Purple. Hull. Peas.

by Stefani on 17-July-2008

Just three little words.

That’s all it took to send me back in time.

Three little words hastily painted in black, on a whitewashed board, “Purple Hull Peas.”


Cars sped by the little stand and the little old woman, barely visible behind her bushel baskets of peas. Perhaps those passersby did not know the meaning of the words, but I do. I know what purple hull peas mean.

They mean summer in East Texas.

They mean swatting at mosquitos and swapping stories on the back porch.


They mean purple thumbs and forefingers for days and days.

They mean well worn hands teaching eager new ones the time honored art of shelling.
Passing It On

They mean a familiar “clink, plink, plonk,” as they hit the enamel pan – it might as well be Popo’s fiddle, playing our song, the way the sound of those peas makes my heart dance.

My Granny was even more excited than I was.

She rocked and shelled, smiling all the while, and told my fellas about the old days when her mama and daddy would treat her and her brothers to a drive in movie, providing they would agree to shell peas while they watched.

Purple Hull Peas

She told them how her Daddy, my Popo, loved those peas so much that he ate them with every meal but breakfast for as long as she could remember.

She told them that the cows considered those leftover hulls a treat of the first order.

She told my men too, that they were “world class shellers” and made them promise to “sit and shell awhile” with her again next summer.

We shelled, we did, for five hours (well, the Granny and the Mama did anyhow). Five hours in which a thread that runs through my Granny’s childhood, and my mothers, and mine as well, was woven into the fabric of my own little men’s lives so that one day, far from now, three little words, “purple hull peas” will mean, “home, family, comfort and love.”

Shellin' Too
Julie Alvarez July 17, 2008 at 7:07 pm

Stefani, this post is entirely beautiful and touching; from the first word to the last one. I have nothing like that in my family traditions, but nonetheless your words and pictures took me back to my childhood, and I could share this sentiment with you instantly. As if I always shelled purple hull peas with my granny. Thank you.
And I must add that I adore images and words about old people with little people and the way they share their knowledge and passes them by.

Grace July 17, 2008 at 7:32 pm

This is so lovely. Just the kind of good stuff I come here for.

And, can I please marry your banner?!!

mountain mama July 17, 2008 at 7:40 pm

I’ve never had purple hull peas. Never heard of them before now, actually.

This was a lovely post. My grandma didn’t pass on her gardening and preserving wisdom to my mom, telling her instead that it is easier and cheaper to buy it at the store. So when I ask my mom what she remembers, it’s very little because she was always shooed out the door. What I know now is self-taught and through trial and error and picking up tips here and there from other people and books I’ve read.

I am glad you are already cherishing those moments with your grandma and your mom and now passing it on to your boys, which is what I am doing with my kids.

Relyn July 17, 2008 at 7:51 pm

How wise you are. Strengthening bonds between generations is a priceless gift we give our children, whether it is purple hull peas, crochet, or even shopping. My husband’s mother is the cooking and sewing grandma. My Mom is known as the shopping grandma. My daughter loves it all, and I know she has the best of both worlds.

I have come to believe that there is no gift like family stories, told and retold, passed down through generations like the priceless heirlooms they are. Happy PHP Day to you all.

Corynne Escalante July 17, 2008 at 8:54 pm

beautiful. thanks for sharing.

i just shelled my first normal peas this summer. it was fun. i kept thinking about old ladies sitting in rockers on the porch…

YayaOrchid July 17, 2008 at 9:27 pm

Funny how mundane things and even smells can bring back an onslaught of childhood memories. I could feel what you were feeling as you shared your story. Thank you!

Thimbleina July 18, 2008 at 12:18 am

I have never seen those purple hull peas before.

Great memories and family history, I love that passing down of what other family members liked and did from older generations

Emma July 18, 2008 at 12:52 am

What a coincidence as on the other side of the world I was writing this…


don’t you just love this time of year when you get to eat what you’ve sown? emma ;0)

Kathi D July 18, 2008 at 2:43 am

That picture of your granny’s hands looks so much like my late mama, right down to the checked shirt and pants, that I shed a nostalgic tear or two.

A lovely, lovely essay.

