Peas: More Than Just a Side Dish – 25 Fun Facts You Didn’t Know

Fresh peas in pea pod

Peas are one of the most popular vegetables grown around the world. Their sweet flavor and versatility make them a staple ingredient in many cuisines. Though peas may seem simple, they actually have a fascinating history and nutrition profile.

Here are 25 interesting facts about peas, everyone’s favorite green spheres:

1. Peas are ancient

Bowl with sweet pea pods
Bowl with sweet pea pods

Evidence shows peas were cultivated in the Mediterranean and Middle East over 10,000 years ago. Ancient Greeks and Romans enjoyed eating peas fresh and dried.

2. Peas are nutritious

One cup of peas contains 7 grams of fiber and 7 grams of protein. They are also high in vitamins A, C, and K as well as minerals like iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, and manganese.

NutrientAmountDaily Value (DV)
Fat0.35 g
Carbohydrates25 g
Fiber8.8 g
Protein8.58 g
Iron2.46 mg14%
Magnesium62.4 mg15%
Potassium434 mg9%
some nutritional facts for peas

3. There are several varieties

The main types are garden peas, snow peas, sugar snap peas, and split peas. Garden peas need to be removed from the pod before eating. Snow peas and sugar snap peas have edible pods. Split peas are dried mature peas.

4. Pea shoots are a delicacy

Sprouts of Peas
Sprouts of Peas

The shoots and tendrils of pea plants are valued for their flavor. They can be eaten raw in salads or lightly cooked.

5. Peas need support to grow

Pea plants have tendrils that allow them to climb vertically. Gardeners often provide supports like trellises and poles for the vines to wrap around.

6. The pea flower is edible

Green peas flower and vine in garden
Green peas flower and vine in garden

Pea blossoms can be added to salads or used as a garnish. They have a mild, sweet pea flavor.

7. Peas were vital for early genetics research

In the 19th century, Gregor Mendel’s experiments with pea plants led him to discover the fundamental laws of inheritance and lay the foundation of modern genetics.

8. Frozen peas are flash frozen

To preserve texture and flavor, peas destined for freezing are quickly blanched then frozen within minutes of being picked.

9. Pea soup has long been a favorite

Fresh vegetable soup made of green peas
Fresh vegetable soup made of green peas

Dating back to ancient times, simple pea soups made from dried peas were an economical and nourishing meal.

10. Peas have many names

Garden peas are also called English peas or green peas. Snow peas go by sugar peas, Chinese pea pods, or mange-tout.

11. Peas spread along trade routes

As early trade developed, peas traveled from the Middle East to Europe and Asia. This allowed different cultures to enjoy peas in their cuisine.

12. Field peas are grown for drying

Dry pea and pea sprouts
Dry pea and pea sprouts

Unlike garden and sugar snap peas, field peas like black-eyed peas and split peas are left on the vine to fully mature and dry.

13. Peas can be used to make bioplastics

The starch in peas provides a plant-based and renewable way to produce plastics that biodegrade naturally.

14. Pea shoots add texture

Adding fresh pea shoots to dishes like risotto and pasta provides color and crunch. They pair well with creamy ingredients.

15. The pea flower attracts pollinators

Pea blossoms not only look beautiful but provide nectar for visiting bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects.

16. Peas thrive in cool weather

water droplets on green leaf

Unlike heat-loving plants, peas grow best in cooler temperatures. Plant them in early spring or fall for a good harvest.

17. Peas are good companion plants

When planted near other crops like corn, celery, cucumbers, and carrots, peas can help increase their yield.

18. Peas can be sprouted

Soaking dry peas allows them to germinate and produce edible sprouts full of nutrients. Pea sprouts have an earthy flavor.

19. Split peas are used in many dishes

Cultures around the world use split peas to make soups, stews, curries, puddings, and fritters. They have a hearty, creamy texture.

20. The pea flower only blooms briefly

A pea plant will have several flowers, but each one only remains open for a day before wilting. Then the flower is pollinated and a pea pod develops.

21. Peas need proper spacing

When planting peas, allow 8-12 inches between plants and arrange rows 2-3 feet apart so they have room to grow.

22. Peas were prized by royalty

Pods of young green peas and pea
Pods of young green peas and pea

In the 17th and 18th centuries, European aristocrats considered fresh green peas a luxury reserved for the upper class until large-scale production made them more available.

23. Peas have edible pods when young

Snow peas and sugar snap peas are picked when the pods are still flat and tender enough to eat. Waiting too long makes them stringy.

24. Peas are good for the soil

Like other legumes, peas form a symbiotic relationship with soil bacteria that allows them to absorb nitrogen from the air and enrich the soil.

25. Peas signal the start of spring

After a long winter, the first fresh peas arriving in markets are a sure sign warmer weather is coming and gardens will soon be growing.

So whether you prefer frozen, fresh, dried, or canned peas, they are a tasty and versatile vegetable with a long history. Their nutrition and ease of growing make peas a staple crop around the world.


Peas may seem unassuming, but they have quite an impressive resume! From their extensive history dating back millennia to their starring role in genetics research, peas have had a greater impact on our diets and science than their small size suggests.

Beyond their fascinating background, peas remain a dietary staple thanks to their stellar nutritional profile. Packed with fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals, peas provide ample benefits for our health. Their diversity of forms – fresh, frozen, dried – allows us to enjoy their sweet flavor and pop of green color year-round.

Yet peas offer more than just good eating. As an easy-to-grow cool weather crop, peas are a gardener’s dream. They also naturally enrich the soil and attract beneficial pollinators. From the garden and the dinner table to the laboratory, peas have earned their place as one of the most beloved and influential vegetables.

a close up of a bunch of green peas

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, peas are highly nutritious and offer many health benefits. They are low in calories but packed with fiber, protein, vitamins C, K, B1, B6, and folate as well as minerals like iron, zinc, potassium, and magnesium.

The main varieties are garden or green peas, snow peas, sugar snap peas, field or dry peas like split peas, and cowpeas like black-eyed peas. Pea shoots and tendrils are also edible.

Peas thrive in cool weather. Plant seeds 1-2 inches deep and 2 inches apart in rows 2-3 feet apart. Provide supports for vines to climb when plants reach 3-4 inches tall. Keep soil moist.

You can add peas to soups, salads, pasta, fried rice, veggie samosas, and more. Split peas are used to make dal, hummus, falafel, and stews. Pea shoots add flavor to stir fries. Pea blossoms can garnish plates.

Yes, peas have a small carbon footprint. As nitrogen-fixing legumes, they enrich soil without needing fertilizers. Pea starch can make biodegradable plastics. They also attract beneficial pollinating insects.

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