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BEAN OF THE MONTH: Yellow Split Peas PDF Print E-mail

February 2017
by Chris Ellis, Staff Nutritionist

I am looking down the line of bins in the Bulk section containing beans and legumes of all shapes, sizes, and colors when the green and yellow split peas right near one end catch my eye. Their colors are brilliant compared to most of the other legumes. Split peas in general are not popular choices for bean consumption since they have an unfortunate negative image. I, however, love the flavor, texture, and taste of both colors of these underutilized legumes. One

of their best attributes is how quickly they cook up—you don’t have to plan ahead and presoak them—they are ready in an hour! Dried peas are a robustly flavored legume, perfect for a cold winter day. Green split peas are sweeter and less starchy than yellow ones.Yellow split peas become very creamy when cooked and have a more delicate flavor than green ones.

All types of peas are spherical shaped, which sets them apart from other legumes and lentils. Split peas are field peas specifically grown for drying. The peapods are harvested when they are fully mature and then dried. Once the peas are hulled they become split peas since they generally split along their natural seam—an amazing natural characteristic, and this is what enables them to cook up so fast!

The yellow split pea, or pisum sativum L., is one of the oldest crops cultivated by humans. They originated in the Fertile Crescent and then spread east to China and west to Europe and the Mediterranean. Fossilized remains of this versatile high protein staple food have been found at several archeological sites. Peas are noted to have been a prized food for many ancient civilizations. People mainly ate this legume in dried form before modern cultivation techniques made fresh tender green peas available around the 16th century. Peas were introduced to this country soon after the first colonists settled here. Today this pea is known all over the world and used in a variety of cultures.

For being such a small bean, yellow split peas have many positive nutritional traits. Split peas are referred to by some as the mighty member of the legume family. They are an excellent source of cholesterol-lowering fiber, thus reducing heart disease risk. That high fiber content helps to regulate blood sugars from rising rapidly after a meal and to stabilize blood sugars as well. Split peas are also excellent sources of three B vitamins—thiamin, folate, and pantothenic acid—as well as potassium and protein, and they contain only minute amounts of fat. They also provide a good amount of the phytonutrient, isoflavones, which have been shown to reduce the risk of certain health conditions. A little-known fact about split peas is that they are an excellent source of a trace mineral called molybdenum, a major component of the enzyme sulfite oxidase, which is essential for detoxifying sulfites. Sulfites are commonly used preservatives added to processed foods, often used for preventing discoloration in dried fruits such as raisins and apricots and other foods too. They also occur naturally, such as in wine production. Many people are very sensitive to sulfites and experience headaches, rapid heartbeat, and other symptoms. Some might react to sulfites because their body stores of this trace mineral are low, and thus their body is unable to detoxify them. One cup of cooked peas provides a whopping 196 percent of the daily value for molybdenum.

As I stated earlier, this mighty cute yellow split pea is underutilized and worth trying if you haven’t already done so!! I just made this very tasty dal, which didn’t take long to prepare once the peas were cooked (about an hour and fifteen minutes total) so if you like Indian food and spices, it is well worth trying! Yellow split peas are used frequently in dal recipes and the addition of wonderful fresh spices from the Bulk department make it even more deliciously tasty and wonderful! Serve it with your favorite rice and green vegetables to make an artistically appetizing and flavorful meal! It looks so beautiful you won’t want to eat it!