Days Gone By - stories from the past

“Sure, I eat molasses with my peas, I’ve done it all my life”

 PEAS, PLEASE

by 

Dorothy Graham Gast

Peas, corn, okra, tomatoes, squash, and sweet potatoes are as nutritious as they are tasty. Mainstays of southern diet, they provide a healthy alternative to meat and potatoes menu.  One restaurant in Northport, Alabama, features a different kind of field pea on each day of the week. Reports of peas go back to 2300 BC and are eaten by an estimated 200,000 people a day worldwide. Paired with cornbread, peas provide protein to replace meat.


“Sure, I eat molasses with my peas, I’ve done it all my life,

It ain’t because it tastes so good, It keeps them on my knife.” Old country folksong.

peasSo you thought black eyed peas were a country form of the more elegant green pea southerners call English pea. There are stories about dry peas being the only edibles let behind after Yankees had taken livestock, potatoes and corn.  The dry pods kept for eating during the winter and planting the next season, sustained survivors left behind when the males of the households did not return from war. Peas, brought from Africa with the slave cargo, provided the protein and calories the keep families from starving.

Field peas, often called cowpeas, are a staple of  the Southeastern United States with controversy about their origins. They are legumes grown in Asia, Africa, parts of southern Europe, and Central and South America. Peas flourished in the hot, dry fields that had nutrients exhausted by cotton and tobacco.cowpeas

Its ability to pair with other plants like corn increased the food value from limited field space. The large seeds could be sown or scattered, in lightly cultivated soil, sprout quickly, and provide nitrogen for corn. The long runners climbed the corn stalks, fertilized the soil, and by heavy shade from leaves reduced the weeds that steal the limited moisture of hot, dry August days.

Farmers learned that when peas were picked and leaves grew sparse, they could cut the vine back to a hand’s length and watch the plants renew in the autumn rains. New growth meant that fresh peas graced the table until frost.purple_peas1_f

The many varieties have names like Purple Hull Pink Eye, Whippoorwill, Lady Pea, Red Ripper, California Blackeye, Black and white Holstein, Blue Goose, Monkey Tail, and Ozark Razorback. Since farmers saved seed to plant many families had crossbred distinctive varieties that bore the family name, like.

Regional favorites were debated but the many advantages of the multipurpose crop are accepted in many parts of the world.  Farmers often sow seeds in the fields where corn has been harvested to provide green foliage for farm animals and wild animals. The dry foliage is easily stored for animal feed.puple hull peas

Peas are the subsistence food of many nations, the poor man’s manna.

Recipe for cooking green

Pinkeye Purple Hull Peas.

  • 1 quart fresh shelled peas, washed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 slices bacon or ½ cup cooking oil
  • 2 quarts water

Cook in boiler at moderate heat for 30 minutes.plateofpeas

Serve with Cornbread, fried okra, corn on the cob, sliced ripe tomatoes and sweet potato pie.

Enjoy.

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Vinegar of the Four Thieves was a recipe that was known for its antibacterial, antiviral, antiseptic and antifungal properties for years. It was even used to cure the Bubonic Plague. See Thomas Jefferson’s recipe in VINEGAR OF THE FOUR THIEVES: Recipes & curious tips from the past With Bonus: First two chapters of novel Ribbon of Love

VINEGAR OF THE FOUR THIEVES: Recipes & curious tips from the past


By (author): Donna R Causey
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About Dorothy Graham Gast

Dorothy Gast lives in Romulus, Alabama on the Graham family farm. She taught in Tuscaloosa County Schools for nearly 30 years. She has a "Mine, yours, and Ours" family. She has volunteered in numerous organizations after her husband's eight year struggle with Alzheimers' ended. She helped organize a volunteer fire department after she was 60 and served as board secretary and nationally certified firefighter after extensive training. Her attempts to get the community reading failed, but she contributed books to the new Sipsey Valley high school from the library in her home friends helped her establish. She is known locally by the silhouettes she cuts free hand of children. She began to write nostalgia stories after a grandson asked her to write down the stories often told at family events.

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68 comments

  1. Karla Calhoun

    That picture at the end made my mouth water LOL.

  2. Donna Dunn

    Yummy, I eat my peas with mayo and pepper sauce

  3. Brenda Irvin

    Nothing like it. i can eat this all day with out a meat dish.

  4. Patricia Singleton Jandt

    No molasses on my peas maybe a little on my cornbread

  5. Jean Moore Sanderson

    I love them but since dieting, I had to leave the peas off because they are high in calories.

  6. Nina Ann Johns Nalley

    Boiled okra with peas. Yum

    1. Denise Harrington

      my favorite with onion cornbread an mayo.oh yes.

      1. Peas please with mayo, onion, fried corn, bread n butter pickles, sliced tomato, & cornbread Don’t think God made anything better than that !! No wonder I tilt the scales!!!

  7. Darrell Silas

    Bama mayonnaise and purple hull peas. That’s the ticket.

  8. Amber Stark Hartley

    did i miss something – which restaurant?

  9. Betty Maze Patterson

    Oh, no! I’ve never heard of this in north Alabama! My Mother did take peas made into a patty to resemble sausage in a biscuit for her school lunch! She said she was so embarrassed when a renegade pea would roll in front of an “rich” kid with a real meat!

