Purple Hull Pea and Mixed Heirloom Tomato Salad

Purple Hull Pea and Mixed Heirloom Tomato Salad

Sometimes I read cookbooks for inspiration rather than to rigorously follow specific recipes.  This is why I prefer to see a breadth of work from a particular author rather than searching for recipes on the internet - which I also admittedly do because the Google Overlord is a fantastic indexer and sometimes you just need to know how many cups of flour go into zucchini bread and move on with your life. 

The particular recipe I'm sharing today was inspired by Sheri Castle's The New Southern Garden Cookbook.  Ms. Castle is well known in Chapel Hill, NC and beyond from her recent TV show The Key Ingredient, but before TV stardom she has always been known as a fabulous cookbook writer and storyteller

As is often the case, I think John T. Edge described The New Southern Garden and the importance of vegetables to southern cuisine best:

Barbecue garners more ink.  Fried chicken tops more deathbed requests.  But we southerners have long defined our great workaday cooks by their expertise with vegetables.  In the hands of Sheri Castle, garden goods get their due, through recipes for Blasted Asparagus, Shell Bean Gratin, and Creamed Collard and Country Ham Pot Pie.

So, for Farmers' Market Week 2023 at the Carrboro Farmers' Market, we' are honoring her work by sharing a salad recipe inspired by Ms. Castle's 'Lady Pea and and Mixed Heirloom Tomato Salad' recipe...but with a twist that features my absolute favorite late-summer ingredient, Pink Eye Peas (also known as Purple Hull Peas).

Pink Eye (or Purple Hull) field peas are nutty with a satisfying chewiness and are more readily available in the Triangle area.  When I picked these peas up prior to market, Micheal Brinkley of Brinkley Farms told me that a person could guess which region in North Carolina a person came from based on the variety of field pea their family preferred.  His grandmother wouldn't eat anything other than a Pink Eye Pea and his family still freezes them to eat in Hoppin' John on New Years Day.  If a person were from Eastern or Southern North Carolina, they likely preferred Dixie Lee Crowder Peas.  And folks in the Central and Western Part of the state (where Sheri Castle originated) covet the delicate creaminess of Lady Peas.  Personally, I like all of them. 

Wherever you hail from, I hope you pick up a bag of these delicious summer treats and try them in this wonderful, hearty summer salad.  And that maybe it inspires you to find as many ways that you can to support your local farmers' markets.

Farmer’s Market Pink Eye Pea Salad

Inspired by Sheri Castle’s ‘Lady Pea and Mixed Heirloom Tomato Salad’ in The New Southern Garden Cookbook (page 125)

1 pound shelled purple hull peas

4 tablespoons extra-vigrin olive oil

2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

1 lemon, zested and juiced

1 small garlic clove, finely chopped

2 tablespoons mayonnaise (Real talk: I’m calling for Duke’s, but you can use your favorite.)

½ cup red onion, finely diced

1 cup heirloom tomatoes, diced

1 cup cucumbers, diced

1 bunch parsley leaves, roughly chopped

1 handful fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

6 oz. of feta cheese, crumbled (optional)


Cook the Peas:

  1. Place shelled and washed peas in a saucepan and cover with water, leaving one inch of water above the peas. Bring water to a boil, then season with 1 heaping teaspoon of salt.  Boil the peas for approximately 15 minutes, then taste a pea to see if it is tender and just a little bit chewy.  Note that cooking times differ by size and freshness of the pea, so do not be alarmed if you have to cook the peas a bit longer, just keep tasting them after 5 minute cooking intervals until they are done. 
  2. Drain the peas and run cold water over them to cool them.

 Assemble the dressing:

  1. In a small bowl mix the olive oil, vinegar, lemon zest and juice, garlic clove, and mayonnaise. Whisk to combine.  Set bowl aside.

 Assemble the salad:

  1. In a large bowl place cooled purple hulled peas, red onion, tomatoes, cucumbers, parsley, basil, and feta cheese (optional).
  2. Pour dressing on top of the vegetable mixture and gently mix salad until all /the components come together. Add salt and pepper to taste.  Enjoy!

8/13/2023 EDIT:  The printed version of the recipe handed out at the Carrboro Farmers' Market event had some minor typos.  I've cleaned them up in this post, so if you have any questions please use this version.