Field Peas

by Min Merrell
field peas in the crock pot

field peas

Hurray for field peas.  Seems every week we’ve got a pot of dried pintos or white beans going in the crock-pot or the pressure cooker.  Plus, instead of my usual lecture on the benefits of all the cool frozen beans we can get around here, I offer the links to some of our favorite healthy, colorful Cheater Chef bean salads that are all perfect for the spring months especially if you’ve got the grill cranking– Lima Bean Salad, Another Lima Bean Salad, a Mashed Fordhook and Zucchini Salad, and Lentil Tabouli.

I’m so smitten with these that whenever I have to bring a dish, I tend to build a colorful salad with baby limas and a simple fresh lemon juice dressing. You’ll love having the leftovers for lunch. The only thing you have to remember is not to overcook the beans.  Mushy fall-apart beans are not what you want in a salad except that mashed one.

There’s more good news in Nashville on the bean front. Bags of Hayes Star Brand Dry Field Peas have showed up at our local Harris Teeter recently.  I can’t remember ever seeing them around here before.  Ever had field peas?  “Field peas” is actually a generic term I see used on the packaging of many varieties of beans including black eyes and crowders.  In the frozen section, we can find big bags of “field peas with snaps,” which I would call a combination of black-eyed peas and green beans. But in South Carolina and Louisiana, field peas are a popular little bean that looks like a brownish, miniature black-eyed pea. Its defining characteristic besides its diminutive stature is the robust, richer than usual, cooked bean juice they produce.  You can’t beat them prepared in the normal southern bean way with onion and a little salt pork. Of course, spoon our cheater Field Pea Pot recipe over hot cooked rice and you’ve got a nice South Carolina Hoppin’ John. Look for Hays Star Field Peas and grab a bag if you can find them.  Or you can get them online.  You won’t be sorry. I haven’t used them into a salad yet.  I think it’s because of that lovely bean juice.

Field Peas

1 pound field peas Vegetable oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 ribs celery with the leaves, chopped

1 chunk salt pork, about the size of a golf ball, or none at all

Generous amount of black pepper

Salt, to taste

Soak the peas in cold water for about 6 to 8 hours. Heat about two tablespoons of vegetable oil in a big soup pot.  Cook the onion and celery in the pot until softened and lightly browned.  Add the soaked and drained beans, salt pork (if using), and black pepper. Add enough water to cover the beans by about an inch.  Simmer on the stove until the beans are softened, about 1 1/2 hours. Or, cook in a slow cooker until tender on low or high. You pick. Put it on low if you want to cook the beans more slowly.  Add salt to taste. Serve over hot cooked rice or as a side dish.

Note:  Update (April 2017), well, since I wrote this post.  I’ve completely changed my approach to cooking beans thanks to Russ Parsons.  Sure this method above works, but now I believe that you don’t need to soak the beans or cook the onions and celery ahead. Read this post about cooking black-eyed peas and do the same with field peas!

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