The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has a great article by chef Scott Peacock about all types of field peas. They're something we rarely eat outside of the South, but they are so, so delicious... The field pea category includes more familiar ones like black-eye peas and butter beans — all varieties grow in long slender pods that are "zipped" open to release the tender little peas. But when we think of the field peas we ate growing up in the South, we think of lady peas.
They are smaller than black-eye peas, pale yellow or ivory colored, and incredibly creamy. In fact, the "Guide to Field Peas" accompanying Peacock's article refers to them as cream peas. We always ate them with a spoon because scooping up a little buttery pile was easier and more satisfying than trying to corral a bunch of the tiny peas onto a fork.
Peacock talks about his grandmother and her "shelling circle" of friends sitting around shelling peas, a practice that has largely been displaced by machines. Then he mentions an old farmer who still grows a dying variety called cream 8s that are hand-shelled by senior citizens and sold by waiting list and secret telephone number. We're not making this up. Read all about it:
We haven't seen these sweet little lady peas in New York City. Anyone know if they're available at any farmers' markets?
Related: Seasonal Spotlight: English Peas
(Images: Louie Favorite for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)