Saturday, July 05, 2008

The Lowly Black-Eyed Pea

I would guess that there is not a garden in this area that does not have at least one row of southern peas, lumped affectionately together as black-eyed peas. The ones I grow are technically pink eye, purple hull peas, but fill the same niche in our garden and larder. There are subtle taste and texture differences between crowders, black-eyed, purple hull, and lady finger, so you try a few and pick a pea. You don't really need to grow more than one kind in a garden unless you want a new variety. Bees just love peas and cross pollination is a sure thing.

In the garden, peas are nitrogen-fixing legumes that are also pollen rich. They love the heat of the south and are even drought tolerate. In the larder, peas are a staple of the southern table. Eaten along with greens or ham or with just cornbread, they are rich in Vitamin A, Folate, and Calcium. They also are a source of protein.

Perhaps, if Mississippians would remember their traditional foods and shun the fast food stands, they wouldn't be the fattest Americans, again.

Today, I will salute the lowly black-eyed pea. After I shell today's harvest, I will cook some, basically unadorned, to eat with some cornbread, accented with some pepper jelly - nothing better, really. Of course, having a hunk of watermelon for dessert wouldn't be bad.

Tradition. Not always bad.


Angela said...

You are definitely onto something there. I had a dear Southern transplant as a neighbor growing up, and she always had more peas in her garden than anyone we knew! Lucky for us, she loved to share and invited we children over to help her shell them!

Lisa Anne said...

Wow! I have never had fresh shelled black-eyed peas! The dried ones are a staple in our house. I cook a big pan of greens and serve the peas with the greens, brown rice, and some olive oil, tamari and nutritional yeast- Don't forget the hot sauce!! I think if we all turned back to these traditional foods, we would see the general health of the nation improve.
I am amazed at how much education still needs to happen out there about the food we eat. While most of my friends are tuned into this, I find a lot of our customers still want cheap and convenient.

ZILLA said...

As a child I was taught by a friend's father who had southern Appalachian roots to eat black-eyed peas on New Years Day, for luck through-out the year. Otherwise, I never would have tried them. Do you save some black eyed peas for New Year's Day?

Tradition -- often good!

ZILLA said...

Since when do we hyphenate "throughout," Zilla. My brains are still jet-rattled :-)

Wisteria said...

We always eat black-eyed peas on New Years Day. We need all the luck and prosperity we can get. I always find that if we have peas left, either dried or frozen, on New Years that I do feel lucky. This year, I still have a few packs of peas in the freezer from last year. This year will be a bumper crop, as well.

I'll save you a few.

Lisa Anne, if you weren't so busy with your own gardens, you could come down and eat with us. They are truly delicious.

Angela, I could use some help shelling. Since you have practice. . . .

audrey said...

When I moved up here, I would get cravings for black-eyed peas and field peas. People here would give me strange looks like they'd never seen a black-eye pea or field pea before.

Lo and behold! They hadn't. Now, my dh adores them. We can't grow a proper brown field pea here, but I manage okay with black-eyed peas if I start them indoors.