Yes, you heard me right. It's a family tradition to have black eyed peas on New Years Day, but I found a pea at our Farmer's Market that I love a whole lot more...Purple Hull Pinkeye Peas. Yes sir, they are delicious! A cousin to the black eyed pea, the purple hulls have a pink eye, and are much more tasty and sweet.
Believed to have been brought to America from Africa during the slave trade, they fall into the category of Cowpeas, which were originally planted to feed livestock. Some stories report that during the Civil War Confederate troops and slaves ate cowpeas when other food sources were stolen, pillaged, or destroyed by Union troops.
Highly nutritious, they are low in fat and sodium, have no cholesterol, are high in potassium, iron, fiber and protein. You can easily replace the black eyed peas called for in recipes like Hoppin' John, or Texas Caviar with purple hulls. You can even replace the beans in your chili with purple hulls. For even more info on purple hulls click over to purplehull.com and read about the Purple Hull Pea Festival held each year in Emerson, Arkansas. Yes, there's even a festival dedicated to purple hulls where they have a pea shelling contest, and recipes galore, like Purple Hull Pea Salsa, Purple Hull Pea Jelly, Purple Hull Pea Salad. You can even pick up growing tips. Not only do they grow in poor soil, but are drought tolerant, too, and they like the heat. No wonder they grow so well here in southwest Oklahoma! You better believe I dried some to use as seeds this year! I have the perfect poor, sandy, loamy soil just waiting to be planted.
Over the course of the fall season at the market I bought about 40 pounds of purple hulls. Yes, I love them that much! I shelled the first 15 or so pounds by hand. It was relaxing, but tedious. Then Elizabeth Murphy of Murphy Farms brought her handy dandy pea sheller. Whooeee! I am so glad she did. It saved my thumbs! She not only shells them with this thing, she even bags them for you, ready to take home and cook! Thanks Elizabeth!
When I asked about blanching and freezing, the advice I was given was to just go ahead and cook them and freeze them in bags. I'm sure glad I took this piece of advice (thanks Nealis!) because now all I do is thaw, heat, and eat. So perfectly easy. And cooking was easy, too. After they were shelled I just put them in a big pot and covered them with water, added a little salt, some bacon drippings, and sometimes a few chopped jalapenos to make a few batches spicy. Then just simmered them until they were tender. (If you are not fortunate enough to have access to fresh purple hulls, Bush's, and Allen's offer canned, and Pictsweet offers frozen. Never tried any of them so can't vouch for them. Just plan on growing your own this year, okay?!! Check out my favorite heirloom seed supplier, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds!)
One of my favorite ways to use purple hulls is to make Hoppin' John using Zatarains Dirty Rice Mix. First just brown a pound of ground beef (in my case venison), add the Dirty Rice Mix, spice packet, and water as per the directions. Cook till done and stir in the purple hull peas at the end and let them heat through.
Traditionally served with greens, which represent paper money, and cornbread, which represents gold, the peas are believed to represent coins, and are eaten to ensure luck and prosperity in the new year.
For New Years Day we'll be enjoying our purple hulls with ham and Aunt Alberta Pedigo's Hot Water Cornbread recipe. Now that's a whole 'nother treat! Where I'm from we make our cornbread in an iron skillet or a corn stick pan, but when I visited southeast Texas country, specifically Nederland, Port Arthur, Port Neches, nearly 30 years ago, Aunt Alberta introduced me to all sorts of new treats, and Hot Water Cornbread was one of them. I still can't get mine to taste as good as hers, and sort of doubt I ever will, but I keep tryin'.
So dear ones, I wish you a very happy, healthy, prosperous 2011, filled with lots of love, and laughter, and joy. Thank you for following Turkey Creek Lavender on our journey this past year. I am so excited about the coming new year, and what wonderful and exciting things are ahead!