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From their early beginnings, peas spread over time to Egypt, then to India and China, and eventually to Europe by way of Greece.

For a period during the Middle Ages in Europe, most people ate peas almost every day in thick soups and stews. Peas were then an essential part of almost everyone's diets.

Do you remember this old rhyme?

Peas porridge hot,
Peas porridge cold,
Peas porridge in the pot
Nine days old.

It comes from this period.

At the time, peasant families often kept a large kettle hanging near their fireplaces, to which they would add more peas each day, along with whatever other vegetables might be available at the time. But peas were the mainstay. When the fire blazed, the peas porridge was hot. When the fire died down, it grew cold. But it was there, pretty much on an ongoing basis, day-in and day-out.

Eventually, in some European countries, peas' prominent place was taken over by potatoes, which had been brought to Europe from the New World in the 1500's by Spanish explorers.

Peas come to America

Peas came to North America with the pilgrims and were there for the first Thanksgiving. Later, Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and our third president, became an avid grower of peas. He planted more than 30 different varieties at Monticello. Each year Jefferson joined in competition with others in the area to see who could grow the first peas of the season.

What do you think the winner got? That's right: the opportunity to invite all the others over for dinner to serve them those first-of-season peas!


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