I love eating fresh and local food. It doesn’t get more local than your own backyard, or in my case front yard. I have a small vegetable garden with what I consider “take care of themselves” type of plants; including rainbow swiss chard, lacinato kale, and ever bearing strawberry. I don’t have any training as a gardener, but my love of eating just picked salad greens has encouraged me to keep experimenting in the dirt. The stuff that lives, is the stuff that is eaten.
A few years ago I had a lot of success with my first attempt at sowing peas. I germinated the seeds indoors and transplanted the little seedlings that sprouted into the ground. I mixed the edible snow peas with flowering sweet peas, it was an idea stolen from a magazine to make a more beautiful garden. I put too many seedings and too many sweet peas together and had an overwhelming tangled mess of greenery. I had to hunt thoroughly to find the edible peas, and got so discouraged I tried to thin them out by cutting away pieces of the growth. I ended up killing it all and limited the harvest of the snow peas significantly. I was so defeated, I gave up on peas until this year. I put them in the ground and let them do their thing. They are very happy with my lack of involvement and I have an abundant number of pea pods ready to eat. Lesson number one is, planting vegetables is not that hard. Make sure they have water and access to some sunlight and you’ll end up being able to eat vegetables on those nights when you didn’t have time to stop at the store.
Lesson number two is about whether peas can be eaten on a Paleo diet. Peas are a member of the legume family, which also includes peanuts and lentils. Legumes contain components called lectins, saponins, and phytates. Lectins and saponins are the in house defense system of a plant so it isn’t eaten by birds or other predators. When humans eat them in large quantities, they slowly cause damage to the intestinal lining. The damage is caused by the death of individual cells and leads to holes in the intestinal lining, called leaky gut. Having a gut with holes, allows too large of particles of food to enter into your blood stream. This can lead to food sensitivities and also digestive discomfort.
Phytates (aka phytic acid) bind to minerals inside of the body. The minerals are then not absorbed into cells. Phytic acid is considered an antinutrient. Antinutrient. What a fabulous word to remind you it is something you don’t want to eat. The idea is to eat nutrient dense food, not food that robs you of those nutrients.
But what about peas? Are peas Paleo? Eating large quantities of peas would set someone up for the ill effects described above caused by eating grains and legumes. However, the rule that helps me determine if a food is Paleo or not is whether it can be eaten raw or it needs to be cooked. Peanuts and lentils need to be cooked in order to be edible. Peas (including snow, snap, English and the like) can certainly be eaten raw, and in my case freshly picked off the peavine in my front yard. For those of you looking for a crunchy Paleo snack, I suggest you try some for yourself.