Slowly Simmered Field Peas

A savory Southern secret

Photo: Peter Frank Edwards

Silver Queen from Maryland’s Eastern Shore is now the gold standard for sweet corn everywhere. Californians grow heirloom Cherokee Purple tomatoes sourced from Tennessee seed. Georgia’s famed Vidalia onion is even on the menu at Applebee’s. But field peas—crowders; black-, pink-, or yellow-eyed; purple-hulled; pale-green lady peas—are still something of a Southern secret. Each one has a slightly different flavor. Crowders and black-eyed peas are on the earthier end of the spectrum, ladies more delicate and creamy. Here, a constellation of other summer-garden stars complement the peas: tomato, jalapeño, and a medley of herbs. And whether you cook with fresh summer shellings or rehydrate from dry, field peas give off liquid as they simmer and soften, beanlikker that’s every bit as tasty as the potlikker from a mess of greens.


    • 1 pound fresh shelled field peas

    • 1 large carrot, peeled and diced

    • 1 celery stalk, diced

    • 1/4 white onion, chopped

    • 1/2 bacon slice, cut into 4 pieces

    • 2 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled

    • 1 fresh thyme sprig

    • 1 bay leaf

    • 1-inch piece lemon zest

    • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste

    • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, plus more to taste

    • 4 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced

    • 2 tablespoons olive oil

    • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley


  1. Rinse the peas under running water in a colander and pick out any bad ones. Drain the peas and put them in a large sauté pan or Dutch oven. Add the carrot, celery, and onion. Stir in the bacon, jalapeño, garlic, thyme sprig, bay leaf, lemon zest, salt, and black pepper. Add water to just cover the peas. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  2. Add the tomatoes and cook for 10 minutes more. Remove and discard the jalapeño, garlic, thyme sprig, bay leaf, and zest. Stir in the oil and parsley. Season with salt and black pepper to taste. Serve warm.

  3. Tip: If you’re using smaller, more delicate lady peas, they’ll cook quicker than their stouter sisters, like crowders, which may need a little bit more time. Sample one or two peas 10 minutes into cooking, and go from there until you reach the desired texture.

From The Southerner’s Cookbook