Lynn July 18, 2008 at 5:20 am

It is fun that around the world there are so many people shelling peas together! Those look beautiful. We used to shell peas with my grandmother. It was a real social event.

elissa July 18, 2008 at 5:23 am

this is officially my favorite post from anyone, anywhere. i have no familiarity with purple hull peas, but i shelled peas with my own grandmother and i know that rhythm and that plopping sound. the pictures of the peas are GORGEOUS and the pic of your grandmother’s hands shelling alongside your son’s… YEESH! you’re killing me here girl! Those pictures ought to be blown up and framed all around your kitchen. beautiful stefani! (and i’m not looking for a slice of pie!)

gonzomama July 18, 2008 at 5:34 am

This post brings back so many memories of us visiting my Ma-ma and Pa-pa in the summers and shelling black eyed peas. Thank you! (and I love the photos)

Casey July 18, 2008 at 5:36 am

Beautiful! And I’ll take extra care cooking purple-hull pea soup today, knowing how precious those peas are.

Mandy July 18, 2008 at 5:45 am

For me it was cracking green beans into big bushel baskets. We use to groan and complain but secretly looked forward to it. It meant my mama, my mamaw and my aunt Mimi on all the porch with sweet tea, trading stories and recipes and cracking beans as fast as their hands could move. Wonderful post, as always. Thank you for sharing it.

beki July 18, 2008 at 5:48 am

Oh gosh, this brings back some memories. I’m craving purple hull peas now.

Sarah July 18, 2008 at 5:56 am

My high school boyfriend came from a family from southern MO, and they introduced me to both black eyed peas and purple hull. His mother used to make this really delicious canned relishy type thing with the purple hulls. Yummmy.

Regina July 18, 2008 at 7:16 am

What a lovely memory – thanks for sharing it!

Jennifer July 18, 2008 at 8:52 am

Never has such a humble legume been so elevated! Great story.

nicole July 18, 2008 at 10:59 am

what a wonderful treat!

miss chris July 18, 2008 at 1:27 pm

Never had these, but now I wann’em. Your writing is such a gift! 🙂

Heidi July 18, 2008 at 1:37 pm

This post made me cry. Growing up I was always helping my Grandma do things like can, shell peas, snap green beans, weed the garden, collect eggs from the chickens, picking blackberries and making a cobbler.. just all that good growing up in the country stuff. My grandmother has cancer right now and probably won’t be around for much longer; her days of baking and canning went long ago. You are so lucky to still have your Granny. And bless you that you realize what a treasure you have in her.

SpiderWomanKnits July 18, 2008 at 4:50 pm

Lovely post. Picture perfect in every sense. I don’t think I have any childhood memories like that. Yours description is so vivid I got to relive it vicariously. Thanks.

Maggie Ann July 18, 2008 at 7:47 pm

What a sweet nostalgic post! I feel relaxed as I enjoy it, almost as if I were part of the family. And…I’m very glad to hear that you welcomed my Bisquick recipe. =) for some reason my pc threw your comment into the spam. The nerve of it! grin. I was hunting a missing email with a swap address in it and found your comment. btw,your pictures are so beautiful…

leslie July 18, 2008 at 9:23 pm

wonder if i can get these and grow them here in so cal? they sound delightful!

Carolyn July 19, 2008 at 5:10 am

What precious time with Granny. And what a great summer memory you are creating with your kids!

Mama Urchin July 19, 2008 at 7:57 am

For me I have this feeling with snapping beans. Sitting on my grandmother’s patio. I must figure out a way for my urchins to snap beans with her.

Christina July 19, 2008 at 5:35 pm

What a luscious comment! I love childhood memories like these! I am convinced that God gives us children so we can relive our own childhoods through them…and its doubly amazing the second time! Thanks for the story! Makes me want to reminisce now…

Janeen July 20, 2008 at 4:25 pm

Ok, after that post I MUST HAVE THE PURPLE HULL PEAS. Where can I get them…can I grow them in hot Southeast Colorado, and how are they cooked???

