Chef Wanda Blake is often asked, “What’s the difference between purple hull peas and black-eyed peas?” She explains that the purple hull is a close cousin to the black-eyed pea, but the purple hull is light green with a pink ring around the eye, while the black-eyed is light tan with a black spot. Purple hulls have a creamy taste, while black-eyed peas are described as more earthy. To find either fresh, you’ll need to track down a local farmer who grows them. Fresh black-eyed peas will be easier to find, but if you are lucky enough to find the purple hulls, act fast and get them while you can. Blake’s insider tip is to pay a visit to the Scott Family Farm booth at Oakland’s Freedom Farmers’ Market.
Traditionally, these peas are cooked with smoked ham hock or turkey butt, but if you want less fat, choose ham shank or turkey neck. For a vegetarian version, use vegetable broth seasoned with smoked salt.
Serve the peas with steamed rice and cornbread, and if you want to stick with tradition, Chef Wanda will tell you the cornbread simply is not optional!
- 1 1/2–2 pounds smoked meat (see above)
- 6–7 cups water (or vegetable broth seasoned with smoked salt for a vegetarian version)
- 1 pound fresh purple hull peas (or black-eyed peas) , rinsed and drained
- 1 medium onion (yellow or white)
- 2 bay leaves
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 dashes tabasco sauce, or to taste
Place the (optional) smoked meat into a large stockpot with the water or broth and bring to a boil. Add peas, onion, and bay leaf and boil for 10 minutes. If foam appears, you can scrape it off. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 1½ hours.
Check peas for tenderness and for salty flavor. Add salt if needed. (Note that the smoked meats can be salty.) Dash in the tabasco sauce, checking for flavor as you add it. Cook an additional 30 minutes as needed until peas are perfectly tender.