Peas. We either love them or hate them. Personally, I love them, and there is really nothing like the taste of peas plucked straight off the vine. Their sweetness comes from the natural sugars that begin to break down into starches the moment you pick them. We treasure them in the spring as one of our early crops, however peas are actually a spring and autumn crop. With planning you can resow peas in summer and harvest until the early frost. They are also one of the easiest seeds to harvest and store for your own planting next year. Beautiful, bright peas! Even their blossoms are edible.
Are peas a vegetable or legume?
Both. Peas are eaten both dried and fresh (green). Native to India, there are more than 50 varieties of peas and much of the world eats peas in both their dry and fresh form, especially the Middle East and Asia. Americans, however, tend to favor fresh peas leaving out the rich treasure that dried peas can offer. Peas’ nutrition and energetics will change a little depending on whether you eat them dry or fresh, but these little legumes make an wonderful addition to any diet.
Western nutritional highlights of peas
Peas are an excellent source of protein, vitamins A and B and minerals including calcium, sulfur, potassium and iron. Dried peas are a great source of fiber. Green peas (fresh or frozen) have vitamin C, K and carotenes, that are lost in the dried form. Like other legumes and lentils, peas lower cholesterol, especially in their dried form where they are most able to absorb excess and dampness (one of the ways Asian medicine categorizes cholesterol).
Eastern energetics of peas
Peas have neutral temperature and very sweet flavor. They enter the Spleen/pancreas, and relax the Stomach and Heart. Peas help to calm down the Liver when it is overly hot or toxic – which is often for many Americans, especially in the spring. Peas reduce ‘rebellious Qi’, a condition when the Qi is moving the opposite direction that it should. For example, Stomach Qi should descend, sending partly refined food down to the Small Intestines. When this Qi rebels and rises rather than descends it appears as acid reflux, GERD, hiccups, belching and coughing when eating. Peas also have a mild laxative and draining (diuretic) effect, making them beneficial in constipation and gout conditions. Dry peas have a drying nature and should be avoided in conditions where the body is very dry and thin. Overall, all beans and legumes help us adapt and become tolerant to life changes and challenges.
In a world where we are facing major concerns of food security and sustainability peas and other lentils and legumes are rock stars. The require few resources to grow, store easily, and produce high yield nutrition without heavy environmental damage when they are managed correctly.
A tip on growing
Want to have fresh peas all season long? Not a problem, but you will have to step away from the commercial varieties that have been raised to have a singular harvest time. Plant ‘first earlies’ like Feltham First in late autumn for a spring harvest. In late summer, plant varieties such as Onward and Alderman for main crop harvest. Check with your local organic nursery for heirloom varieties and their planting and harvest time.