Pea power


Pea power

I eat my peas with honey I've done it all my life, They do taste kind of funny, But it keeps them on the knife. (Nonsense nursery rhyme)

IT IS one of the great ironies of history that a celibate monk, Gregor Johann Mendel, discovered the fundamental laws of genetics. Mendel was a 19th century Austrian monk, and his plant breeding experiments with garden peas are the stuff of legend and the basis of modern genetics. Mendel certainly immortalised the humble pea with his work, but it wasn't as if it was doing badly in the popularity charts before him. Believe it or not, one of the earliest medicinal uses for the seed that became famous in genetics was as a spermicide! The small amounts of digestive enzymes in peas got them working in folk cures for fungus infections. The skin-softening effect of these enzymes helps the pod survive in the madly competitive world of beauty packs and herbal plasters. Man was farming peas from the very beginning of agriculture. The original wild varieties came from northwestern India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. 5000 year-old seeds have been found in Swiss lakebeds, younger seeds in Heinrich Schliemann's Troy, and also secreted in Eastern European caves. During The Middle Ages, the high protein content of peas made them a popular food during Lent, a time of contemplation and prayer during which vegetarian fare is more appropriate. But the pod was expensive, and it wasn't until the Americans took up pea-growing that it truly became a common man's food in Europe. The nutrition content of the pea depends on the cooking and processing methods involved- whether it is fresh, dried, boiled, fried, powdered or canned. 100 gm of fresh green peas contain around 45 Calorie. They are rich in the B vitamins thiamine, riboflavin and niacin, and contain significant amounts of potassium and phosphorus. The fresh pods are rich in dietary fibre. The dried seeds are more energy-dense but contain lesser amounts of vitamins. Surprisingly, carbohydrate forms a big chunk of the energy pie in a pea. Most of the carbohydrate is in the form of starch.

Like all vegetable protein, the amino profile of the pea is deficient in some essential amino acids- the sulphur-containing cysteine and methionine aminos in this case. Flour made from dried pods is rich in energy, but since most pea flour ends up in fried snacks, the end product is likely to be a real heart-stopper and artery-clogger.

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