Pied Beauty

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)

Glory be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:

Praise him.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Southern Peas

Yesterday was our regularly scheduled workday in the Fort Bend Master Gardener's display gardens.  There was the barest hint of not-so-very-hot in the morning -- you can almost imagine that Fall will one day arrive.

Purple Hull Peas!

Anyway, it was a great turnout and we're almost ready for all the fall planting.  However, it has come to my attention that some of us do not know a single thing about Purple Hull Peas.  You may regard this post as a public service, brought to you by a traditional Southern gardener.

Almost ripe!

Purple Hull Peas, like Crowder Peas, Lady Peas, Cream Peas, Zipper Peas, et. al., are "Southern Peas," annual vegetables that will not tolerate cold weather.  You can plant them anytime after the weather warms up substantially, and you can plant them in succession: they only require 60-90 days before harvest.  They grow like a cross between a pole bean and a bush bean, except that the flower is bigger and (I think) prettier.  Plant in full or mostly full sun and provide regular water.  The more fertility in your soil, the better your production will be. 

Fancy flowers!

Southern peas, like all legumes, are wonderful nitrogen-fixers and are often planted as a cover crop or green manure.  After you harvest your last crop, leave the roots in the soil to decompose or till the whole thing under. 

I found out the hard way that southern peas are also fed to cattle.  (It never occurred to me to wonder why people called them "cow peas" or "field peas.")  Once upon a homesick time, when I was young and living away from home (in New York City!) I wandered the streets, looking for black-eyed peas.  Finally, someone understood what I was talking about.  "Oh!" he exclaimed.  "We feed those to cows!"  Well, we eat them.

Snap the young ones and cook them too!

Start with a smoked ham hock.  If you have to ask what that is, you might not be from around here!  Put the hock in a large saucepan and cover with water.  Boil for about an hour, then remove from the water and cut away the meat.  Discard the fat.  Throw the water away and return the meat and the bone to the pot.

Now add fresh southern peas and enough water to cover them.  Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 30 minutes, until the peas are almost tender.  At this point, you can add the aggrandizements - chopped green onions, garlic or sliced jalapenos.  Your choice!  Add a bit more water if needed, salt and pepper; then cook until tender to the bite.  We eat them just like this, or over steaming hot white rice.  For a traditional touch, add a splash of liquid from Trappey's Peppers in Vinegar.  For an ultra-traditional touch, leave the Trappey's bottle on the kitchen table forever more. 

Works every time...

One more thing:  the old-fashioned way to shell these peas is to con a child into doing it.  Usually, this is accomplished by insisting that only grown-ups are qualified to shell peas!

1 comment:

  1. Ah, peas. So many peas. So many ways to cook 'em. Some of us like to fix the milder ones like cream peas with salt pork and blast the stronger ones with full-on ham hock and maybe a jalapeno. I don't discard the hock cooking water. Then there's always Texas caviar. The ultra-traditional method comes from Chief, a pillar of the comunity who loved Trappey's pepper sauce. I think he would have put it on Cheerios if Honey had let him.