The garden pea is a very old cultivated plant and its origins are uncertain. According to the latest analyses a pod plant from Asia Minor could be its ancestor. The oldest finds of peas, however, come from the borderlands between Burma and Thailand, dated to 9750 B.C. Lots of several thousands of years old finds, have been made in Europe, The Near East and China. Our Vikings considered the Norse god Thor as the pea"™s progenitor and since then our Thursday pea soup remains (Sweden).
These old peas were hard and had to be peeled like nuts, but had acquired the ability not to flick away their seeds as their wild relatives do. Through millennia of cultivation the species was improved and in the 1500s the first shelling pea with sweetness from a mutation in the French Pyrenees appears. Fresh green peas soon became a favourite food all over Europe. 200 years later the Englishman Thomas Knight brought out the even sweeter marrow pea. The mangetout with its membrane-free unripe pods is said to have been developed by the Dutch and are mentioned for the first time in 1536, but the Chinese have probably grown their famous sugar pea far earlier. Legends speak of 5000 years. Peas like other pod plants live in symbiosis with certain kinds of nitrogen collecting bacteria in the soil. They give the plant nitrogen in organic form in exchange for carbohydrates. Both the Greeks and the Romans utilized the fact that pod plants make the soil more fertile extensively.
The garden peas vary a lot in height, from the shortest 25 cm to the tallest 2 m or more. A sort normally grows taller the farther north it is grown because of more light.
The peas are classified according to the looks and use of the pods and seeds and also according to the different heights and earliness of the sorts. Only the unripe green seeds are eaten of the shelling- and marrow peas while all of the crispy, sweet pods of the mangetout with undeveloped seeds is eaten. The snap peas have plump, sweet, fleshy pods which are harvested and enjoyed whole when the seeds are almostfully developed. Yellow and green boiling peas are harvested in late autumn and threshed when ripe and dry.
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