Pea And Bean
Typical of leguminous plants (so called because they furnish
legumin, or vegetable cheese), whilst furthermore possessing certain
medicinal properties, the Bean and the Pea have a claim to be
classed with Herbal Simples.
The common Kidney Bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) is a native of the
Indies, but widely cultivated all over Europe, and so well known as
not to need any detailed description as a plant. Because
of the seed's
close resemblance to the kidney, as well as to the male testis, the
Egyptians made it an object of sacred worship, and would not
partake of it as food. They feared lest by so doing they should eat
what was human remaining after death in the Bean, or should
consume a soul. The Romans celebrated feasts (Lemuria) in honour
of their departed, when Beans were cast into the fire on the altar;
and the people threw black Beans on the graves of the deceased,
because the smell was thought disagreeable to any hostile Manes. In
Italy at the present day it is  customary to eat Beans, and to
distribute them among the poor, on the anniversary of a death.
Because of its decided tendency to cause sleepiness the Jewish High
Priest was forbidden to partake of Beans on the day of Atonement;
and there is now a common saying in Leicestershire that for bad
dreams, or to be driven crazy, one has only to sleep all night in a
Bean field. The philosopher, Pythagoras, warned his pupils against
eating Beans, the black spot thereon being typical of death; and the
disciples were ever mindful: Jurare in verba magistri. When
bruised and boiled with garlic, Beans have been known to cure
coughs which were past other remedies. But the roots of the Kidney
Bean have proved themselves dangerously narcotic.
The Pea (Pisum sativum) is a native of England, first taking its
botanical name from Pisa, a town of Elis, where Peas grew in
plenty. The English appellation was formerly Peason, or Pease, and
the plant has been cultivated in this country from time immemorial;
though not commonly, even in Elizabeth's day, when (as Fuller
informs us) Peas were brought from Holland, and were fit dainties
for ladies, they came so far, and cost so dear. In Germany Peas are
thought good for many complaints, especially for wounds and
bruises; children affected with measles are washed there
systematically with water in which peas have been boiled. These,
together with Beans and lentils, etc., are included under the general
name of pulse, about which Cowper wrote thus:--
Daniel ate pulse by choice: example rare!
Heaven blest the youth, and made him fresh and fair.
Grey Peas were provided in the pits of the Greek and Roman
theatres, as we supply oranges and a bill of the Play.
 Hot Grey Pease and a suck of bacon (tied to a string of
which the stall-keeper held the other end), was a popular street cry
in the London of James the First.
Peas and Beans contain sulphur, and are richer in mineral salts, such
as potash and lime, than wheat, barley, or oats; but their constituents
are apt to provoke indigestion, whilst engendering flatulence
through sulphuretted hydrogen. They best suit persons who take
plenty of out-door exercise, but not those of sedentary habits. The
skins of parched Peas remain undigested when eaten cooked, and
are found in the excrements. These leguminous plants are less easily
assimilated than light animal food by persons who are not robust, or
laboriously employed, though vegetarians assert to the contrary.
Lord Tennyson wrote to such effect as the result of his personal
experience (in his dedication of Tiresias to E. Fitzgerald):--
Who live on meal, and milk, and grass:--
And once for ten long weeks I tried
Your table of Pythagoras,
And seem'd at first 'a thing enskied'
(As Shakespeare has it)--airylight,
To float above the ways of men:
Then fell from that half spiritual height,
Until I tasted flesh again.
One night when earth was winter black,
And all the heavens were flashed in frost,
And on me--half asleep--came back
That wholesome heat the blood had lost.
But none the less does a simple diet foster spirituality of mind. In
milk--says one of the oldest Vedas--the finer part of the curds,
when shaken, rises and becomes butter. Just so, my child, the finer
part of food rises when it is eaten, and becomes mind.
Old Fuller relates In a general dearth all over  England
(1555), plenty of Pease did grow on the seashore, near Dunwich
(Suffolk), never set or sown by human industry; which being
gathered in full ripeness much abated the high prices in the markets,
and preserved many hungry families from famishing. They do not
grow, says he, among the bare stones, neither did they owe their
original to shipwrecks, or Pease cast out of ships. The Sea-side Pea
(pisum maritimum) is a rare plant.