I always get excited about field peas. I think they are one of the great, lesser known, gifts of the Southern agricultural tradition. From the article:
Field peas come in long, slender pods, 10 to 12 inches long. Butter bean pods are flat and crescent-shaped, 3 to 4 inches long. Green beans, haricots verts, snap beans, pole beans and runner beans are another genre altogether because you cook them in their shells.
Here's a look at some common Southern field peas:
I cannot readily purchase them fresh here in South Florida - I have to drive up into Central Florida to find them - so I grow them. In the freezer are Mississippi Silver Hull Crowders, Zipper Cream Peas, and Jackson Wonder Butterbeans. On the vine and nearly ready to pick are Pink Eye/Purple Hull.
I nearly always prepare them in the traditional method - as it is so good. I simmer a hock, literally a couple of hours very low, to make a broth. Then simmer the fresh peas for an hour, once again on very low. That's where I differ from the Atlanta Jounal's recommendation of 30-45 minutes. They must be using a higher temp.
Also, I can't stand machine shelled peas. They have no snaps and the peas themselves are often damaged by the process. The "stings" aren't always sorted out either. And, well, they just don't come across as fresh. Might as well buy frozen.
Do you guys do anything unusual with your field peas? I know it is hard to improve upon perfection, but I like to keep an open mind. Also, run across any unusual varieties? I want to try "Whipporwhill" as that is what I suspect that my grandfather was growing when I was little. I love Lady Fingers, but they are just too darn hard to shell!
What do you serve on the side? For me it is sliced tomato, a bit of bacon, and cucumber/onion salad.