Agricultural Research Service recently released its first winter pea cultivars specifically developed to be used whole or as an ingredient in human food.  Dr. Rebecca McGee says USDA MiCa, USDA Dint and USDA Klondike will be game changers for growers across the Pacific Northwest, and beyond.


“Food quality peas are worth more to a farmer than feed quality peas just economically.  In 2009, marketing regulations were changed.  Prior to 2009 if you planted a pea in the autumn, it could only be sold as animal feed, not human food.  After 2009 if you planted a pea in the autumn the market class that it would be assigned to would be based on the quality characteristics of the harvested seed not when it was planted.”


Currently winter peas are mostly grown in the PNW as a cover crop to add nitrogen to the soil, and for domestic animal feed.  But, McGee noted winter peas have a lot of potential as an ingredient for human food.  She added growers that hold any of these three winter peas in their hand and hold an equivalent spring pea, green or yellow, they can't tell the difference.


“I think it's really going to afford farmers opportunities to increase the sustainability of their farming operations, as well as to realize some new opportunities for diversifying their operations.”


Peas have been grown in the PNW since the 1930’s.  Here are more details about each of the new varieties from ARS: 


  • MiCa: A cross of a USDA winter pea with Arwyn, a spring pea with resistance to Pea Seed-borne Mosaic Virus that produces large, smooth green seeds. The name comes from combining the first letters of two of McGee’s mentors in breeding winter peas.  
  • Dint: Produces large, smooth green seeds with a slight dimple. The name is from the Middle English word for a dent made by a blow.
  • Klondike: Produces large, highly desirable dark yellow seeds invoked by the Klondike’s connection to the gold rush era. Yellow seeds mean food producers don’t have to remove color during processing.


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