Fresh Crowder Peas (NOT Black-eyed Peas) ♥

Fresh Crowder Peas ♥, fresh crowder peas in a simple vinaigrette. Vegan. WW1.
graphic button small size size 10 Ever wonder how to cook those crowder peas you find at the farmers market? This is a great place to start, just cook the peas in salted water, then toss in a vinaigrette. Not just vegan, "Vegan Done Real". graphic button small size size 10

BACK IN 2007 When I first wrote this post, I repeated what I'd heard from the farmer at the farmers market, that crowder peas and "black-eyed peas" and "cowpeas" are all the same thing. Whoa, bad idea! Readers quickly let me know the farmer (and therefore I) was completely wrong! Let it be said: Crowder peas and black-eyed peas and cowpeas are NOT the same thing! Okay? So sorry!

Back then, it took me all of 17 minutes to shell that pound of fresh crowder peas. But I fussed and fumed the entire time. "Why is this taking so long?" and "Nobody's ever going to make these, they take too long." But somehow, as the minutes passed, these old-fashioned peas got me to thinking in a way, say, gorgeous French radishes did not.

Crowder peas straight from the field ♥
How far we've come from the source of our food sustenance. Sure, I bought these from my local farmers market – I even "walked" to the market. But what I didn't do was:

  • Leave my homeland and family seeking personal freedom or economic opportunity
  • Cross mountains and rivers and prairies to find affordable farmland
  • Put down scarce cash for land, build some sort of shelter, survive the first winter with little to eat
  • Fell trees, pull boulders in order to till virgin soil
  • Watch bad seed or storms or drought or insects decimate the crop
  • Buy seed and fertilizer and insecticide and farm equipment on credit
  • Sell the back forty to re-purchase seed, fertilizer and insecticide when spring rains wash out the first planting
  • Worry whether my children will want to farm this land, whether this land will be there for them to farm

It's been many years since I've been on anything except a gentleman's farm. Somehow, crowder peas got me to thinking what it might have taken to get them to my market where I could buy a pound for two bucks. You know what? Seventeen minutes of shelling peas, it was the least I could invest.


Hands-on time: 20 minutes
Time to table: 60 minutes
Serves 4

Salted water
1 pound peas, shelled

1 tablespoon good olive oil
1 tablespoon good vinegar

Fresh herbs if desired

Bring the water to a boil while shelling the peas. Add to boiling water, cover and let cook for about 40 minutes or until done. (They are quite starchy, very similar in texture to canned or frozen black-eyed peas.) Drain and return to the hot pot.

Meanwhile, whisk the dressing. Pour over hot drained peas and toss several times to coat and let the liquid soak in. Toss with herbs and serve immediately.

graphic button small size size 10 NEXT TIME I'll make sure to select either green or brown pods for the peas inside are at different stages of ripening. Either one is fine and the peas from both turn that dull brown while cooking. The brown ones are slightly easier to shell.

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Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


  1. As tedious as some of these tasks seem they do offer an opportunity to think.

  2. I like black-eyed peas, but do the fresh ones taste noticeably better than frozen or canned ones? I've never seen them for sale fresh around here, but it would be fun to try them.

  3. Cynthia ~ As I sure learned, yes!

    Kalyn ~ Better? Not really, which I'm guessing accounts for the fact that they're rarely found fresh, at least in my experience. The texture is definitely starchy, like both the canned and frozen black-eyed peas.

  4. We went to Kenya this year in April and in the area where we were, everyone grew "cowpeas" as part of their subsistence diet. They make a dish called "muthi" which is cowpeas and maize cooked together. I planted some this fall in honor of the trip. Now I have a recipe to cook them! My google blog tells all about the trip. Thanks...

  5. I don't know if I'd have the patience to shell all those beans. I feel the same about working out -- too much time to think.

  6. I don't think I've ever seen fresh black-eyed peas (and never heard the name "crowder peas") -- you certainly have a wonderful farmers' market!

  7. Thank you, Alanna, for the thoughtful words today. It is so important to know where our food comes from, and how, and to honor those who bring it to us. The Victory Gardens of the '40s, the back-to-the-landers of the '60s, the recent growth of CSA's and Farmers Markets all renew our ties...
    All this and recipes too!

  8. How right you are Alanna! Wise words indeed.

  9. Growing up in Northern Louisiana in the 70's and 80's, we grew Crowder Peas, also known as Purple Hull Peas. We used to take the early ones and snap them like regular green beans. Once they were more mature and the hulls turned purple-brown, we'd shell them. We canned both snapped and shelled for winter use and gave bushels away to family and friends. One year's crop was so abundant that we ate peas at least once a week through the winter and the spring. I love their earthy taste and wish I could find them fresh today but I'm a City Girl now.

