* People have been cultivating peas for at least 9000 years and traces have been found in Neolithic sites in Europe and the Middle East. The Romans ate fried peas while watching games at the circus, a bit like we eat popcorn, and they probably introduced them into Britain.
* Peas are a good source of protein, fibre, iron and vitamins. In the medieval period they were an important food source, and known as ‘poor man’s meat’. Peas then were floury and not very sweet, but dried well for use in winter soups and stews or to eke out more expensive wheat and rye flour.
* Sweeter, juicier peas, and the type with edible pods known as mangetout, both appeared in the 16th century. Today we can grow both the hardier, starchier, round-seeded types and the sweeter, juicier, wrinkle-seeded varieties.
* Most modern peas have white flowers but some older varieties have beautiful flowers in shades of purple, blue or red, and some even have purple pods. These have the added bonus of being easy to spot for picking.
* Peas played a crucial role in the understanding of genetics, as they were the plant chosen by Gregor Mendel for his groundbreaking experiments looking at the way that characteristics are inherited.
* There is an international Pea Collection at the John Innes Centre in Norwich housing hundreds of varieties old and new from around the world. As well as preserving existing strains, this can help scientists in breeding new varieties.
* For a host of imaginative pea recipes go to www.peas.org.