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A pea (Pisum sativum) is the small, edible round green seed which grows in a pod on a leguminous vine, hence why it is called a legume. Several other seeds of the family Fabaceae, most of them round, are also called peas.

According to etymologists, the term was taken from Latin and adopted into English as the singular term "pease." as in pease pudding below. However, by analogy with other plurals ending in "-s", speakers began construing "pease" as a plural and constructing the singular form by dropping the "s", giving us the term "pea". This process is known in linguistics as back-formation.

''Pease pudding hot,
''Pease pudding cold,
''Pease pudding in the pot,
''Nine days old

''Some like it hot,
''Some like it cold,
''Some like it in the pot
''Nine days old

Peas are cooked as a vegetable in many cultures.

Types of pea

The immature pea is called the garden pea. It is sold fresh (usually in the pod), tinned or frozen.

The mature pea, which dries naturally in the field, is known as the marrowfat pea. This name is recorded by the OED as early as 1733. It is grown mainly in Britain, but many are exported to the Far East. One of the oldest export varieties, popular in Japan for the last hundred years, is called Maro. This has led some people to assume mistakenly that the English name marrowfat is derived from Japanese. In Japan and other Far Eastern countries, such as Thailand, Taiwan and Malaysia, the peas are roasted and salted, and eaten as snacks. In the UK, marrowfat peas are used to make pease pudding, a traditional dish.

Ways of eating peas

Dried peas are often made into a soup or simply eaten on their own. Fresh peas are often eaten boiled and flavored with butter as a side dish vegetable. Fresh peas are also used in pot pies, salads and casseroles. Pod peas (particularly sweet varieties called mangetout and sugar peas) are used in stir fried dishes.

In the UK, dried, rehydrated and mashed marrowfat peas, sold as "processed peas" but usually known by the public as "mushy peas", are popular, originally in the north of England but now ubiquitously, and especially as an accompaniment to fish and chips or meat pies, particular in chippies or fish and chip shops. Sodium bicarbonate is sometimes added to soften the peas.

Peas is also the name of a commune of the Marne département in France.