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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Purple Hull Peas

OMG!  I'm not prone to use texting expressions since I'm not a big texter, but this was my reaction walking through my local farmer's market Friday morning when I passed by a table with small trays of purple hull peas marked $4.00.  At most there were enough peas, still in the shell, to provide two small servings once cooked.

The reason for my shock is that I had just picked and shelled my own purple hull peas the night before.  Based on these prices, I had easily produced more than $20 worth of peas in one picking from my two 10' rows....and I was only on my second of what will likely be at least three if not four major pickings.  My crop cost me less than $1 total to produce, since I had saved the seed from last year's planting (just another great reason to plant heirloom vegetables) and only used about 1/2 gallon of natural fertilize when I planted.  Purple hull peas are one of the most economical vegetables one can include in their garden.

And they are also one of the easiest to grow vegetables as well.  Simply prepare a shallow row.  I turn my hoe at an angle and drag it down the bed to create two furrows a few inches deep and about 2' apart (my beds are 4' wide).  I then spread a light layer of my favorite dry natural fertilizer down the row, Epsoma Vegetable Fertilize, followed by dropping the seeds about 3 inches apart.  Use the hoe to go back and lightly cover the seeds.  I always plan to plant my beans and peas just ahead of a rain, but if that's not possible, then water the rows to ensure the seeds are thoroughly soaked or soak the seeds in a small container for about 15 minutes before planting them. Do not oversoak as the seeds will rot.  Also do not plant if there are several continuous days of rain forecasted, or if it's not at least 3-4 weeks after your last frost date in the spring and your ground has warmed.  Purple hull peas are a southern pea and cannot take cold weather or frost.  My last frost date is April 15th, and I usually don't plant until mid-May.

Once the plants are about 6" tall you will want to thin them to about 6" - 12" apart.  Thinning is so hard for me because I just can't bear to pull up a good plant, but I assure you it is necessary in order to maximize your production.  Peas planted too thickly don't allow the blooms the be exposed and pollinated well.  Trust me, I learned this lesson the hard way years ago.  Now I dutifully thin all my peas and beans no matter what.  Leaving them at 6" - 12" still results in very thickly planted peas so that once they are about half way mature they will be bunched thickly together in your rows or beds, thus eliminating future weeding.

About 60 days after planting, you'll be ready to start picking, shelling and eating.  Again, purple hull peas are your friend in that they are soooo easy to pick.  They grow up about 18" in the air on stocky stems, rising above the foliage.  Usually there are 3 pea pods to a stem, resembling those twirly bird hats we used to have as kids.  When the pods have changed color from green to a speckled green/ mostly purple color, they are ready.  If you miss them at this stage and they turn a dark purple, don't fret.  It just means you missed them at the tender, moist stage and will now just have to cook them a bit longer since they have gone on to the dried stage. 

I usually leave 20 or so on the vines near the end of the season to intentionally dry so that I can use them for the next year's planting.  After shelling, simply lay them on a newspaper indoors for a few days until they are completely dry, then place them in a jar and store in a dark cool place until the following year.  Or, if you live in an area like I do, where the frost date isn't until mid-October, make a second planting in late July to early August to extend your season and double your pleasure.

This is one vegetable I urge you strongly to try.  Purple hull peas are economical, easy to grow, and delicious.  What could be better.

1 comment:

  1. Loved your article on Purple Hull peas... I am originally from Texas and we LOVE Purple Hull peas. Purple Hull peas grow very well in the TEXAS heat so it is a very easy vegetable to grow. And yes they are excellent with cornbread and chow chow......