We all have our favorite foods. As an optimistic food lover who enjoys cooking, I have many foods I fondly refer to as “a favorite”. However, there are a few foods that aren’t just favorites–they are cravings!
This is the perfect time to relish one of my “favorite” favorites! Field Peas!!! Cowpeas, Zippers, Black-eyed Peas, Crowder Peas–whatever you want to call those wonderful, easy to shell, legumes–they are one of the tastiest crops we can enjoy from the garden or farmer’s market this time of the year.
Originally from Africa, field peas became very popular in the south as a staple of the diet for slaves and the poor. Ironically when Sherman burned the South, he destroyed many crops but left the “cow peas” because they were thought to be intended as feed for the livestock, not humans. As the only available food, their popularity increased among all classes in the South and they became a signature dish.
I am from a rural community in Southeastern North Carolina. My grandpa’s “garden” was really more of a field and contained an ample supply that kept us busy all summer long. Not only do field peas provide delicious nourishment, they also give a relaxing pastime for many porches in the South–shelling. I can remember spending MANY long hours snapping peas. It was worth all of the work when I had one of my absolute favorite summer suppers: Fresh field peas (our favorite was the Sugar Crowder*), mashed potatoes, and garden fresh sliced tomatoes, with a little pepper vinegar on top. I would eat that for dinner every night if I had the choice. To this day, it is still one of the best meals I have ever tasted.
This recipe is much healthier than the typical heavily seasoned with pork fat recipes, but I find it very delicious and hope you do too:
* Different field peas have different flavors. My personal favorite is the “Sugar Crowder”, though they can be difficult to find. Crowder peas are more boxy in shape since they earned their name from being so “crowded” in their shells as they grow.