Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Review: Crowder Peas

Fairly unknown in the North, crowder peas are prized in the Southern states. 






I got the chance to sample and review these beauties courtesy of our CSA provider,  Garden Spot Vegetable Farm in Princeville!  Thanks, Jim Buckley!


What are crowder peas?

A quick Google revealed that they are a close relative of black eyed peas.  The "peas" moniker is deceptive, because it is actually a bean, which originally hailed from Africa.  Known as a staple in soul food, you must shell them before using and the fresh peas will cook up fairly quickly. 

 The unshelled pods sport a lovely mixture of purple and green.

Two of my sons helped me shell the peas. 

It is absolutely worth the time that it took to shell the peas.  It reminded of extended family corn boils, when all the kids were given bushels of corn to shuck.  Being one of the younger kids, I lost interest after about four ears.  I had more patience for it as an adult than I did as a child.  :-) My boys enjoyed the process!  It was pretty fun to sit and chat while we shelled the crowder peas as a family.  One note on the shelling, there is one side of the peas, that has a natural indent.  That is the side to grab and open.  A sharp fingernail works wonders.   The opposite side of the pea won't result in a smooth opening. 

After about 45 minutes of laughing, talking, and shelling we had 5 cups of peas. 

Once I began researching these beauties, I remembered that a friend had grown them in his garden a few years ago and given us some to try.  So, I had a frame of reference, having apparently consumed them once before.  Resorting to quizzing my resident expert, I messaged my Southern born and bred friend, Andrea for some help on cooking and presentation. 

Recipe #1:

First up:  the tried and true Southern recipe.  Following Andrea's instructions, I sauteed onions and garlic in some olive oil.  I then added the freshly shelled crowder peas, two chopped tomatoes, and a little water.  Simmer.  The fresh beans will cook in 20 minutes or so.  Andrea suggested that I add some collard greens toward the end of the cooking time.  I actually didn't have collard greens, but I did have some mustard greens on hand.  So, I added those instead.  I don't add salt when cooking.  So, although it wasn't in her recipe, I added about 1 1/2 tsp. of Bragg's aminos for some salty flavor.  It was a good choice. 

  All I can say is, "Holy cow!!"  This stuff is awesome!!  There is a distinctly smoky flavor from the beans reminiscent of black eyed peas.  The tomato adds a wonderful splash of freshness.  At first I thought I'd added the greens too early.  But, I was wrong.  They were perfectly cooked and their tangy, earthy flavor was the perfect compliment to the crowder peas.  This dish goes right to the top of my list if I get my hands on some more fresh crowder peas. 

Recipe #2:

I got this recipe from a Google search.  It featured red potatoes, carrots, onions, and green pepper in addition to the crowder peas.  Ham was also on the ingredient list.  Since I'm vegan, I didn't add the meat, instead, I substituted a little liquid smoke.  It gave the finished dish that "meaty" flavor and smell without the fat and cholesterol.  Out of deference to my hubby, who doesn't care a lot for green pepper, I left it out.  I made the rest of the dish according to the recipe. 

Once again the finished flavor was fantastic.  I do think that I would add more than 2 cups of water.  It was a little dry and I would have enjoyed it more with a little "juice" in the bottom of the pan.  However, I would definitely make it again.

Our evaluation:


Crowder peas got two enthusiastic thumbs up from our family!  The smoky flavor is the perfect compliment to many side dishes.  The texture was soft, without being mushy.  It also seems to be versatile, as we saw with two different and yet equally delicious recipes.  

If you see it at your local farmer's market, snap up those lovely purple and green beans and take them home!

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