We are all aware of peas, the delicious green vegetable which is difficult to eat in public. Well peas come from the Fabaceae family. This family of plants is quite large and contains many edible and medicinal members which I am looking forward to sharing with you all today. The pea family is economically important to us, something which you will discover throughout this article.
The group is widely distributed and is the third-largest land plant family in terms of number of species. Along with the cereals, fruits and tropical roots a number of leguminosae have been a staple human food for millennia and their use is closely related to human evolution. A number are important food plants even today and include the soyabean (Glycine max), beans (Phaseolus spp), obviously peas (Pisum sativum), Chickpeas (Cicer arietinum), Alfalfa (Medicago sativa), Peanuts (Arachis hypogaea), Carob, which is a great substitute for chocolate (Ceratonia siliqua), and Liquorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra). I have written a previous blog article on liquorice which you can access here: https://herbsforhealthandwellbeing.wordpress.com/2013/04/12/national-liquorice-day/
There are roughly 470 different Genera and 14000 Species in the fabaceae family, these plants are found mostly tropical areas, and in warm temperate Asia and America but can be found all over the world.
There are many uses for various members of the Pea Family including;
Green fertiliser is the term used when a crop is grown with the sole intention of ploughing it back into the soil. Clover, and Vetch are native wildflowers in the UK and are valued for the nitrogen fixing effect of symbiotic bacteria in the root nodules, as well as increasing the biomass of the soil. Alfalfa can be grown as a green fertiliser over the winter months to reduce the opportunities of weeds to set in flower beds and can be dug into the soil in the spring to fertilise the land ready for growing fruits and vegetables.
Medicago sativa (Alfalfa) although edible for humans is grown almost exclusively as fodder for livestock. Admittedly I like to sprout alfalfa seeds and eat them or add them to my salads as a sprouted seed is highly nutritious.
Food (for human consumption)
Many varieties of beans and peas are cultivated worldwide as a valuable source of protein, and are especially useful, as they can be easily transported or stored when they are dried. I know that in my cupboards I have chickpeas, cannellini beans, kidney beans, black beans, black-eye beans, soybeans and I like to grow/buy fresh peas, green beans, runner beans, butter beans and sugar snap peas. How about you? What foods in your kitchen can you think come from the pea family?
The timber of several fabaceae trees are used for the manufacture of furniture worldwide. Dyes can be yielded from several plants and can several gums.
There are around 150 plants in the Fabaceae family which have medicinal uses, some of which are commonly used by modern medical herbalists. Here are a few commonly used today:
Astragalus membranaceus – An adaptogen, immunostimulant, and cardiac tonic. Used to treat Ischemic heart disease, hypotension, and chronic infections.
Glycyrrhiza glabra – A sweet, anti-inflammatory herb with hormonal effects. Detoxifies and protects the liver. Used to treat bronchial disorders, and adrenal insufficiency. Contra-indicated where there is Hypertension. 50 times sweeter than sugar
Trifolium pratense – A sweet, cooling alterative herb, with diuretic and expectorant effects that can support the reduction of hot flushes.
Melilotus officinalis – The herb has aromatic, emollient and carminative properties. It relieves flatulence and in modern herbal practice is taken internally for this purpose.
Peas are really little powerhouses of nutrition that are a boon for your health and the whole planet. Read all their benefits, how to use them properly, and some easy recipes. We’ll start with the benefits of this tasty powerfood.
1. Weight management – Peas are low-fat but high-everything-else. A cup of peas has less than 100 calories but lots of protein, fiber and micronutrients.
2. Stomach cancer prevention – Peas contain high amounts of a health-protective polyphenol called coumestrol. A study in Mexico City determined you only need 2 milligrams per day of this phytonutrient to help prevent stomach cancer. A cup of peas has at least 10.
3. Anti-aging, strong immune system, and high energy – This comes from the high levels of antioxidants, including: flavonoids: catechin and epicatechin, carotenoids: alpha-carotene and beta-carotene, phenolic acids: ferulic and caffeic acid and polyphenols: coumestrol.
4. Prevention of wrinkles, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, bronchitis, osteoporosis and candida – These come from peas’ strong anti-inflammatory properties. Excess inflammation has also been linked to heart disease, cancer, and aging in general.
5. Blood sugar regulation – Peas’ high fiber and protein slows down how fast sugars are digested. Their antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents prevent or reverse insulin resistance (type 2 diabetes). All peas’ carbohydrates are natural sugars and starches with no white sugars or chemicals to worry about.
6. Heart disease prevention – The many antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds in peas support healthy blood vessels. The formation of plaque along our blood vessel walls starts with chronic, excessive oxidative stress and inflammation. The generous amounts of vitamin B1 and folate, B2, B3, and B6 reduce homocysteine levels, which are a risk factor for heart disease.
7. Healthy for the environment – Peas work with bacteria in the soil to ‘fix’ nitrogen from the air and deposit it in the soil. This reduces the need for artificial fertilizers since one of their main ingredients is nitrogen.
After peas have been harvested, the remaining plant easily breaks down to create more organic fertilizer for the soil. Peas are also able to grow on minimal moisture, so they are a perfect crop in many areas due to not needing irrigation or using up valuable water supplies.
8. Prevent constipation – The high fiber content in peas improves bowel health and peristalsis.
9. Healthy bones – Just one cup of peas contains 44% of your Vitamin K, which helps to anchor calcium inside the bones. Its B vitamins also help to prevent osteoporosis.
10. Reduces bad cholesterol – The niacin in peas helps reduce the production of triglycerides and VLDL (very low-density lipoprotein), which results in in less bad cholesterol, increased HDL (“good”) cholesterol, and lowered triglycerides.
For several pea recipes check out: