Southern Love: 3 Different Peas, 1 Perfect Recipe
Lady Cream Peas, Crowder Peas, and Field Peas
Some of our favorite Southern staples include three delicious varieties of peas that are treasured among those who know them, love them, and probably grew up eating them. Lady Cream Peas, Crowder Peas, and Field Peas are humble, endearing, and homespun. They’re also commonly known as “cowpeas” or “southern peas”. And with one simple recipe that can be personalized to your liking, they’ll simmer into a delightful pot of creamy goodness to be enjoyed alone or alongside other Deep South delights.
If you’re not familiar with these peas, here’s a bit of backstory. Despite their names, none of these varieties is actually a pea. These beans were brought to the New World from Africa and became part of the Southern diet beginning in the 1600s. Cowpeas are commonly grown in the South since they are adaptable, heat-tolerant, and drought-resistant.
Cook up any of these three pea varieties, and the result will be a perfect comfort food dish for rounding out your favorite Southern meal. What you’ll find here is one simple, original recipe from the Hayward family (owners of Camellia beans), that was personalized and named for the particular pea varieties and the family members who loved them. (Our Lil’ Auntie loved lady cream peas, Patricia favored field peas, and Clayton had to cook up crowder peas!) The recipe is easy to follow and brings out the flavors of each of the three different peas; simply personalize the pot based on the pea variety and seasoning meat you choose. You can also make these peas vegetarian by using olive oil or vegetable oil. Otherwise, the basic recipe features butter or oil, diced onion, mashed garlic, a generous mixture of dried herbs that’s often called a bouquet garni, as well as salt and pepper. These Hayward family favorites are still served today at get-togethers and holidays!
Here, Lil’ Auntie’s Lady Cream Peas are simmered with a hearty ham shank for meaty flavor, then combined with the sautéed vegetables and seasonings, and cooked till tender. With a sweet flavor, creamy texture, and clear pot liquor, Lady Cream Peas are lovely served over rice, and this dish pairs well with other Southern pleasures like smothered okra and homemade cornbread.
Patricia’s Perfect Field Peas are cooked here with smoked sausage for wonderfully savory flavor — and then, just like the lady cream peas — mixed with the sautéed vegetables and seasonings, and simmered till soft. Ideal in soul food dishes, field peas are similar in flavor and texture to blackeye peas — in other words, they’ve got a distinctive, delicate flavor all their own. And when served over rice, alongside creamy mac ‘n cheese and a loaf of crusty French bread, Patricia’s Perfect Field Peas are irresistible.
For a different kind of smoky flavor, we cooked Clayton’s Crowder Peas with smoked turkey legs and then simmered them till tender with the sautéed vegetables and seasonings. The crowder pea variety gets its name from the way its peas crowd themselves in the pod; it has a rich, hearty flavor and creates a dark pot liquor when cooked. Serve these beauties smothered over rice, alongside fried chicken and biscuits, and your family and friends will be in heaven.
Pick your pea, and get cooking. Or try all three, and see which one you prefer. They’re all delicious Southern staples that deserve their rightful place at the table.
Perfect Southern Peas
- 1 (1-pound) package Camellia Brand Crowder Peas, Lady Cream Peas, or Field Peas
- 1/2 pound seasoning meat or 1/4 pound butter
- 10 cups water
- 1 teaspoon butter or olive oil (optional)
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 toe garlic, pressed
- 1 1/2 teaspoons your favorite dried garden herbs or Camellia’s suggested Dry Herb Blend
- Coarse ground pepper
- Rinse and sort peas.
- Cover peas with water, add seasoning meat or butter, and simmer about 1 hour.
- Sauté onion and garlic in butter or olive oil, add to pot with remaining ingredients, and cook 1/2 hour or until soft.
- Salt and pepper to taste.