Peas are one of the oldest vegetables grown by man and probably originated in
India. Evidence of pea agriculture goes back at least to the Bronze age. Most peas
in ancient times were dried as the more tender varieties (for fresh eating) were not
developed until the 16th century.
Today, only about 5 % of all peas grown are eaten fresh. More than half of all peas
are canned and the remainder are sold frozen.
India leads the world in pea production followed by China, the U.S., France,
Egypt, and Morocco.
Leess than 1 % of U.S. pea production goes into the fresh market, due to the fact
fresh peas require hand harvesting whereas peas destined for processing can be
machine-harvested. The cost of farm labor is considerably higher in the
United States than in many other countries.
California leads the U.S. in pea production (nearly 85% are grown there).
with the rest grown mainly in Florida.
Published data on domestic production of fresh garden peas exist only for two
counties in California, San Luis Obispo County and Santa Barbara County. Based
on the 2000-2004 data for these two counties, California snow pea
production declined over that 5-year period, while green pea production
has expanded. The value of pea production in those two counties in 2004
was $29 million.
The UK is the largest producer of frozen peas in Europe.
Peas were among the first vegetables frozen and marketed by Clarence Birdseye
(generally regarded as the inventor of the modern frozen food process).
The world record for pea eating is held by Janet Harris of Sussex, UK. In 1984 she
ate 7,175 peas, one by one, in 60 minutes using only chopsticks.
Pea plants were part of the early genetic research conducted by Gregor Mendel.
He used the pea variety Pisum sativum for genetic studies because of how easy it
was to breed differences into the peas.
Thomas Jefferson regarded peas as one of his favorite vegetables. He grew at least
15 varieties at Monticello. He staggered the planting so as to harvest peas from
mid-May through mid-July.