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Care of Laura Wright

The humble garden pea shows up in heaps of pods at farmer’s markets in the thick of springtime. Its arrival seems to signify the abundant start of Ontario’s growing season. Sure, there were local edibles popping out of the dirt before, but these little babies are something special. Their sweetness is so fresh, the colour so beautifully emerald, and they’re everywhere–perfectly accessible to all.

The simple goodness of them eaten fresh from the pod, sauteed with a bit of herbs or whipped into a luscious spread with mint is pretty hard to beat.

Wild Roots:  The earliest archaeological finds of peas date from the neolithic era of Syria, Turkey and Jordan. In Egypt, early records of the plant date from 3800–3600 BC in the upper regions of the country. Botanically speaking, pea pods are a fruit since they contain seeds developed from the ovary of the pea plant’s flower. Generally speaking, the pods and inner peas are considered to be a vegetable in cooking practices.

Green peas were introduced from Genoa to the court of Louis XIV of France in January 1660, and not without fanfare. An allotment of them was presented before the King, and then were shelled into little dishes of peas that were then presented to the King and Queen. Still worthy of obsession as the years wore on, they were described by several dignitaries as such: “of fashion, of fury.”

For Your Health: Garden peas are certainly starchy and sweet, but contain high levels of fiber, vitamins A, B3, B6, C + K, and protein. Just one cup provides 9 grams of protein that you can combine with a whole grain or some nuts and seeds to make for a nutritionally complete amino acid profile. The same amount of peas will deliver 50% of your daily recommended intake of potassium too, for a healthy heart, stress management and awesome muscle recovery post-exercise.

Weird + Awesome Science: Peas are often relied on for the production of bioplastics–plastics made from renewable/compostable resources like vegetable based starches and oils. The starch is extracted from the fruit of the pod and used for disposable cutlery, cellophane-like packaging, insulation and packing peanuts that emulate styrofoam. The production of bioplastics is generally regarded as a more sustainable course of action when compared to plastic production from petroleum because it relies less on fossil fuel. It also introduces fewer greenhouse emissions if it biodegrades. They have the potential to significantly reduce hazardous waste caused by oil-derived plastics, which remain solid for hundreds of years.