A basket and a bowl.
Every year at my grandmother's house in Teague, Texas, we ate freshly shelled peas- white acre, purple hull and crowder. Some were delivered by Miss Minnie who loved to forage for peas in the many gardens in town, and some we shelled on my grandmother's porch.
Cowpeas, first cultivated in Africa, are one of the oldest farmed crops and are still a staple food in parts of Africa where the immature pods, leaves and seeds are a rich nutritional source of protein, folate, fiber and resistant starch. These legumes thrive in sandy soil and fixate atmospheric nitrogen which is converted to ammonium nitrite and nitrate by bacteria and fungi in the root nodules and soil.
Baskets filled to the rim with freshly picked White Acre, Crowder or Purple Hull peas are a personal food memory of summers spent in Teague. Adults and children would sit down, shell peas and the children, would listen only, to adult conversations; this was a time when children were meant to be seen and not heard, especially when it came to "grown folks business'.Once we finished the peas were either saved for Sunday dinner or frozen for a later date.
And on Sunday, there would be a big bowl of peas cooked with a ham hock and a few pods of okra ,perfectly seasoned, along with cornbread, green beans and new potatoes, baked chicken or quail, mixed greens( depending on the season) and for dessert , a pound cake or blackberry cobbler.
Before the invention of protein powders, whole foods supplied all the protein and in most cases, nutrients needed for children and adults. Commonly used to enhance weight loss or build lean muscle mass, protein powders manufactured from dairy or plant sources( soy, pea, rice) remain a unregulated nutritional supplement best used under the guidance of a registered dietitian. Unless you are a professional athlete, or require a medically prescribed diet, protein powders are an unnecessary expense and source of calories for most children and adults.
Shelling peas is a tradition throughout the South especially ,and an opportunity to connect to ancestors that lived on the very land where they grew and harvested their own food. Now, it is an opportunity to slow down, connect and teach the adults/children in your pod about the different varieties and cooking methods for peas and green beans and share your own food memories.
The White Acre pea has a creamier taste than the commonly known Black-Eyed Pea, the pod is purple when dried and the pea has a slight purple eye. Along with our sweet onions and a few pods of red okra, our CSA members will enjoy a quick and simple dish that delivers on flavor and nutrients. And if you've never heard of Texas Caviar, prepare to taste a dip , side dish , or summer salad over a bed of hibiscus leaves, that brings summer on the farm to your table. Load it up with jalapeño or Serrano peppers or your favorite hot sauce for a nutritious snack that is filling and fresh. And for crab lovers, top it off with some lump crabmeat from Maryland blue crabs.