Pea is a herbaceous plant that belongs to the Fabaceae family. It is also known under the common name garden pea. It is widely cultivated for its edible seeds. Pea is available in a variety of forms in the market such as fresh, frozen, canned, or dry. It is commonly used to prepare various dishes, especially in soups. Some varieties of the plant are consumed raw or cooked like green beans. The two most popular varieties eaten raw are sugar pea and snow pea, they are commonly served in East Asian cuisine. The plant is quite easy to cultivate, and the seeds are a great source of protein and dietary fiber.
The origins of pea are not known but it is for sure one of the oldest cultivated crops. The wild-growing varieties are native to the Mediterranean region and the Middle East. It was introduced in America during European colonization.
The plant is annual and leafy. It produces a hollow, climbing stem that reaches up to 1.8 meters in length. The stems have tendrils that ensure climbing as well as leaves with three pairs of leaflets. Pea’s flowers are of white, pink, or purple color that occurs in pairs or rarely in threes per stalk. Flowers have a characteristic butterfly shape. The flowers turn into fruits in a form of pods that may reach up to 10 cm in length. The pods split in half when ripe. Each pod may contain 5 to 10 seeds attached by tiny stalks. The seeds may vary in size and shape and usually are white, yellow, or green in color.
Pea should be planted in well-drained soil that is quite fertile in unshaded spots. It is well affected by cool weather that improves the development and growth, that is why in warmer parts of the world peas are grown in late winter and early spring. The widely grown varieties include dwarf, trailing, smooth-seeded, wrinkled-seeded, and trailing. Depending on the variety, canning and freezing may be the most suitable options to preserve the pea.
The world’s leading producer of peas is China with almost 12.2 million metric tonnes produced each year. China is followed by India (4.8 million metric tonnes), the USA (310 000 metric tonnes and Egypt (150 000 metric tonnes). Other significant world producers are the United Kingdom, Pakistan, Algeria, Peru, and Turkey.