- Pea (Pisum sativum)
- Fava bean = broad bean = field bean (Vicia faba)
- Peas and Beans would have been the bulk crop for a medieval gardener representing the highest yield to seed ratio available, with some ancient varieties like the Martock Bean offering a better return than medieval wheat. Peas and Beans dry well and would be stored to keep the family fed throughout the winter.
● During the Middle Ages, dried peas became a staple food of the European peasants. In their dried form peas had the capability of long storage throughout the winter months. They were inexpensive and plentiful and made a filling wholesome meal the poor could afford.
● Peas became a familiar Lenten dish not only in France, but in England, too. Lent was not the only time that peas were a staple on the English menu. During the mid-1700's, major changes occurred in England's agricultural laws, designating large plots of farmland to private farming estates. King George III's Enclosures Act denied access to the poor, who relied on small pieces of land to grow enough to feed their families. Unable to grow their own vegetables, they turned to simple foods like dried peas that could be purchased cheaply.
● During the reign of English King James I, 1566 to 1625, a shopkeeper could be heard touting his wares in the streets of London, "Hot Grey Peas and a suck of bacon."
● More than 1,000 varieties of peas are in existence today, (some producing green peas, some yellow). Countries like France, China, Denmark, and Russia lead in the production of dried peas, with the U.S., England, Hungary, and India mainly producing fresh peas. China's fresh peas consist mostly of snow peas.
● During the early 1600's the pudding cloth, a closely woven cotton or linen cloth, became a vessel that afforded more creativity to English cooking. Dried peas were soaked before going into the pudding cloth along with sugar, pepper, and mint. The pudding cloth was then tied and boiled in water to produce a very thick, solid Pease Pudding. Eventually, puddings were lightened with the addition of breadcrumbs, eggs, and butter.
● To cook dried split peas, no soaking is needed. Simply put 1 cup (240 ml) into a saucepan, add 4 cups (1 liter) of water, and bring to a boil over high heat. Turn heat down to simmer, and cook about 50 to 60 minutes or until tender. Additional water may be needed to prevent the peas from cooking dry. Green split peas tend to break down after 60 minutes of cooking, creating a pleasantly thick soup base.
● For cooking split yellow peas, follow the same method as for green split peas. However, they take slightly longer to become softened. Cook about 1 hour and 30 minutes.
● Cooked dried peas make an ideal thickening agent for soups and stews.
In Middle English, "Pease" was treated as a mass noun, similar to "oatmeal", and the singular "pea" and plural "peas" arose by back-formation.