Sunday, July 8, 2012

Vegetable Of The Week - Peas

Vegetable History: 
Archaeologists and historians have unearthed peas in ancient tombs and have found dated pictures and writings discussing the virtues of the pea. They think the garden pea originated in either China or Egypt. The Chinese believed that their emperor, Shu Nung, discovered peas 5000 years ago. Called the Chinese Father of Agriculture, he is said to have wandered around the countryside observing and collecting plants, looking for those which might be suitable for food or medicine. Potential edibles were fed to a dog, then a servant and, if both survived, the emperor himself would taste the new food.

In Norse mythology, Thor gave peas to humans as a punishment, not a gift. One version of the legend says that he sent flying dragons to use them to fill up and foul all of the wells on earth. The dragons were a little clumsy though, and some of the peas landed on fertile ground, giving the people a new vegetable. To calm and flatter the even angrier Thor, the mortals dedicated the vegetable to him and ate peas only on his day, Thursday. The earliest charred remains of peas were found at Troy and at Thebes in Egyptian tombs of the 12th dynasty. Peas were not a common staple in early history. Romans preferred the taste of chickpeas and of certain vetch and lupine seed. In the Middle Ages, peas were regarded as Lenten fare. They were dried and kept against times of famine.

Dried peas were among the essentials needed by people preparing to sail to the American colonies. They were nutritious, would keep indefinitely and required little storage space on the ship. When English colonists arrived in America, peas were one of the first crops to be planted. A 1635 list of supplies required for one colonist for one year included "one bushell of Pease."

It was fairly late in the 17th century that Europeans started eating peas fresh. They were a delicacy and became very fashionable. Lots of breeding has been done on peas, so there are now many different kinds with different characteristics. - Washington State University

In early times, peas were grown mostly for their dry seeds. From plants growing wild in the Mediterranean basin, constant selection since the Neolithic dawn of agriculture improved their yield. In the early 3rd century BC Theophrastus mentions peas among the pulses that are sown late in the winter because of their tenderness. In the first century AD Columella mentions them in De re rustica, and Roman legionaries still gathered wild pisi from the sandy soils of Numidia and Palestine, to supplement their rations.
In the Middle Ages, field peas are constantly mentioned, as they were the staple that kept famine at bay, as Charles the Good, count of Flanders noted explicitly in 1124. In the 13th century the poet Guillaume de Villeneuve noted "J'ay pois en cosse touz noviaux" among the street cries of Paris.

Green "garden" peas, eaten immature and fresh, were an innovative luxury of Early Modern Europe. In England, the distinction between "field peas" and "garden peas" dates from the early 17th century: John Gerard and John Parkinson both mention garden peas. Sugar peas, which the French soon called mange-tout, for they were consumed pods and all, were introduced to France from the market gardens of Holland in the time of Henri IV, through the French ambassador.

Green peas were introduced from Genoa to the court of Louis XIV of France in January 1660, with some staged fanfare; a hamper of them were presented before the King, and then were shelled by the Sovoyan comte de Soissons, who had married a niece of Cardinal Mazarin; little dishes of peas were then presented to the King, the Queen, Cardinal Mazarin and Monsieur, the king's brother. Immediately established and grown for earliness warmed with manure and protected under glass, they were still a luxurious delicacy in 1696, when Mme de Maintenon and Mme de Sevign√© each reported that they were "a fashion, a fury."  Modern split peas, with their indigestible skins rubbed off, are a development of the later 19th century. - Wikipedia, Peach History 

Health Benefits:
Fresh pea pods are excellent source of folic acid. 100 g provides 65 mcg or 16% of recommended daily levels of folates. Folates are B-complex vitamins required for DNA synthesis inside the cell. Well established research studies suggest that adequate folate rich foods in expectant mothers would help prevent neural tube defects in the newborn babies. - Nutrition & You

The unique phytonutrients in green peas also provide us with key antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. Included in these phytonutrients are some recently-discovered green pea phytonutrients called saponins. Due to their almost exclusive appearance in peas, these phytonutrients actually contain the scientific word for peas (Pisum) in their names: pisumsaponins I and II, and pisomosides A and B. When coupled with other phytonutrients in green peas--including phenolic acids like ferulic and caffeic acid, and flavanols like catechin and epicatechin--the combined impact on our health may be far-reaching. For example, some researchers have now speculated that the association between green pea and legume intake and lowered risk of type 2 diabetes may be connected not only with the relatively low glycemic index of green peas (about 45-50) and their strong fiber and protein content, but also with this unusual combination of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients. - Worlds Healthiest Foods

Their fiber in Peas, mostly insoluble, aids intestinal motility and may help lower cholesterol. Of the myriad nutrients peas provide, iron is particularly important since it's hard to find non-animal foods with much of this blood-building nutrient. - How Stuff Works

People who regularly eat legumes may have a lower risk for diabetes, a disease that occurs when your body can no longer regulate blood sugar levels properly. Legumes may help prevent or manage diabetes because they have low glycemic index, which means they do not cause rapid spikes in your blood sugar. Green split peas have 16.1 g of dietary fiber per serving. Soluble fiber, such as that in legumes, slows down sugar absorption so it does not get into your bloodstream as quickly. If you have high blood sugar, continue to work with your doctor to control it and prevent complications of diabetes. - Livestrong

Fresh green peas are very good in ascorbic acid (vitamin C). Contain 40 mcg/100 g or 67% of daily requirement of vitamin C. Vitamin C is a powerful natural water-soluble anti-oxidant. Vegetables rich in this vitamin helps body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful, pro-inflammatory free radicals from the body. - Nutrition & You

Just one cup of boiled green peas provides over 51% of the required amount of vitamin K, 42% of your daily manganese, 40% of the daily requirement of vitamin C and over ¼ of your body's daily requirement of vitamin B1 (thiamin). It also contains between 12 to 25 % of the daily requirement for folate, vitamin A, tryptophan, phosphorus, B6, protein, niacin, magnesium, riboflavin, copper, iron, zinc and potassium. You don't need a lot of extra fiber because just one cup of peas provides over 1/3 of the necessary daily fiber. Best of all, they taste good. This naturally sweet legume is a favorite of both children and adults. The carotenoid in the green pea is lutein, well known for reducing the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration. - Health Food Guide

Peas are a good source of other B Vitamins as well, such as thiamin (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), and niacin (vitamin B3). These help regulate lipid, carbohydrate and protein levels. - Gardening Channel

Green peas are loaded with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients, and these health-supportive nutrients are provided in a wide range of nutrient categories. For example, in the flavonoid category, green peas provide us with the antioxidants catechin and epicatechin. In the carotenoid category, they offer alpha-carotene and beta-carotene. Their phenolic acids include ferulic and caffeic acid. Their polyphenols include coumestrol. Pisumsaponins I and II and pisomosides A and B are anti-inflammatory phytonutrients found almost exclusively in peas. Antioxidant vitamins provided by green peas include vitamin C and vitamin E, and a good amount of the antioxidant mineral zinc is also found in this amazing food. Yet another key anti-inflammatory nutrient needs to be added to this list, and that nutrient is omega-3 fat. Recent research has shown that green peas are a reliable source of omega-3 fat in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). In one cup of green peas, you can expect to find about 30 milligrams of ALA. - Worlds Healthiest Foods

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