Lime, jalapeno, and cilantro turn purple hull peas into a tangy and refreshing side dish or light meal. Smoked ham adds extra flavor.
The first basket of purple hull peas landed in my CSA bag this week, and the arrival of the ubiquitous Southern staple makes me embrace summer in the kitchen almost as much as lush ripe tomatoes.
I ate my first purple hulls at a Virginia meat and three across the street from the Danville Register, where I moved for my first newspaper job. While I certainly knew black-eyed peas, which are purple hulls dried on the vine, I didn’t know about fresh peas simmered in a pot with pork fat. I still remember mixing those peas with buttery mashed potatoes, a guilty pleasure I love to this day.
In Tennessee, purple hulls are one of many varieties of Southern peas including crowders and cowpeas that belong to the genus Vigna and thrive in the Mid-South’s hot and humid weather. Since the summer has been so cool, I was worried that the peas wouldn’t show up, so I was particularly pleased this week with their timely appearance.
While I occasionally still give in to pork belly seasoning, I’ve found other ways to prepare the peas that are updated and healthy, but still delicious. My favorite preparation so far this summer is to cook the peas until they are tender but still firm and mix them with lime-cilantro vinaigrette. The inspiration for this recipe came from an internet search where I landed on a Texas website called Forks Up for Real Food.
For my version, I increased the lime juice, garlic, and jalapeno, and added smoked ham finely diced in honor of purple hull’s traditional seasoning. And I topped the peas with chunks of tomatoes and chopped green peppers from my garden. The combination was so good I ate it for three days straight, grabbing the pea salad from the refrigerator and eating spoonfuls throughout the day.
Purple Hull Pea Salad with Lime-Cilantro Vinaigrette
(Hint: This salad tastes even better when it sits overnight.)
3 cups shelled purple hull peas
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 large jalapeno, minced
1 large shallot, minced
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions
Lots of loosely packed cilantro leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
Tomato chunks and diced green pepper for garnish
1. Boil lightly salted water, add peas, and cook until the peas are tender but still firm. Throw in smoked ham for the last 10 minutes of cooking.
2. Drain the peas and let them cool.
3. Whisk together all of the vinaigrette ingredients and combine with the peas.
4. When serving, top the peas with tomatoes and green peppers.