Purplehull peas are extremely popular in Arkansas, especially the southern half of the state. There it’s farmed and grown in every backyard vegetable garden. They’re a favorite side dish with chicken fried steak and enjoyed by the bowl-full with a piece of cornbread.
PurpleHull Pea Festival
Emerson, AR, pop. 368 is home to the purplehull pea festival, held the last Saturday in June. This tiny ,south Arkansas town isn’t the birthplace nor the largest producer of purplehull peas. However, they use them to promote their town and create a showplace to honor a vegetable that “is grown in every backyard garden”.
This festival is also one of the “weirdest” in the south with pageants, a street dance, the 1,000,000 garden tiller parade and a speed shelling contest. Put it all together and you get an award winning festival of the year.
Often confused with their close cousin the black-eyed pea they’re greener and have a pink ring around the eye. Purplehulls are part of the southern pea family with crowder and cow peas. They were originally grown as livestock forage, adding to the confusion with cow peas. People discovered how good they are and began cultivating them for their own consumption.
I think these are tastier than their better known cousins, but I’ll let you make your own decision. If it matters, even Fergie says they’re better than The Black-Eyed Peas!
Each year a new recipe is crowned champion and they run the gamut from traditional, to exotic chili, dip, cornbread, soup and jellies. I hope you like my traditional version!.
- 1 lb. shelled peas (1–1/2 lbs unshelled)
- 2 slices bacon – cut into 1” pieces
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 1/4 yellow onion – diced
- 3 garlic cloves – minced
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Shell and rinse the peas
- Cook bacon in a large pot until the fat is rendered, but do not crisp
- Add peas, chicken broth, onion and garlic and bring to a boil for 10 minutes
- Reduce heat to low and cover
- Cook 1-1/2 hours on a low simmer
- Add chicken broth or water if necessary
- Adjust seasoning and serve
Like many soups or beans this gets better and better if it sets overnight in the fridge!