breeding experiments that have vastly added to our understanding of genetics.


Steamed or lightly boiled with a sprig of mint and served with butter, peas are one vegetable that many parents have no trouble encouraging their children to eat. Fresh pea pods might make an interesting and nutritious addition to a lunchbox.

Peas can be added to almost any dish, from fried rice to risotto. Snow peas are particularly good in stir fries – or added raw to a vegetable platter with hummus. You could also puree cooked peas with a small amount of garlic, along with olive oil and parmesan, for an interesting dip.


Frozen peas have been frozen within two hours of harvest to lock in the nutrients.

In Norse mythology, peas were sent by the god Thor as a punishment to people. So to appease Thor, the mortals would eat peas in his honour on his day, Thursday.

Potatoes: Maincrop »« Parsnips


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