    1. Blake Davis

      yeah, but that rich kid probably has colon cancer now.

    2. Polly Swindle Hightower

      I remember my mother making “pea fritters” from left over black eyed peas when I was growing up.

    3. Don E. Latham

      Betty Maze Patterson, my mother called that pea sausage, and that was what my dad carried in his lunch at the mine back during the depression.

    4. Betty Maze Patterson

      Bless their hearts, they had hard times!

    5. Mary Jones

      Pea patties my mom made them so good

  10. Michael Stallings

    nothing better than fresh peas and other vegetables fresh from a garden

  11. Julie Hughins Schenher

    Pickle juice on my peas. Sweet pickles, homemade of course.

  12. Melissa Lowman

    My granddad said people used to put syrup on everything. I believe it came from the great depression…it added calories.

  13. Patricia Camp Mullis

    Peas,corn,tomatoes,vinegar and corn bread. Not from Alabama but still know what is good!

  14. Albert Clayton

    That’s good eatin’

  15. Denise Harrington

    nothing but the best….

  16. Debbie Morgan Williams

    Homemade pear relish or pepper jelly with our peas

  17. Barbara Rowlett Blocker

    Green black eye peas with snaps and boiled okra, lambs quarters, home canned tomatoes, cornbread and turnips if ur lucky. Still my fav meal. Pile it up!

  18. Lisa Lane

    Yummy! Hellman’s mayo with mine, please!!

    1. Lisa, I like Duke’s Mayonnaise better…

  19. Henry Lowery

    WHICH restaurant in Northport??? Don’t leave me hangin’ like that.

    1. Anne Barrow Lowery

      Somebody else said it was Blue Plate Diner.

  20. Sherron Holliman Turnipseed

    Fried okra, peas, cornbread and pepper sauce!

  21. Carole Stack Campbell

    Got to have cornbread, onions and sweet tea. Makes me hungry.

  22. Carole Stack Campbell

    My husband loves any beans with mayo.

  23. Owanna Burt Victory

    Purple hull peas…grew up with them in Alabama and now can’t find them in NC. Boy do I miss them.

  24. Brenda Boyd Goggins

    I love mine with diced tomato and diced onion and fried okra. I mix it around and the tomato juice mixes with the pea juice with the crunch of the okra it is to die for. I need some right now.

  25. Doug Landers

    My momma used to make the best fried okra,but the only place that serves it around here is Cracker Barrel,and I order it every time we eat there.

    1. Kathy Sibley Glover

      I cooked fried okra yeaterday as well,as stewed squash. Yummy

  26. Reggie Baker

    Secrest in Monroe has about four different varieties of purple hulls.

    1. Owanna Burt Victory

      I guess I will have to grow my own then. Gotta dig out that pea sheller of Grandma Doris’s

  27. Reggie Baker

    We bought seed. She said it would do a 50′ row. We should have plenty.

  28. Jonathan M. Nix

    Fried okra and peas slow cooked with ANY form of hog meat. Yessir

  29. Gordon Brown

    Thought I was the only one.

  30. Debra Weeks Whittle

    What’s with all the mayo???? Peas, tomato, biscuit, okra, and I am good!!lol

  31. Denise Blue

    Thank you for some more peas and cornbread

  32. Sandra Culwell

    I PUT PEANUT BUTTER IN MINE.

  33. Sandra Culwell

    PEAS AND CORNBREAD…BACKBONE OF THE SOUTH..EAT YOU SOME..YOU WILL ALWAYS BE HAPPY

  34. Jenny Penton Westbrook

    I went to the farmers market today and wanted to get some fresh peas but they didn’t have any yet…can’t wait for fresh peas and field corn…yum yum

  35. Doris Brazelton

    the peas and honey song is “I eat my peas with honey, I’ve done it all my life. It makes the peas taste funny but it keeps them on my knife.”

  36. Fran Hill

    Peas/beans, cornbread with homemade mayo base slaw! Yummm

  37. Sharon Witt

    Love purple hull peas with mayo mixed in them with corn bread . You can take a person out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the preson

  38. Patsy Swafford

    Love peas……and okra …..and corn…..and tomatoes……

  39. Don E. Latham

    My late dad loved molasses on his peas. I’m with Darrell on the mayo on peas.

  40. Willette Frazier

    I love peas – but UGH molasses.

  41. Jay Wright

    Have probably eaten millions of them in 66 years. Trying for a billion. 🙂

  42. Justin Pace

    Fresh peas with homemade pepper sauce and corn bread…add a few slices of onion and that is heaven.

  43. Mike Reaves

    Mayo in my beans & honey on my scrambled eggs…

  44. Joann Brown

    I couldn’t live without my peas.

  45. Steven Cone

    can eat my weight in fried – squaush, okera, tatters, Pintoes, butter beans, green beand cornbread

  46. Tish Gressang

    YES – field peas… this is the dish I remember my grandmother fixin’ from her garden-with okra… sure do miss this. I remember shelling them too when I was very young 🙂

  47. Any type of field peas cooked with lots of bacon and some fried grits to go with it. You can’t get much more Southern than that!

  48. As a child, I ate peas with a little ketchup. That was probably the way my wise mother got me to eat them. Several years and pounds later, I like them just fine w/o ANYthing except cornstick bread. Thank the Lord for all these blessings!

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