For fresh market - the Sugar-snap types, Green Arrow, Little Marvel, Lincoln and Progress. For processing - Bolero Progress.
An excellent source of folacin. Also a source of Vitamins A and C, fibre and potassium. ½ cup cooked peas equals 70 calories.
Peas have been cultivated for thousands of years. It's believed the first (wild) peas came from somewhere between the Near East and central Asia, possibly India.
The oldest discovery of peas was on the Burma-Thailand border, dated 9750 BC. There also have been prehistoric finds in Greece, India, Hungary, Switzerland and England.
Thirty-seven varieties of peas were on sale near the Roman forum in the early second century.
Peas arrived early in the New World and by about 1600 were growing everywhere from the Ottawa River to Florida, New Mexico and still farther south.
The English claim them as a favourite vegetable and insist their "wrinkled" peas are superior -- less starch, more sugar -- to the larger, smoother peas of other countries. There are also smooth peas and dimpled peas, highbush peas and, more common in North America, lowbush peas.
Those flat-podded "Chinese" snowpeas are not, in fact, Chinese at all. The French call them mange-tout ("eat the whole thing") and in Pennsylvania they're sometimes called Mennonite peas.
Buying and storing
Look for smooth, bright green and glossy pods. The stem end should be fresh and green, not brown or wilted. If possible, sample the peas to see if they're sweet and tender.
While peas are best eaten as soon as picked, (the sugar starts converting to starch right after picking) they can be stored for several days, bagged in plastic, in the refrigerator's vegetable crisper.
Peas are great eaten fresh out of the pod. But if you cook them, resist the temptation to overcook.
Try them in risi e bisi, the classic rice and new peas dish of Northern Italy. Also try the East coast combination of creamed peas and potatoes.
Peas can be wrapped in lettuce leaves with small white onions and braised in butter; stir-fried with chicken or beef, water chestnuts, ginger and soy sauce; steamed and topped with coddled eggs; puréed or made into cream soups.