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Peas Overview

Peas are a pulse crop, which is a legume plant that has dry, edible seeds in pods. Pulses come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colours.

Pulses are legume plants that have dry, edible seeds that are grown in pods.

The term ‘pulse crops’ is used when crops are harvested mainly for dry seed that is used for human food and animal feed.

Lentils, chickpeas, peas, and beans are all pulse crops grown in Canada.

Peas grown in farmers’ fields are not the same type of peas that are grown in the garden. The peas grown in gardens are usually for fresh eating, home canning, and freezing. The peas that grow in farmers’ fields are harvested when they are dry and hard.

There are two types of peas that farmers grow: green and yellow. These varieties are both rounded seeds, which are used for food and animal feed. There are also seeds that are wrinkled, but they are mainly used for freezing and canning.

A train is stopped in a small town next to a train station and two elevators.

Peas are harvested mainly for dry seed that is used for human food and animal feed.

Industry Overview

Saskatchewan is home to 4,100 farms that specialize in pulse farming. Approximately 940 hectares (2,300 acres) of dry peas were seeded in 2020. The average yield of peas was 2.7 tonnes per hectare (39.5 bushels per acre).

Once harvested, peas can be transported by semi-trucks to elevators to be stored, cleaned, and shipped. Peas can also be sent to processing facilities where they are prepared to be used in food for humans or as animal feed. Peas are usually left whole, but they can be packaged dry, canned, or frozen.

An illustrated green peas crop.

Once peas are harvested they are processed for both humans and animals to enjoy!

Peas are also exported to other countries on ships. Countries that import peas are China, India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Columbia, the United States, and many others! Peas are taken from elevators on trains and put onto ships to transport to these international countries that buy Canadian grain. Canada exported 4.91 million tonnes of peas in 2020!

An illustrated crane loads shipping containers onto a ship in a harbour.

Canadian grain is shipped around the entire world on ships. Canada exported 4.91 million tonnes of peas in 2020!

History of Peas

Peas are one of the oldest crops in the world, as they were first farmed as early as 9,000 years ago. They were first grown in Syria, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Israel, Jordan, and Lebanon, and have been farmed in Europe for thousands of years.

Peas are one of the oldest crops in the world.

The word ‘pulse’ comes from the Latin word puls, meaning potage (which is a thick soup).

Growing Peas

Peas can grow in all climate zones. Peas are a legume with a taproot root system. Growing peas is good for soil that has lost a lot of its nutrients because peas are able to take nitrogen from the air and convert it into plant food. Since peas can do this, farmers do not need to add nitrogen fertilizer.

Pea plants store nitrogen from the air in their roots and produce lumps called nitrogen nodules.

Field peas in Saskatchewan grow best in the cooler black and grey soil zones. Peas do not like to run out of moisture as they have a shallow root system. The pea seeds are planted in the spring and are monitored during the summer in case they need to be sprayed for weeds, insects, and diseases.

This graph shows the major soil zones across the Prairies.

Pea crops are mature when the lower pods are ripe, the middle pods are yellow, and the top pods are turning yellow. At this point, the farmer can spray the crop to dry it out and then combine, or swath the crop into rows for the combine to harvest afterwards.

This farmer has swathed his peas crop into rows to dry it out and is now picking it up with a combine.

This farmer has sprayed his crop to dry it out and is now straight-cut combining.

This video shows the process it takes to straight-cut combine a field of peas.

Peas Nutrition

Peas are rich in carbohydrates, vitamin C, and B vitamins. Peas are also an excellent source of fibre.

A healthy diet with a high fibre content is important for our bodies, and that includes peas.

Peas Products

Peas can be used in food for humans and as animal feed. Peas are canned, frozen and used in soups and stews.

Peas are delicious additions to many recipes.