    I do think fresh tastes better than canned or frozen black eyed peas but I can come close with dried black eyed peas. If you drop by my house for New Year's, you can try them, too. :-)

  10. Crowder peas are a totally different pea from black-eyes. Crowders do not have a "black-eye" - a little clue...

  11. Purple hulls are NOT the same pea as white crowders and do NOT have the same flavor. I also lived in northern LA in the 70's and grew both purple hulls and white crowders. As the anonymous poster above said, black-eyed peas are entirely different and I add that black eyed peas are not purple hulls nor are they white crowders. For flavor, my favorite is the black crowder pea. Crowders of all varieties are very starchy, so they should be cooked "done-done", not "healthy-done".

  12. Good recipe. But….. are you from the south? Down here, black-eyes and crowders are kin, but not the same. Sort of like green beans come in different varieties and have a different flavor.

  13. this is a wonderful recipe and lovely photograph but...crowder peas aren't black eyed peas. they are in the same family (as are field and purple hulls). but they each have their own unique taste and aroma.

  14. I grew up on a farm in South Carolina and my dad plants (still does) crowder peas every year and they are NOT black eye peas! The best crowder pea is the Clemson Purple Hull.

  15. Crowder peas are NOT blackeyed peas are NOT purple hull peas. Seriously, they're all very different. I'm in Baltimore and the downtown farmer's market has a lovely "bean guy" who sells them already shelled from big coolers. He has all three of these, along with dixie butter beans, speckled butter beans, lima beans, black beans, etc., depending on the crops and season.

    Fresh are SO much better than frozen or canned. I freeze these myself and blanche them for 3 minutes then vacuum seal, and the difference for up to a year is insubstantial. But frozen ones from grocery stores are a different story; the taste is lacking and often the texture's not quite right. I won't choose to eat them, whereas I have to pace myself to keep from eating the fresh and fresh-frozen ones for every meal.

    Feel free to substitute but please know they are entirely different beans with very different taste profiles!

  16. I am glad someone else pointed out that black-eye and crowders are not the same. We raise our own, and their is nothing that goes better with a dish of cornbread and ham on a cold winter night.

  17. As many have commented, crowder peas are not black eyed peas. They'e crllaed crowders because they grow large in the hull and crowd together, making them look like they've been squeezed and flattened on the side.

  18. Please note that Crowder peas are NOT black-eyed peas. Common crowder peas usually cream to light brown in color, and in flavor are far superior to black eyes.

    A Sage

  19. I was raised in Indiana by Southern parents and my dad grew both crowders and purple hull peas. I remember his crowder peas being reddish brown in color about the same size as black eyed peas but neither looked or tasted like them. Can anyone tell me what variety these might be? Our family considered crowders and purple hulls superior to black eyed peas.

  20. AnonymousJune 11, 2012

    the peas with purple hulls are properly called pink eye purple hull because of the pink eye on the pea a great way to cook these is to mix with equal amounts peas and butter beans which are not baby lima beans with a piece of fat back cover with water cook for thirty min then take four whole okra pods and lay on top of peas cook until done carefuly remove pods and discard enjoy ben pringlee

  21. AnonymousJuly 30, 2012

    Crowder peas are not black eyed OR purple hulls. They're all different but I like them all (raised in Arkansas and Tennessee so had them in the garden all the time. I love fresh black eyed peas much better than canned---not even the same "animal" to me, and I buy frozen since we do not have a garden. Add a little onion makes them even better and bake some cornbread to go with them. Makes me hungry even after midnight!!

  22. AnonymousJune 07, 2013

    I also grew up in Arkansas with a garden having a variety of different field peas. My favorites were whippoorwills but very tiny and tedious to shell. Crowders are my choice now. If you are buying a canned product make sure it says packed from fresh shelled on the can. Bush sells crowder, purple hull and black eyes- some with snaps, young green pea pods added- and looking at these will show you the difference. I have also bought frozen cream peas. All these peas convert their sugars to starch as they mature. I prefer them just old enough to shell without the wet sticky substance surrounding the indivual peas.

  23. AnonymousJune 22, 2013

    Actually the blackeye pea, field pea, crowder pea and cowpea are beans in the same genus. They are all subspecies of the cowpea group. On the same biological level they can be considered the same plant but the subspecies vary - something close to cabbage and brussels sprouts but with less diversity. Remember - biologically they are legumes and beans - definitely not peas.

  24. AnonymousJune 13, 2014

    My dad grew Polecat Peas, maroon and beige speckled crowders as well as Purple Hull Peas. I still find a meal of Purple Hulls and white cornbread a real dining treat. You can also cook Crowders with grits for a dish that is firm and does not run across the plate. I used to grow Whippoorwills out in south central Nebraska, but I don't have enough garden space any moire. They are a grayish brown speckled cowpea. There is some science to the combination of cowpeas and cornbread. The cowpea lacks a complete protein spectrum of amino acids. The cornbread adds the needed amino acid group to make the protein content complete.

  25. I so love all these stories, agronomy lessons and cooking tips. Keep ‘em com in’, people!

  26. Black eyes,crowders,purple hulls are all different varieties of COWPEAS as apposed to green spring or English peas. I've raised them all my life, you bunch of city slickers.


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