Purple Hull harvesting questions

p_mac(7)July 6, 2010

Hey, Guys & Gals! Me again, with a few questions that I should probably be able to figure out but I'd really appreciate experienced advice.

Last Fall in the swap, I received purple hull pea & pinkeye cowpea seeds. I planted the purple hull this spring, saving the pinkeye for later. Well, they're grown like gang-busters! I fenced them with CRW to keep them separate from my bush green beans. They are producing long pods that mature to purple. Now for the questions:

Do I wait for the whole pod to turn purple before harvesting? So far I've "shelled" a few and they're a pale green pea inside. Is that right? They still have a slight "green" taste when eaten raw. Does that change after you cook them? Do I dry them to preserve them? How? or if I freeze them, I should blanch them after shelling, right? DH wants me to invest in a sheller, but I don't know that I want to do that yet. Is there an easier way? I read Soonergrandmom's thread from last year on beans and several others that contained advice from George, but none have told me when to harvest! One Google search said I could harvest when 50% of the pod was green, but that seem too early to me.

Any advice is greatly appreciated!


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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


You can harvest your Purplehull Pinkeye peas whenever you like, depending on how you want to use them, but I agree with the standard advice to shell them once they are 50% purple. If you harvest them earlier than that, they're impossible to shell but great as snaps. If you harvest them later, they may get too close to maturity and be more like mature dry peas than green mature ones.

GREEN SNAPS: You can harvest them as green snaps fairly early when the pods are narrow and fairly slim and you don't really see the seeds bulging inside the pods.

GREEN MATURE: You can harvest them at the mature green stage when the peas clearly bulge out to a certain degree in the pods and the hulls are purple. (Save the purple hulls for purplehull jelly.) This is generally when the pods are 50% purple. It often only takes a day or two for or three for purplehull pinkeye peas to go from 50% purple to fully purple, so check them daily.

DRY STAGE: You can leave them until the pods are fully purple and begin to turn a yellowish-tan and are starting to dry and harvest them to use as dried cowpeas. Harvest them before the pods begin splitting open on their own. I don't recommend this because dried southern peas are very cheap to buy so it wouldn't be the most productive use of your garden space. Fresh purplehull pinkeye peas, on the other hand, are almost impossible to find at stores, although sometimes you'll see them at Farmer's Markets for around $25 per bushel.

I cannot comment on how they taste raw and green because I don't eat them raw. Since I don't eat them raw, I don't know how the flavor of cooked ones is different from raw ones. I usually harvest and cook them at the green mature stage and use different seasonings for flavor at different times (salt, pepper, Cajun spices, chopped jalapenos, chopped onions, bacon, ham, salt pork, etc. whatever you like to use to give them extra flavor). So, cook them and flavor them to suit you. You are required, by the way, to always serve cornbread (homemade) with black-eyed peas to soak up the liquid!

FREEZING: I blanch them for a couple of minutes and freeze them. Dry peas are so cheap to buy that if all I wanted was dried peas, I'd buy them. I think you lose the 'fresh, just-picked' flavor when you dry them and later rehydrate them and cook them. Granted, your home-grown, planted and shelled peas still might taste better, but I am not sure it is worth the work when you can buy dry southern peas for next-to-nothing at the grocery store.

If you don't like them when shelled at 50% purple, try them when they're about 75% purple. Honestly, I pick them every 2nd or 3rd day and mine are always a mixture of half-purple, mostly purple, etc. with a few green snaps through in for good measure. It doesn't matter to me if they're 50% purple or 80%, I love them all.

I shell them the old-fashioned way.....by hand. Tim and I talked about buying a sheller last year, but never got around to it. I wouldn't spend my money on one unless I could see a demonstration and see how they handle the peas when they are at the green shell stage. I've seen complaints from some people who felt the shellers mangled too many of the peas. Maybe George or Carol have experience with the shellers or know someone who does.


    Bookmark   July 6, 2010 at 9:07PM
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Sorry, I have no experience with shellers, and not even much with shelling. LOL

We may need to start a thread on equipment to get some discussion because I also need to know what people are using to grate things. I like to make relish and my slicer/chopper bit the dust last year. I would buy a new food processor if I was sure it could do the things I want it to do, like (1) slice cukes for pickles (2) grate veggies for relish, (3) slice potatoes thin enough for potato chips, etc. I would love to have one that would grate cheese. I don't care about a juicer, and I have a separate grain mill, so that part doesn't matter. Sorry Paula, didn't mean to steal the thread.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2010 at 9:30PM
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I bought a sheller a few years ago. They work fine if you can stand some sloppy peas and beans. You also have to make sure you pick the pea or bean at the right time or damage is even worse. I even bought the stuff to power it with a battery or electric drill. I dont have a large garden anymore so I dont use it. I never hooked it up to a drill because I wanted to run it at a slow R.P.M.


    Bookmark   July 6, 2010 at 10:20PM
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I pick peas at all stages - just don't mix the dry ones with the others - save them for a separate batch. I do not like the shellers - they mangle the peas and leave a lot of mashed peas and trash that has to be removed (IMO)- besides I love shelling peas and snapping green beans because it gives me a valid excuse to sit on the porch and gaze around at the birds and flowers and not feel lazy. I second the motion on the cornbread - it is always required.
I freeze peas by just shelling and rinsing in a colander, let drain well and put into containers or ziploc freezer bags - I don't blanch - have always found them to be very good quality. I take a bag from the freezer - put a little bacon in the bottom of a pressure cooker and brown that, add peas and enough water to completely cover the peas plus another cup (peas will expand when cooked), add salt, a dab of sugar, and pepper, maybe a jalapeno and cook at 10# for about 5 minutes. Fantastic!

    Bookmark   July 6, 2010 at 10:49PM
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Carol - if you want a machine that literally does it all - invest in a KitchenAid mixer. I use it not only for the traditional mixing...it has attachments that I use to shred my zuchini for baking, chop/gring my cukes for relish (IT'S PERFECT!) and I also use the meat grinder attachment since DH is a BIG deer hunter. It also makes perfect slices for pickles, potatoe chips, etc. I've had mine for 15 years and the motor is still as good as new. Also mind you, my 2 daughters and I put this machine to WORK around the holidays in addition to all the other times I use it. This was a gift long ago, but I'd willingly spend the $ all over again IF it went out. I just flat can't do without it.

No prob on re-directing the thread. Any useful info is good for all!

And thank so very much to others for the info!!! Glad to know all the opinions about the shellers, which I kinda suspected. I think I feel better about what I've harvested and DEFINTTELY feel more confident about what to do with it!


    Bookmark   July 6, 2010 at 11:06PM
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