When we were growing up we had either peas or butter beans every day for daddy grew lots of them and we picked, shelled, froze and canned many packages and jars of both. Mama always wanted to can some for they would be quick to prepare for a meal and for many years I did the same.
Daddy would plant acres of peas and long rows of butter beans and many hours were spent picking, shelling and freezing or canning. There would be bushels of these to shell and fingers would be mighty sore come night time but the results were worth the work. Meal time was always a well-cooked feast at the Polk house and daddy would always choose peas for he said he needed his "ball bearings" to keep on rolling.
In the South, when we say we are eating "peas" we are talking about field peas. There are many varieties such as purple hull, lady finger, crowder, black eyed, white acre, and Mississippi silver to name a few. Daddy always planted several varieties for they each have a different taste and some are easier to shell.
The purple hull was always my favorite to shell but the lady finger was my favorite to eat. It is a light green pea and the pot likker is light green also and it is little and delicious. The down side is the size, for they peas are small, tightly packed in the hull and hard to shell. You would shell for hours and have a small pan full but the flavor is wonderful.
The closest in taste I have found is the one I have pictured here. They are grown by a friend here in Adel and it is a seed which has been handed down in his family for generations. He gave daddy some seeds years ago and daddy was happy to get them for they are very similar to the lady finger pea and he called them the "Adel" pea. We buy 2-3 bushels each summer to put in the freezer and they are sooo good.
These are shelled, washed and ready to cook or freeze. As you can see, we like to have some small ones, too little to shell, so we can snap them. They are called snaps and when combined with the shelled peas, it is wonderful. I don't blanch these peas for they are picked, shelled and ready for the freezer within a day's time so they are fresh and crisp. With experience, I find the small peas taste just as good without blanching and it makes it much quicker to put in the freezer.
Sometimes when I cook them I will drop the frozen peas in boiling water when I am ready to cook, take the pot off the heat, strain the water hot water, rinse and then cook. To save calories and fat content, I use cooked bacon when cooking for the flavor for all the fat has been cooked out. Smoked turkey also gives a good flavor or lean smoked ham. I try to get flavor without the fat and these work well.
Many in the South put thick bacon, ham hocks, or salt pork in peas or butter beans for flavor but I don't any more. These also add fat and calories and the leaner meats work just as well.
We also don't like our cooked to death so I am careful to get them tender but not mushy. This is the reason I hesitate to eat at restaurants who advertise "home cooking" for it usually cooked with lots of fat meats and cooked to death. Good "home cooking" has lots of flavor but does not have to be cooked to a mush.
These are my packs of peas ready for the freezer and one pack of cherry tomatoes. To freeze the cherry tomatoes, I bring a pot of water to a boil, remove from the heat, drop in the tomatoes for a couple of minutes, drain in a colander and then place in ice water. The skins will slip off easily and when cooled, I put them in a freezer bag to freeze. These are great in tomato sauces for these little tomatoes are much sweeter than the big ones and less acid. They are also cheaper many times in the grocery stores and when they are on sale, buy several baskets and freeze them like I do. This method makes even bought tomatoes taste good.
I hope you will go to a farmer's market and get some fresh peas, shell them, and cook them. Many times you can buy them already shelled but ask how long ago they were shelled for the longer they sit without freezing, the drier they become. It's not hard to shell peas and you can meditate a lot or watch a good movie on TV. Serve with some hot cornbread, sliced tomatoes, corn on the cob and some fried okra and have a feast. Don't forget the sweet iced tea!!!
Ya'll come back to see me and be careful going home.
The Georgia Peach