I’m going to show my Southern roots here a bit. My mom grew up in Southern Arkansas where butter beans and purple hull peas are a typical summer dish, always accompanied by cornbread. Even though they aren’t as commonly grown or eaten as they used to be, there is still a following of green-shelled lovers.
My mom and I frequently grow and sell Purple Hull Peas and Butter Beans (which are green limas). Some people know exactly what they are, and are happy to find them. Shelling peas or beans can be very relaxing and stress relieving. There are some that buy the peas for their older parents to sit and shell, as it can be a source of reminisce, opening the door for discussions and tales from long ago. It is also a chore that kids seem to enjoy, maybe it is something about getting to open each one of them up just like a present.
Purple Hull Peas are sometimes mistaken for some sort of green bean at the market. They do look a little like a purple pole bean. I had someone tell me the other day that they tried to snap them like green beans and had unfavorable results. Another issue is that they get confused with the spring peas, which are really an altogether different kind of pea.
Purple Hull Peas are cowpeas. They should be picked as soon as the pod just turns purple (immature pods are green). Once they turn purple they start drying out and soon become a dried pea similar to black-eyed peas. Shelling them while they are green and undried (green-shelled) gives them an altogether different flavor.
My mom remembers how her mom cooked purple hull peas. She would shell the peas, adding some snapped immature (still green) peas. Cook, simmered in a pan of water with some salt pork and a few pods of okra for at least a couple of hours. It can be cooked longer, and the okra can be removed before serving. Three pounds of peas makes a good portion with four ounces of salt pork (or another cured pork product, or even butter). This is so good served over a piece of cornbread with some cooked greens.
So, give them a try sometime, and let me know what you think!