Peas - Description
The field pea was one of the first crops of peas to be popularly cultivated by man. Some say the word "pea" originates from Sanskrit, but most experts concur that the Latin term pisum, which resembles the Greek pisos and pison, is in fact the true origin. With the Anglo-Saxons, the word evolved to pisu or pise, and eventually in English, "pease". According to the always reliable Oxford English Dictionary, the last two letters (i.e. se) were left out by the time the year 1600 rolled around since people understood the word as plural, thus creating the singular form "pea" commonly known today.
Most peas are cool-weather crops. Historians believe the heart of pea development was in the middle Asia (including Afghanistan and northwest India). Other regions are the Near East, and the Ethiopian mountains and plateau. Wild field peas are still found in Ethiopia, Iran and Afghanistan to this day.
Peas were among the earliest of food crops. Their cultivation helped bring about stability to formerly nomadic tribes, and created the possibility for peas to be transported by explorers and travellers into Mediterranean countries and the Far East.
Around 9750 BC, we begin seeing evidence of the human consumption of wild peas. Archaeologists discover this while exploring the "Spirit Cave" which lies on the border of Thailand and Burma. In 7000 BC, a dig at Jarmo, in northwestern Iraq, reveals peas dated between 7000 and 6000 BC. The archaeological remains of Switzerland's Bronze Age (3000 BC) are found to contain early traces of peas. Peas found in a Hungarian cave are believed to be even older.
By 500 BC, the Romans and Greeks are cultivating dried peas, and street vendors in Athens sell hot pea soup. Experts and scholars believe the peas originated from the area either around Switzerland southward to Greece, or possibly from India into the east. Apicius (born in 25 BC), the famous Roman cookbook author, publishes his nine recipes to cook dried peas; some of them are cooked with herbs and other vegetables, whereas other recipes combine the peas with poultry and meats.
Peas eventually made their way to China (600 AD), then France (c. 800) and the UK (c. 1100). By the 1200s, peas were a very popular French food. The end of the 14th century sees peas being cultivated in Italy, and before the end of the 16th century, Belgian, German and English botanists describe many kinds of peas in their works.