Peas are a classic side dish where I grew up. And I bet many people could say the same. This may be because the pea is one of the oldest cultivated vegetables. Archeologists say man as far back as 5,000 years have been eating the tiny green orbs. Over time cultivating them into a thousand different varieties around the world.
The origin of peas was hard to track down but most sources have quoted the Middle Asia and Near East regions from the north of India to Afghanistan and Iran to be ancient centers for agricultural development. The earliest evidence of pea consumption is said to be a cave in the Thai and Burmese border.
A few examples of pea usage through the ages:
Dishes like pea soup made from dried pea varieties were sold on the streets in ancient Greece.
The Chinese grew smaller peas and they could be eaten whole and raw.
The British bred many varieties, including white and yellow peas.
And the pea was the first vegetable to be canned.
Peas can be eaten raw, steamed, stir-fried, mashed, stuffed into pastries, or in soup. They are very low in fat and high in phytonutrients which can lower the risk of stomach cancer and work as an anti-inflammatory. They are also a sustainable vegetable. Planting peas can give soil important nutrients and can be great for crop rotation. Yay for peas!
Here is a recipe for one of my favorite ways to eat peas, good ol’ fashioned split pea soup!
Split Pea Soup
1/8c olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tbls dried oregano
2 carrots, medium diced
2 celery sticks, medium diced
4 red potatoes, medium diced
½ tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
1 pound dried split peas
8c chicken or vegetable stock
½ pound thick cut bacon or ham, medium slices
Salt and pepper to taste
Place a large enough stockpot (maybe about 4-5 quart stockpot) on the stove and turn the heat on medium high. Add the olive oil and let it heat up for about a minute. Add the onion, garlic, and oregano. Let the onions sweat for 2-3 minutes or until they start to turn translucent. Then add the carrots, celery, and potatoes. Add the salt and pepper and let them sauté for 2-3 minutes. After the vegetables have cooked for a couple minutes, add half of the split peas, chicken stock/vegetable stock and bacon/ham. Turn the stove up to high and bring to a light simmer. Turn heat down and simmer for 35 minutes. There will be some foam while the soup simmers, skim the foam off with a ladle or spoon. At the end of the 35 minutes, add the rest of the peas and keep the soup simmering for another 45 minutes or until the peas are at the desired softness. Stir the soup once in a while to keep the vegetables and meat from sticking to the pot. Salt and pepper to taste and serve hot with oyster crackers or a nice chunk of bread. Great for those winter nights, and it freezes nicely so make tons!
Photo by the talented Michelle Roberts, thanks Michelle!
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