Pisum sativum is the scientific name for the common garden pea, a popular food in many different parts of the world. Depending on the manner used to prepare the vegetable, these peas are called "green peas" or alternately "split peas." What differentiates these peas is how they are processed and used in cooking. While they may have different culinary uses, green peas and split peas are essentially the same plant.
"Green pea" is the term used to describe the standard Pisum sativum plant. These peas are also called garden peas or English peas and have been grown in Britain for about 12,000 years. The seed pods can be eaten whole or shelled. When the pea is shelled, the seed pods are discarded and the seed is boiled, steamed or mashed before being eaten. Modern food processing techniques also use canning and flash-freezing to store green peas and keep them fresh.
Green Pea Dishes
Traditional green peas can be eaten raw from the pod, but often they are cooked and added to dishes such as stir-fry, pasta salads or used as garnishes. Mushy peas are an English dish that includes boiled peas, cream and butter. The ingredients are blended to create a mashed dish of a lumpy consistency. Mushy peas traditionally accompany fish dishes such as fried cod or salmon.
Split peas are the peeled and split seeds of the Pisum sativum plant. This type of pea preparation originated in India and included the yellow and green varieties of Pisum sativum. After harvesting, the seeds are dried, and the thin is skin removed. The natural split in the seed, called the cotyledon, is then separated leaving the pea "split." Peas are processed this way so they cook faster.
Split Pea Dishes
Split peas are commonly used in split pea soup. This English soup includes ham, carrots, onion and various vegetables. The split peas give the dish a thick texture and filling consistency. Some Greek recipes for fava bean dip also call for yellow split peas mixed with lemon juice, olive oil and pepper. This dip is commonly eaten with vegetable crudities, crackers or pita chips.