Leslie July 20, 2008 at 4:30 pm

those are beautiful pictures and a really beautiful story. It is so nice to have those kinds of memories

PlummyMommy July 20, 2008 at 4:39 pm

What a wonderful post about peas. I grew up on a farm in East Tx where we raised purple and creme peas. I remember picking peas at 5:00am in the morning and then shelling peas all nights.

I’m curious. Where in E. Texas did you see someone selling peas? Was it near I-20?

melissa s. July 20, 2008 at 6:14 pm

i cry alot when i read your posts. in a good way 🙂

Shawn July 20, 2008 at 8:16 pm

Completely beautiful.

Katie July 21, 2008 at 11:01 am

What lovely memories and precious times.

I have never heard of this type of pea, is it a black eyed type? I just planted the fall crop of sugar snap and green shellin’ peas. Can’t wait..

Expat Chef July 21, 2008 at 2:41 pm

I love this. We just shelled the few I grew this summer. My little one is learning to shell them. Have a few smoked ham hocks on hand and waiting for more peas. Love the peach story as well. Very true, they taste like nothing if picked too soon!


dianeinjapan July 22, 2008 at 12:43 pm

Oh, purple hull peas! My dad absolutely loves them; my aunt cans them every summer. It’s been years since I’ve shelled any, but you’ve brought back for me that “plink, plonk” sound they make when they hit the pail!

OMSH July 27, 2008 at 2:51 pm

I know.
I love it.
Why do you think I’m hankering to plant so badly.

Joyce July 29, 2008 at 3:55 pm

Just went to our small farmer’s market this afternoon, spotted a basket of purple hulled peas, and had an instant flashback of my Mother, who loved these peas. I bought only two pounds, came home and started shelling them. My Mother passed away several years ago, so its great to have a flashback, even if its shelling peas. When I finished, I told my husband that Mother would say – “we have a good mess of peas”. Thanks for the pictures.

Zuni August 7, 2008 at 12:46 pm

Best tasting pea ever!

Edward Lum August 17, 2008 at 4:35 pm

I am looking for Purple Hull Crowders for the freezer . Where can I buy them? I have looked all over town in Las Vegas ,NV. and can’t find them anywhere. I would like a price and place to buy peas for the freezer.
Ed Lum

Bill Dailey August 23, 2008 at 12:53 pm

From all of us the Emerson, Arkansas, PurpleHull Pea Festival, thanks so much for reminding us why we honor this legume each year.

A lovely story about purple hull peas – and life.

Bill Dailey, Pea-R Guy
PurpleHull Pea Festival & World Championship Rotary Tiller Race
Emerson, Arkansas USA

waylon neese September 17, 2008 at 1:01 pm

Does anyone know of a company that will ship green purple hulls. on ice maybe?

stefanie September 20, 2008 at 10:14 am

Great post!

Great pictures too.

Found your blog because I got some purple hull peas at the farmer’s market today. I have no past memories; they were just too beautiful to pass up. Got butter beans too…

Oh, and I like your first name 😉

Cyndy T-Georgia October 7, 2008 at 8:43 am

I am cooking for our Church Family Night Dinner on Wednesday night and found some fresh frozen Purple Hull Peas and wasn’t for sure if they were also called Black Eye Peas, so I did a google serach and found your blog. If you can believe I found fresh frozen Purple Hull Peas at our local Walmart, packaged fresh from Jefferson, GA.

I grew up spending my summers in Middle Georgia in a small town called Tennille. My Grandmother and I would sit out on the screen porch and we would shell all sorts of different locally grown peas, but the Purple Hull Peas I remember most because my fingers would be purple for days. I really hadn’t thought much about those days in a long time. Reading this made me think back on those precious times together.

skelley44@peoplepc.com March 27, 2009 at 5:17 am

i would like to no where i can buy the peas seed

Floridagirl August 7, 2009 at 8:32 am

I MISS purple hull peas. Live in Colorado now and am happy BUT food is memories and I MISS purple hulls and whiteacres and fried okra and whole fried redbellies and bluegills and collards and good sausage…the list goes on. To offset my whining, I LIKE looking at the mountains every day, low, low humidity, change of seasons, wide open spaces, geese honking, prarie dogs and small local restaurants.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: