Photo: Beth Dreiling Hontzas
Southern peas and butter beans, popped fresh from the pod and simmered in pork-laced potlikker, signal the start of summer. And there are dozens of types—each with a subtle difference in taste and texture.
Types of Field Peas
- Speckled butter beans have a rich, creamy texture and earthy, nut-like flavor. When cooked, they lose their variegated color and turn pinkish brown.
- Crowders nestle so closely inside the pod that the ends of the peas begin to square off. Brown crowders are favored by many for their hearty flavor and rich, dark potlikker.
- Pink-eyed peas have a colorful purple hull and a lighter, less earthy taste than their black-eyed pea cousins.
- Butter beans, the colloquial name for baby green limas, and highly prized in the South. When perfectly cooked, the inside of the bean becomes creamy and takes on a rich, buttery texture.
- Lady cream peas are smaller and sweeter in flavor than other field peas. Considered the doyenne of cream selection, they remain pale green or white when cooked and yield a bright, clear potlikker.
What to Look For
When shopping for unshelled peas or butterbeans, choose flexible, well-filled pods with tender seeds.
How to Freeze Field Peas
To freeze, wash shelled peas or butterbeans and blanch in boiling water to cover for 2 minutes; cool immediately in ice water, and drain well. Package in air-tight containers, leaving 1/2-inch headspace, or in zip-top plastic freezer bags, removing as much air as possible. Seal, and freeze up to 6 months. Don't thaw frozen peas before cooking. Fresh or frozen field peas can easily be substituted in recipes calling for rinsed and drained canned peas. Simply use 2 cups cooked and drained peas for 1 (15-oz.) can.
How to Cook Field Peas
We like to combine different kinds of beans and peas and use a light hand with the seasoning) a whisper of garlic, a sprinkling of salt and pepper, and bacon drippings) to bring out their delicate flavors. Field peas make for great succotash, salads, dips, and stews. Try some of our Summer-Fresh Field Peas Recipes.