Purple hull peas are a traditional southern food. They’re one of my favorite soul foods. I found some some today at a roadside stand. They were freshly hulled and bagged for just $3. I was so excited I couldn’t wait to get home and cook them. I love purple hull pea season.
Purple hull peas are a field pea, and a cousin to the black-eyed pea. Southern rich raised these guys for livestock back in pre-civil war times, but they would throw leftovers to the slaves (or poor whites). They became soul food. The poor would spice them up with leftover pork scraps and make them delicious. Most traditional southern food is about making do with what you have, and these peas are no different.
There is legend that says when Sherman’s Union troops raided Confederates food supplies, they took everything except the peas and salted pork. Those were peasant foods, and not fit for the Union troops. Their loss. Purple hull peas are delicious and nutritious.
Purple hull peas are an excellent source dietary fiber and a pretty decent source of protein (about 13 grams of protein and 11 grams of fiber per cup). They also have folate. If you’re low carb, they have about 36 grams of carbs per cup (they are a pea afterall), so depending on what diet you’re following they may or may not be appropriate.
I think purple hull peas are creamier and smoother than black-eyed peas. They have a fresher, earthier flavor than black-eyed peas, but they taste similar. If you like black-eyed peas, you need to visit the south and try some purple hull peas. You’ll like them even better.
Traditionally, you flavor purple hull peas with salt pork or a few strips of bacon. You can avoid the pork fat if you’re vegetarian. I always add onions to mine, but you can cut that out too.
|Cooking peas (keep the lid on while they cook. I just took it off for the photo)|
There is a Purple Hull Pea Festival and World Championship Tiller Race in Arkansas, where I’m from. I’ve been a few times. The tiller races are a sight. They have a grand championship purple hull pea recipe. I’ll post it here, because I can’t make up a better recipe than a championship recipe from a pea festival.
- 5-6 cups shelled purple hull peas
- 6 oz. centercut smokey bacon (use a good brand)
- Salt to taste
- Cut bacon into inch size pieces and lightly brown in a dutch oven or deep saucepan. Do not drain bacon grease.
- Add washed peas and enough water to cover plus one inch.
- Add 2 teaspoons salt. Boil over medium heat until tender (about 45 minutes).
- Taste and add more salt if needed.
- Serve with hot, buttered cornbread.
|Peasant food? No way, these are fit for royalty.|
You want to make sure the peas are tender, but don’t cook them for too long. If you cook them for too long, they turn into mush. You want them to have about the same consistency as al dente pasta. Don’t be afraid to taste one or two to see if they’ve got the right bite. Alternatively, you can smash them between your fingers to see if they’re done, but why waste them?