The term pea originates from the Latin word pisum, which is the latinisation of the Greek pison. It was adopted into English as the noun pease (plural peasen), as in pease pudding. However, by analogy with other plurals ending in –s, speakers began construing pease as a plural and constructing the singular form by dropping the –s, giving the term pea.
Pea pods are botanically a fruit, since they contain seeds developed from the ovary of a (pea) flower; most commonly green, occasionally purple or golden yellow. Each pod contains several peas.
Pisum Sativum is an annual plant, with a life cycle of one year. It is a cool season crop grown in many parts of the world; planting can take place from winter to early summer depending on location.
Peas are starchy, but high in fibre, protein, vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin K, phosphous, magnesium, copper, iron, zinc and lutein.
The wild pea is restricted to the Mediterranean basin and the Near East. The earliest archaeological finds of peas date from the late neolithic era of current Greece, Syria, Turkey and Jordan. In Egypt, early finds date from 4800–4400 BC in the Nile delta area, and from 3800–3600 BC in Upper Egypt. The pea was also present in Georgia in the 5th millennium BC. Farther east, the finds are younger. Peas were present in Afghanistan in 2000 BC, in Harappa, Pakistan, and in northwest India in 2250–1750 BC. In the second half of the 2nd millennium BC, this pulse crop appears in the Gangetic basin and southern India.
The name marrowfat pea for mature dried peas is recorded by the Oxford English Dictionary as early as 1733. The fact that an export variety popular in Japan is called Maro has led some people to assume mistakenly that the English name marrowfat is derived from Japanese.
In the mid-19th century, Austrian monk Gregor Mendel's observations of pea pods led to the principles of Mendelian genetics, the foundation of modern genetics.
In 2005, a poll of 2,000 people revealed the pea to be Britain's seventh favourite culinary vegetable.