Lathyrus oleraceus Lam.
Pisum arvense L.
Pisum vulgare Jundz.
Common Name: Garden Pea
Pisum sativum is an annual plant with erect or climbing stems 15 - 300cm long. It has a well developed taproot, up to 120cm long, with many lateral roots[
The plant has been used as a food crop since around 8,000 BC. It is widely grown in the temperate zone, and also at higher elevations in the tropics.
The plant has been cultivated for so long that the original range of the species is not known.
Plants are not known in a genuinely wild condition[
|Other Uses Rating
|Self. Occasionally Bees
Garden pea is a plant of the temperate zone, but can be cultivated at higher elevations above 1,000 - 1,200 metres in the tropics. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 10 - 24°c, but can tolerate 4 - 30°c[
]. When dormant, the plant can survive temperatures down to about -2°c, but young growth can be severely damaged at 0°c[
]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 800 - 1,200mm, but tolerates 350 - 2,500mm[
Grows best in a sunny position[
]. Requires a well-drained moisture retentive soil[
]. Prefers a calcareous soil[
]. Prefers a pH in the range 5.5 - 7, but tolerates 4.5 - 8.3[
]. Prefers a rich loamy soil[
]. A light soil and a sheltered position is best for early sowings[
Plants can start flowering 5 - 7 weeks after germination, with the first harvest of immature pods about two weeks later[
Depending on the cultivar, a harvest of the mature seeds can be obtained 3 - 6 months after germination[
Yields of field pea range from less than 1 tonne per hectare in Africa and South America to over 4 tonnes in Europe. The average world yield is around 1.7 tonnes[
Under good growing conditions, sugar pea yields of up to 8 tonnes per hectare of edible pods can be obtained[
Garden pea may produce 4 - 7 tonnes per hectare of young seeds[
Peas have long been cultivated as a food crop and a number of distinct forms have emerged, some of which have been classified as follows:-
Pisum sativum. The garden pea, including petit pois. Widely cultivated for its sweet-tasting edible immature seeds, as well as the immature seedpods and mature seeds, there are many named varieties[
] and these can provide a crop from May to October.
Pisum sativum arvense. The field pea. Hardier than the garden pea, but not of such good culinary value, it is more often grown as a green manure or for the dried seeds.
Pisum sativum elatius. This is the original form of the species and is still found growing wild in Turkey.
Pisum sativum elatius pumilio. A short, small-flowered form of the above.
Pisum sativum macrocarpon. The edible-pod pea has a swollen, fibre-free and very sweet seedpod which is eaten when immature.
The garden pea is widely cultivated and there are many named varieties. There are two basic types of varieties, those with round seeds and those with wrinkled seeds. Round seeded varieties are more cold tolerant and can be sown in the autumn to provide an early crop in spring; wrinkled varieties are sweeter and tastier but are not so hardy and are sown in spring to early summer. Within these two categories, there are dwarf cultivars and climbing cultivars, the taller types tend to yield more heavily and for a longer period but smaller forms are easier to grow, often do not need supports and can give heavier crops from the area of land used (though less from each plant). Cultivars developed for their edible young seeds tend to have pods containing a lot of fibre but some cultivars have now been selected for their larger and fibre-free pods - these cultivars are harder to grow for their seed, especially in damp climates, because the seed has a greater tendency to rot in wet weather.
This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby[
]. When removing plant remains at the end of the growing season, it is best to only remove the aerial parts of the plant, leaving the roots in the ground to decay and release their nitrogen.
Immature seedpods - raw or cooked[
]. The young seedpods have a sweet flavour, but there is usually only a thin layer of flesh with a fibrous layer beneath it. Some forms, however, have a swollen, fibre-free and very sweet-flavoured seedpod which is eaten when immature.
Immature seeds - raw or cooked. Sweet and delicious, they can be added to salads, or lightly cooked[
]. A nutritional analysis is available[
The mature seeds are rich in protein and can be cooked as a vegetable or added to soups etc[
]. They can also be sprouted and added to salads, soups etc[
]. The mature seed can also be dried and ground into a powder, then used to enrich the protein content of flour when making bread etc[
The roasted seed is a coffee substitute[
Leaves and young shoots - cooked and used as a potherb[
]. The young shoots taste like fresh peas, they are exceptionally tender and can be used in salads[
The seed is contraceptive, fungistatic and spermacidal[
]. The dried and powdered seed has been used as a poultice on the skin where it has an appreciable affect on many types of skin complaint including acne and wrinkled skin[
The oil from the seed, given once a month to women, has shown promise of preventing pregnancy by interfering with the working of progesterone[
]. The oil inhibits endometrial development[
]. In trials, the oil reduced pregnancy rate in women by 60% in a 2 year period and 50% reduction in male sperm count was achieved[
Apart from being an important source of food and feed, the garden pea plays a role in soil fertility restoration as a suitable rotation crop that fixes atmospheric nitrogen The haulms or straw after threshing are used as green manure[
Peas are good growing companions for radishes, carrots, cucumbers, sweet corn, beans and turnips[
]. They are inhibited by alliums, gladiolus, fennel and strawberries growing nearby[
]. There is some evidence that if Chinese mustard (Brassica juncea) is grown as a green manure before sowing peas this will reduce the incidence of soil-borne root rots[
Pre-soak the seed for 24 hours in warm water and then sow in situ in succession. Pea seeds germinate at an ambient temperature of between 4 - 24°c, with 13 - 18°c; sprouting should take place in about 7 - 10 days. By making fresh sowings every 3 weeks you will have a continuous supply of fresh young seeds to harvest. You may need to protect the seed from the ravages of mice.