Yes Peas


It is interesting to think that the study of modern genetics came from the humble pea. Gregor Mendel grew peas for 8 years and took such meticulous notes that he could prove that traits were passed down in separate predictable units. For example, he saw that when he hand pollinated a tall pea plant with a short pea plant all of their offspring were tall. However, when these tall plants were then bred together, one in three of their offspring would be short. This proved that the gene for ‘tallness’ was dominant (meaning a plant with a tall and short gene would always be tall), however the gene for ‘shortness’ was still present in these tall plants and so the next generation could receive two short genes and thus be short. Similarly, the gene in peas that controls for colour is dominant towards yellow.

Mendel tested for 7 characteristics of pea plants including whether the peas were smooth and round or wrinkly, and the position of the flowers on the stem (at the end or in the middle). He found that the characteristics were controlled independently (two tall plants would be just as likely to make a short plant irrespective of their colour or the position of their flowers).

Thomas Knight had actually done a lot of research previously into inheritance within peas and many other species. He showed that grafting in fruit trees could spread diseases and he identified and bred disease resistant cultivars of fruit trees. Although Thomas Knight never made the leap to formulate laws of genetics, he did breed the first sweet tasting pea and for that we must take off our hats to him. Peas at the time were spelt pease and the word pea was derived from this.

Clarence Birdseye invented the plate freezer after watching Inuits use the incredibly cold temperatures to freeze fish immediately after catching them, just in the air. He realised that this quick freezing preserved the flavour and texture of the fish much better than other methods used at the time, which often ended in mushy flavourless food. Persuading the public was a greater challenge and Birdseye had to buy freezers for a store to encourage them to sell his frozen food. According to the average Brit eats nearly 9000 peas a year. My girlfriend hates peas so I’ll have to eat 18,000 to make up for her, I better get started. On a final note, please remember if trying to make mushy peas, marrowfat peas should be used, not small peas. These peas are much larger and fattier, making for the delicious flavour and texture of traditional mushy peas.


More Pea Facts

Seventy-three per cent of the UK population say they love frozen peas. Trend-setter and dandy, Beau Brummell (1778-1840) never ate vegetables on principle, but did admit that he once ate a pea.

The oldest pea ever found has been carbon-dated to 9750BC. It was discovered on the Burma-Thailand border.

The noun 'pease' was recorded in English around 1440, more than 200 years before 'pea' developed from it. This abbreviation seems to have been based on the mistaken belief that 'pease' was plural, though in fact it was singular.

In 1969, Birds Eye frozen peas became the first product to be advertised on colour television in the UK.  There are on average 1224 peas in a one pound pack of Birds eye peas and the maximum diameter of each pea is 10.4mm.

Psychologists identify four types of pea-eater: The obsessive Stabber, who skewers them on a fork; the casual Scooper, who uses a spoon; the aggressive Squasher; and the random Shoveller.




Leave a comment