The Pea is most commonly the small spherical seed, or the seed-pod, of the pod fruit Pisum sativum. Each pea pod contains several peas. Pea pods are botanically a fruit since they contain seeds developed from the ovary of a flower on the pea plant. However, peas are considered to be a vegetable in cooking. Peas are starchy, but high in fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals.
Peas are a cool-season crop, and planting can take place from winter to early summer depending on location. Seeds may be planted as soon as the soil temperature reaches 50° F, with the plants growing best at temperatures of 55 to 64° F. Many varieties reach maturity as soon as 60 days after planting.
Peas have low-growing (bushy) varieties as well as vining varieties. The vining types grow thin tendrils from leaves that coil around any available support and can climb to be 3 to 6 feet tall.
1. Fresh peas are typically shelled, then boiled or steamed and flavored with butter to be served as a side-dish vegetable. Boiling and steaming breaks down the cell walls and makes the pea taste sweeter, and the nutrients more available. Fresh peas are also used in pot pies, salads and casseroles.
2. Pod peas (particularly the sweet cultivars "sugar peas", “sugar snap peas”, and "snow peas") are commonly used in stir-fry dishes, notably those in American Chinese cuisine. The snow pea pod is flat, while the pod of sugar snap peas becomes cylindrical and is eaten while still crisp before the seeds inside develop. Pea pods do not keep well once picked, and if not used quickly, are best preserved by drying, canning or freezing within a few hours of harvest.