Peas are a major vegetable and commercial crop. The crop is also suitable as forage, hay, silage and green manure.
Peas are cultivated for the fresh green seeds, tender green pods, dried seeds and foliage. Dry seeds are used for food and feed. For food, they are cooked whole, split or ground into flour, and boiled or roasted. Fresh peas are canned or frozen in the immature form. Some types are grown for their tender green pods such as snap peas (sugar snaps) and snow peas (sweet peas) mainly for export.
There are two types of pea based on the texture of the seed coats:
Wrinkled seed type - this is due to the sugar content and the varieties are used for fresh consumption or export.
Smooth seed type - these are used for dry peas and the main variety is "Black Eyed Susan".
Peas grown for fresh consumption of their seeds (green or garden peas) are harvested as soon as the pods are well-filled but the seeds are still tender and sweet. Generally, the pod is discarded after the peas are removed; but some young tender varieties have an edible pod, which are often used in Chinese dishes. Green peas are highly perishable and the sugar to starch conversion begins the moment they are picked.
Some varieties of green peas:
Snow peas or sugar peas have edible flat pods and very small seeds. They are harvested when very young, just as the seeds start to form. If not picked at this stage, they can be shelled and eaten as garden peas, but are starchier and not as sweet.
Sugar snaps are also an edible pod pea but have larger and sweeter seeds and a thicker pod than snow peas, but more delicate than the green peas. They are grown to full size and then eaten like snap beans.
Both snow peas and sugar snap peas last much longer than the green pea. The main varieties of snow peas grown in Kenya include: "Carouny", "Mammoth Melting Sugar", "Dwarf Grey Sugar", "Oregon Sugar Pod", "Sugar Snap" and "Toledo" (HCDA).