Now, here’s the story behind the story of the luscious pea.
You’ll need a time machine to travel back far enough in history to witness the earliest-known consumption of peas by people, traveling back more than 10,000 years to a place called the Spirit Cave. This cave was discovered in 1965 by an archaeologist named Dr. Chester Gorman. It’s located along the Burmese border in northern Thailand and, when discovered, this cave contained “a wealth of relics indicating that the ancient Thais were farming long before the ancestors of the Babylonians . . . Domesticated seeds found in the cave were the oldest yet discovered, including peas, beans and root plants. Carbon tests proved them to be 11,690 years old.”
Archaeologists have also found evidence of pea consumption in northwestern Iraq, as far back as between 7000 and 6000 B.C.; in Hungary (earlier than 3000 BC); and in Switzerland, dating back to 3000 B.C. About 2,500 years ago, Ancient Greek and Romans treasured dried peas, with vendors selling hot pea soup on Athens streets. These peas may have come from Switzerland or India.
Evidence suggests that peas were among the earliest crops cultivated by humans. This means that the pea, small as it is in size, caused a huge shift in the development of human history, as cultivated crops allowed nomadic tribes to stop wandering to settle down in a particular location. You can find more information about the development of the pea grown by early farmers at BestCookingPulses.com.
And, here’s more about the enormous impact that crop cultivation, overall, has had on human history. According to National Geographic, “agriculture triggered such a change in society and the way in which people lived that its development has been dubbed the ‘Neolithic Revolution.’ Traditional hunter-gatherer lifestyles, followed by humans since their evolution, were swept aside in favor of permanent settlements and a reliable food supply. Out of agriculture, cities and civilizations grew, and because crops and animals could now be farmed to meet demand, the global population rocketed.”
We at The Chef’s Garden and the Culinary Vegetable Institute advocate using all edible parts of plants and herbs. You can find examples of how we help to accomplish that here, in our post titled Reduce Food Waste in America with Ugly Vegetable Beer!, and here, in Plant to Plate Series: Carrot Puree – Using the Tops, Too!.
Here’s more, this time from our blog post, Vegetable State of the Union: Current Food Trends: “Whole vegetable cooking is on the rise. No longer does one part of the vegetable grace the plate and the rest is relegated to the rubbish bin. Chefs are appreciating more than ever the value, diversity and flavor variations that each component of a vegetable has to offer. From seed to leaf, it’s an exciting time to be a vegetable, no matter what part of it is used. Seeds are fermented, leaves are transformed into pesto, pulp is used for miso, stems are juiced, peels are dehydrated for tortilla chips, and rinds are transformed into puckery pickles as chefs and consumers grow to appreciate a whole vegetable’s virtue. Byproducts are on the rise in our hyper-vigilant focus on food waste solutions. No longer is whey discarded. It’s used to marinade vegetables and meat proteins alike or transformed into tangy beverages or dressings. Olive oil water and chickpea and other canned bean juice is added to sauce as a thickener and flavor enhancer. Everyone is focusing on every part of a food product and, in doing so, revelations are happening in rapid succession.”
In our quest to reduce food waste, we offer the most delicious and nutritious peas – as well as pea microgreens, pea blossoms and pea tendrils – that allow chefs the opportunities to use the entire plant in creative ways.
Here’s more information about the nutritional benefits of fresh peas.
RealFoodForLife.com calls fresh peas “little powerhouses of nutrition that are a boon for your health and the whole planet,” fresh vegetables that are “low fat but high everything else,” including protein, fiber and micro-nutrients.
Peas are included on the website of The World’s Healthiest Foods, with these health benefits listed:
An article in Healthline.com calls peas “healthy and nutritious,” repeating benefits listed in the previous article and also sharing how peas can benefit digestion. And, another study, one published in February 2017 in the International Journal of Epidemiology, shows life-changing results in people who ate extra produce, even suggesting that 7.8 million premature deaths could be prevented if people ate ten portions of vegetables and fruits daily. Eating 800 grams a day was associated with:
You can find more information about that study here.
We believe so strongly in the value of eating fresh vegetables and fruits and other healthy foods that, at our Roots 2017 culinary conference, we offered a workshop titled Food as Medicine: Healing Yourself One Bite at a Time. At that workshop, we brought together some of today’s best culinary minds to discuss what food as medicine really means. At the link provided above, you can read highlights of their comments as well as watch a recording of the presentation.
All of this – the concept that you can have flavor and nutrition (as well as beautiful plate presentation) – is known as farmacy at The Chef’s Garden. Here is more about the amazing concept of farmacy.
