A Purple Hull Pea Salad

Pea Picking Memories

Picking and shelling purple hull peas during my childhood summers will forever be ingrained in my head.

Every summer, with large brown paper sacks in tow, my mom and sisters and I would make our way a few miles down the road to my Aunt Carolyn and Uncle Max’s house to pick their purple hull peas. Neither my sisters nor I were ever excited to pick peas out in the blazing hot sun. We complained way too much and my mom, bless her heart, tried a million ways to convince us it was a good practice. [It finally did pay off, mom]

So there we were out in the pea field, swatting wasps and bees with sweat dripping down our faces, looking for the perfect string of pea pods to put in our brown paper sacks. We would then make our way home and shell each pea pod by hand, in the end staining our hands purple. The process took well over half a day, if not a full day. Sleep always seemed sweeter on those days. It’s the best kind of hard, tiring work I know.

Therefore I must say, I am rather partial to purple hull peas. Their sweetness, their color, their Southern-ness, I love everything about them. They have always been an important food in my life, a staple in my diet.

Purple Hull Pea Salad

A New Version: Purple Hull Pea Salad

Now that I’m grown and my taste buds have matured to an extensive degree, the thought of turning these peas into something more than a vegetable seasoned with salt & pepper intrigued me to no end. So after mulling over the idea for several minutes, my mind settled on a Mediterranean-inspired version since it is the cuisine I now prefer for it’s anti-inflammatory properties and health benefits. Because of this, my cooking style always ends up as some hybrid version of Southern + Mediterranean.

So that’s what happened here: a purple hull pea salad that combines lemon, extra virgin olive oil, basil, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, and pine nuts. The sweetness of the purple hull peas and sun-dried tomatoes perfectly balance the tanginess of the lemon juice. I may or may not have eaten an entire recipe in one sitting. It is that delicious!

When my daughter is old enough, I hope to take her pea picking in the summers, me bursting with excitement and her sounding off complaints with which I’m all too familiar. We’ll spend the day picking and shelling peas, blanching and freezing them. Then for dinner, I will make this purple hull pea salad as an ode to summer and vegetable gardens. And I can only hope that one day this experience inspires my daughter’s creativity in the kitchen and teaches her the importance of hard work as it has for me. Picking peas can teach you many things if you let it. 

purple hull pea salad

The Recipe

A Purple Hull Pea Salad
Serves: 2
  • 2 cups purple hull peas, blanched and frozen
  • ¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes, preferably not packed in oil
  • ¼ cup fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 4 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 4 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • salt, to taste
  1. Add frozen peas plus a pinch of salt to a small saucepan. Cover with water (roughly ½-inch above peas).
  2. Bring peas to a boil, then simmer for approximately 20 minutes (or until peas are soft and tender).
  3. Drain peas in colander, let cool, then add to a small salad bowl.
  4. Toss peas with 2 teaspoons each of lemon juice and olive oil. Set aside.
  5. Meanwhile, prepare dressing ingredients by adding 2 teaspoons each lemon juice and olive oil, ¼ cup basil leaves, 1 garlic clove, and a dash of salt to a small blender and blend on high until ingredients are chopped and combined. If you don't have a blender that's small enough, you can finely chop all the ingredients, add them to a mason jar, and shake to combine.
  6. Add the lemon-basil dressing to peas and toss to combine.
  7. Lightly toast pine nuts in a small skillet pan over medium heat (to know when they're ready, they should be fragrant and lightly browned).
  8. Top purple hull peas with sun-dried tomatoes and pine nuts.
  9. You can serve immediately, though it's best when marinated in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Looking for more salad recipes? Check out these:

Purple Hull Pea Salad



About Kim Suddeath

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