P for Peas
Pease porridge hot, pease porridge cold,
Pease porridge in the pot, nine days old;
Some like it hot, some like it cold,
Some like it in the pot, nine days old.
Peas, in their infinite variety, have been consumed by humans since antiquity, the first archaeological discovery of peas dating back to around 5000 BC in the Nile delta area of Egypt. From there they spread across Europe and into Asia, over time. Romans were cultivating peas about 500 BC. During the middle ages, they became one of the staples everywhere.
Peas were originally grown by humans for the seeds, which could be dried and preserved for hard seasons when not much was available in nature. The main advantage was that they could be kept for a long time.
Dried peas needed to be cooked for a long time and it was difficult to them to a specific doneness, as they turned mushy with the prolonged cooking. So they were mostly used for stews or soups.
They could be cooked with so many things to add to their flavor, most often ham bones, salt pork or bacon.
Though dried peas have been popular for a long time, it was only in the 17th century that it became fashionable to eat young green peas, freshly shelled, before they matured into hard seeds. Thomas Jefferson discovered them on a trip to France and brought multiple varieties back to America and planted them on his estate.
Another trend in modern days is to add fresh tender pea shoots to salads, adding a fresh flavor, crunch and nutrition to them.
Tom Thumb, Little Marvel, Tall Telephone and Mr. Big… these are names of varieties of peas.
Peas are a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, thiamine (B1), iron and phosphorus. They are also rich in protein, carbohydrate and fibre and low in fat.
Today peas are commonly used in our daily cooking, one of their advantages being that you can always grab a can or a frozen bag, regardless of the season.
An interesting dish of peas is the pie floater from Australia, consisting of a traditional meat pie, placed upside down, sometimes submerged in a bowl of thick pea soup.
Today we are making a simple yet flavorful peas soup, green and refreshing. So suitable for spring!
Lemony Peas Soup
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 celery stalks, trimmed and thinly sliced (about 1½ cups)
- ¼ cup vermouth or white wine
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 5 cups vegetable stock
- 2 fresh shelled peas (or frozen peas)
- ¼ roughly chopped fresh parsley
- ¼ wedge of a lemon
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Sour cream, parsley and lemon zest for serving
- In a largish pot, heat the olive oil over medium. Add the onion and celery, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened.
- Add the wine and garlic, and cook until the liquid evaporates, about 3 minutes.
- Add the vegetable stock and bring to a boil over high heat.
- Add the peas and cook, stirring occasionally, just until tender, about 3 minutes.
- Remove from heat, and add the parsley.
- Using an immersion blender, puree the soup to the consistency you like.
- Squeeze a dash of lemon juice and adjust seasoning.
- Ladle into bowls, and serve right away topped with a dollop of sour cream and sprinkled with parsley and lemon zest.
Note: If you are using frozen peas, make sure that they have not been sitting in the freezer for a long time. Freezer burn can destroy the flavor and texture of this soup.
Peas have made a great contribution to genetic sciences! Johann Gregor Mendel, known as the Father of Genetics, discovered the fundamental laws of inheritance after studying pea plants for a period of eight years. Mendel’s Laws of Heredity, published in 1865, was the first time gene structure and their dominant and recessive nature were defined and understood.