Because peas are so versatile, possibilities about how you can use them are endless – and we admit to being especially intrigued by a recipe included in Uncommon Fruits and Vegetables: A Commonsense Guide by Elizabeth Schneider. On page 424, she shares her recipe for Chilled Sorrel and Pea Soup that sounds out of this world. Featured ingredients, of course, are sorrel and pea, with other ingredients including rice, onion, buttermilk, whipping cream and more.
Then there is Jamie Simpson’s recipe for Peas and Carrots Ice Cream Sandwiches. Jamie is the executive chef of the Culinary Vegetable Institute and he shares his playful recipe that riffs off the traditional ingredients found in a savory pea-carrot dish. You can find his recipe, along with step-by-step guidance to creating these fantastic desserts, at the link provided.
You can also read about an evening at the Culinary Vegetable Institute when the entire menu was plant based – and the dessert was a luscious Pea Cake, Pea Sorbet and Pea Caramel with lemon verbena, lemon balm and pea bloom.
Yes. Possibilities are endless. If you use fresh peas in a unique way in your menus, we’d love to hear about it. Send photos!
Today, we take knowledge about genetics and how family members inherit traits from one another for granted – but it was the work of one monk, Johann Gregor Mendel, that gave us much of this knowledge. And, what did he use in his quest? Tens of thousands of garden pea plants, with some geneticists today still using the pea plant for their own research.
Mendel’s experiences of working on his family’s farm surely helped him in his genetics research. There, he tended the garden and did some beekeeping.
There’s just something about peas, isn’t there? They’re delicious and nutritious, and they’re also an important part of agricultural history and scientific research.
They’re also frequently discussed by the masters of the pen, including this example by John Keats: “Here are sweet peas, on tiptoe for a flight, with wings of gentle flush o’er delicate white,” and this one by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: “A solid man of Boston; A comfortable man with dividends, And the first salmon and the first green peas.”
One of the most popular fairy tales by Hans Christian Anderson is titled The Princess and the Pea. In it, a woman’s royalty is tested by her ability to be sensitive enough to detect a pea secretly placed beneath her mattress. When she is bruised by that pea, the price rejoices, and they marry, presumably living happily ever after. In 1959, Carol Burnett starred in a musical version, titled Once Upon a Mattress.
Peas are also the stuff of memories, of nostalgia, including this quote by Winston Churchill:
“We lived very simply – but with all the essentials of life well understood and provided for – hot baths, cold champagne, new peas and old brandy.”
At FineCooking.com, this lovely memory is shared: “When I was growing up in England, I knew spring had finally arrived when my grandmother started tossing young, freshly shelled peas just barely blanched in boiling water with chopped fresh mint and a generous knob of butter. I loved the pure, sweet flavor of those peas and their amazing tenderness, with just a hint of crunch.”
You can find more of these kinds of quotes in our blog post titled Sweet Nostalgia of Sweet Peas.
Pea references are also part of pop culture, including this quote by the eponymous Forrest Gump, with the lead character played by Tom Hanks: “Me and Jenny goes together like peas and carrots.”
In England, there was an animated television show titled The Poddington Peas that featured, yes, peas. They lived at the bottom of the garden, one where no humans were ever seen. An attempt to bring this show to the United States failed, but paperback books have been published using these pea characters.
And, finally, we can’t resist sharing this quote attributed to Philip Stanhope, the 4th Earl of Chesterfield: “Being pretty on the inside means you don’t hit your brother and you eat all your peas – that’s what my grandma taught me.” (For what it’s worth, we agree with his grandma.)
English peas are the ideal harbingers of spring, with their delicate flavor pairing so perfectly with a wide range of herbs, from parsley to mint to tarragon and more. They go wonderfully well with just about anything that comes from the garden, along with rice or pasta, cheese, grains and more. Leaves and stems are both deliciously tender, and the entire plant is edible. English peas are ideal for soups and sauces. They can be juiced and, when the season winds down and the peas become more starchy, you can simply grind them, then roll them and bake. The result will be vibrantly green, gluten-free crackers.
Shelled peas are a sign of early summer, with a variety of pea tendrils adding flavor, nutrition and visual appeal to your plate. Tendril options include:
Pea tendrils, also known as pea shoots, are the young stems and leaves of a pea plant, harvested before the pods develop.
Then, there are delicate microgreens that simply burst with fresh sweet pea flavor. These Pea-Riffic Peas have a deliciously light flavor, slightly floral, with all the beautiful taste of spring garden peas concentrated into shoots of gold and green.
To add flavorful beauty to your plates, in hues of purple, pink and white, order our mixed pea blossoms. These crunchy blossoms can be used throughout your menu, from salads to desserts – and everywhere in between.
You can find more information about our fresh pea products here, as well as which farm-fresh products are currently available.
Questions? A product specialist is ready and willing to help you order exactly what you need! Daily, we hand-harvest, pick-to-order and ship product to you overnight to guarantee you receive the freshest, most vibrant and flavorful produce available.