Dried peas are a nutritious substitute for fresh peas. Available throughout the year, the hardier and starchier dried peas offer the same nutritional value as fresh peas. Peas are similar to beans and lentils and belong to the same legume family. They are considered a separate group of the family, however, because of their spherical shape and methods of preparation.
To produce the peas, mature peapods are harvested, dried and removed from the pod. Available in deep green or a yellow color, the peas are either whole or split. When the skin of the pea is removed, it loses its spherical shape due to natural splitting into two half-spheres. The peas are then packaged for sale and shipped around the world. France, China, Russia and Denmark are known as the world's largest commercial producers of dried peas.
The history of the dried pea dates back to prehistoric times. Improved cultivation techniques in the 16th century led to a softer variety of the pea. This led to the consumption of the peas in their fresh state. Gregor Mendel used pea plants in his plant breeding experiments in the 19th century, which helped progress in the study of genetics.
Dried peas are prepared by bringing them to a boil and allowing to them simmer for about an hour. Before cooking, any dirt and debris should be removed and the peas should be washed thoroughly. Whole peas require soaking in water for eight hours prior to cooking. Dried peas have a shelf life of approximately three to four months if stored in an airtight container or they can be refrigerated for longer periods. The peas are commonly eaten uncooked as a snack, cooked and eaten whole, or made into pea soup.
The nutritional value of the dried pea is exceptional. Besides an outstanding source of molybdenum, they are also an excellent source of protein, manganese, folate, potassium, vitamin B1 and phosphorus. Dried peas also provide an excellent source of dietary fiber, which is essential to the digestive system.
Dried peas are an important part of a heart healthy diet and contain no fat. Besides their significant amount of heart healthy, cholesterol-lowering fiber, the peas are loaded with potassium, which helps to lower high blood pressure. In all, dried peas are loaded with four important minerals and two B-vitamins essential to the human body.