|clockwise from top left - lady cream, field,|
purple hull, crowder
Good as it gets
The term 'southern peas' refers to hundreds of different varieties of peas and are subdivided into four main groups: Field peas, Crowder peas, Cream peas and Black-eyed peas and are often marketed as ‘dry peas’. Originally brought to the US from the Niger River basin of West Africa, field peas have been in the New World since colonial times.
Field peas became a staple food among poor residents in the deep American south, as they are drought tolerant and easily adaptable to varying types of soils.
~ Field varieties are normally of the Iron or Clay types with clay peas growing well on clay soils and iron peas growing well on red soils. Robust, these vine type plants usually with smaller seeds produce a dark liquid when cooked. There are various heirlooms available.
~ Crowders have a squarish shape, a result of their being densely packed inside the hull (hence the name); brown crowders have a deep, earthy starchy flavor, are the most prevalent in the south and normally cook up dark. Varieties include 'Carolina,' 'Colossus 80' and ‘Hercules’
~ Cream peas are from a smaller plant type with light colored seeds that cook up light. The light-hued, unblemished surface of cream peas accounts for the name, though the moniker is often attributed to the cooked peas' butter-soft texture. Lady peas, also known as rice peas, are very small cream peas. Varieties include ‘Zipper Cream,' 'Carolina Cream' and ‘Lady Cream’.
Now for my favorite way in cooking field peas. Enjoy!
Fresh Southern Peas
3 strips of bacon, chopped
1 medium onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
3 to 4 cups of fresh shelled peas, washed
4 cups of water
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Note: Use ham or chicken broth instead of the bacon if desired. I also like to throw in a handful of green snap beans when cooking field peas.