No, not the heartbeat kind of pulse! The dry pea kind of pulse! A pulse is a grain legume like dry peas, lentils, garbanzo beans, and other dry beans. The term is reserved only for crops harvested for the dry seed, like the ones above.
Pulses have been an important part of our diet for thousands of years, with evidence suggesting that dry peas were cultivated in Mesopotamia about 5,000 years ago. In Britain, dry peas or “field peas” were credited with keeping famine at bay in 1124, and had been cultivated there since at least the 11th century.
Eating dry peas (after soaking, of course), was the common way for thousands of years. It wasn’t until about the 17th century that eating fresh peas or “garden peas” became fashionable, at least in Western society.
Dry peas come in two colors: green or yellow. The two color peas are the same in size and texture, however green dry peas have a stronger pea taste while yellow dry peas are milder and slightly sweeter. Yellow dry peas are used in many Indian and Iranian dishes, and are also used to make a sweet pudding in China. Green dry peas are more often found in soups. Both kinds of dry peas are a great addition to a variety of dishes!
Dry peas are very high in fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals.Their protein content is about 25%, more than three times that of rice. A cup of dry peas also carries over 65% of your daily fiber needs. Dry peas also carry high values of folate, vitamin B1, potassium, and several other important minerals.
Whole dry peas can be soaked and cooked like dry beans. The majority of dry peas are husked and split during harvest, and sold as split peas for soups and other dishes. Whole or split dry peas can be added to a multitude of dishes, including soups, stews, salads, side dishes, and more. Dry peas can also be ground into flour and made into a variety of other things. In China, pea flour is used for noodles and bean paste.
Fresh peas that have been dried or roasted are also a popular snack when tossed with seasonings or, if you like a little heat, wasabi (I love those things!). In some countries, like China, the pea shoots are also picked and eaten in various dishes.
Peas also played a starring role in the study of genetics. In the mid-1800s, the German monk Gregor Mendel observed pea pods, and eventually bred over 28,000 pea plants to study the passage of certain traits from parent plant to offspring. His discoveries established a foundation for our understanding of genetics.
Today the largest producers of dried peas include Russia, China, Canada, India, and the United States. Within the USA, Montana is the largest producer of dry peas, followed by Washington, North Dakota, and Idaho. In 2011, 295,060 Metric Tons of dry peas were produced by US growers. What is even more impressive about that number is the small area in which dry peas are grown. Check out the map below!
India is one of our largest exporters of dry peas, because while it is also a top producer, demand is extremely high, necessitating pea importation. Dry peas are also imported by China, Spain, and many countries in the Middle East and South America.
Dry peas are a great way to add a ton of protein, fiber and color to your diet. Try cooking and adding dry split or whole peas to your next meal, or plan a meal around dry peas. You’ll be supporting America’s farmers, and expanding your culinary skills at the same time!