The field pea is a pulse, the edible seed of a plant, which is used dry in livestock feed and for human food (particularly in predominantly vegetarian cuisines). It was one of the first crops cultivated by humans over 12,000 years ago. Its short growing season and ability to thrive in poor soil helped provide early hunter-gatherers with important nutrients.
Over time, the field pea also became an important component of livestock feed, where it adds valuable protein to cereal grain diets. For generations of farmers, though, this easy-to-grow annual plant was a low-cost and useful rotation crop that enhanced soil nutrition and supported more sustainable farming practices.
Now the humble field pea (also often called the “dry pea”), is being reimagined. Its role as a cover crop continues to be important to growers across the globe, but new interest in and demand for the annual crop are fueled by rising consumer desire for plant proteins. Peas can answer these needs—and are relatively inexpensive, too.
Many plant-based proteins, whose popularity has surged in the past few years, are made with pea protein, as are some of the top-selling vegan and meatless protein bars, and a myriad of new snack foods.