Sandhill Farmer’s Market: Lindsey of S.C. Dowey Farms says NOW is the time to visit their farm stand for fresh Dixie Lee peas. Last week she showed me an ice chest filled with large bags of shelled fresh peas.
You can purchase them in eight pound bags, as shown in the photo, or by the pound. Dowey Farms is at Sandhill Farmer’s Market on Tuesday afternoons at about 3:00 PM and at the Lake Carolina Market on Thursday afternoons, about 3:00 PM.
Dixie Lee peas have long been a Southern favorite. When cooked, the medium-size peas takes on a brown color, with a dark gravy and distinctive flavor.
Smooth, seeded field peas are often classified as Pisum sativum arvense. They were known in England by the start of the 17th century.
The grey or hog pea was the most common field pea in 18th century England. In one of the few references to field peas in 18th century Virginia, Jefferson wrote to George Washington in 1796, ” “I am trying the white boiling pea of Europe (the Albany) this year, till I can get the hog pea of England, which is the most productive of all.”
Although there are many varieties of fieldpeas, cowpeas and Southern peas, they are all basically the same thing. And they are not really peas, but beans.
At one time, years ago, over 50 varieties and strains were identified, each one slightly different from the other. Since then, many new ones have been added to the list.
Classification is said to be based mostly on the color of the seed and seed eye and how close together the seeds are in the pod. Closely spaced seeds, where the seeds ends touch, are known as Crowder peas. Color can vary but any amount of color can cause darkening of the “pot-liquor” and the cooked seeds.
Seeds without color are known as “Creams” and are loosely spaced. Purple Hulls have some purple coloring on the pods, but may also fit into the other groups.
Here is a popular method for preparing fresh Dixie Lee Peas. It is often referred to as “Hopping John.”
~Dixie Lee Peas & Rice~
3 or 4 strips lean bacon, diced
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
2 cups fresh Dixie Lee peas, Field Peas or black-eyed peas (in season)
1/2 cup uncooked, white, long-grain rice
2 cups water (or half chicken broth and half water)
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Hot pepper sauce, to taste
In a heavy skillet, saute bacon 2 or 3 minutes. Add onion and bell pepper. Continue cooking until vegetables soften slightly and bacon is crisp. Stir peas into the pot; pour in water. Reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer 20 minutes or until the rice is done. Remove from heat and let the pan sit with the lid on 5 minutes. Toss mixture lightly. Season with salt and pepper. Diners can season individual portions with pepper sauce.
Tip: One clove minced garlic can be added with the onion and bell pepper.
Photo copyright by Susan F. Slack