It is hot, hot, hot! The grass is dying, trees are losing their leaves like it's autumn, and the sun on my skin really hurts in only 15 minutes. Nothing moves around outside past noon, even in the shade. Our one-eyed yard squirrel, affectionately named "Chomper" by the girls, has been seen laying in a crook of one of our trees, languishing in the heat, not bothering to move away from us when we approach her, mouth wide open with a look that begs us to put her out of her misery. Poor Chomper, I wonder how she gets water when it has not rained in weeks. I hope she comes out tonight when I water the lawn to get a good, long drink.
About the only thing loving the heat and the relentless sun are our black eyed peas. We got them started late, but they are one of the only things our garden is producing right now. One of our friends who got them started much earlier has more black eyed peas than he knows what to do with, and we were recipients of so many black eyed peas that we ended up giving some of them away!
Shelling fresh black eyed peas on the porch, waiting in vain for a bit of rain
Surprisingly, the girls really like to shell beans. They think it's fun to sit on the porch and chat together for an hour at a time, laughing at the way the more mature pods open up like zippers. Sitting with them, shelling beans together, made me feel like we had been transported back in time. I felt very old-fashioned, like the only thing we were missing were petticoats. I marveled at the way the conversation seemed to flow effortlessly and how Anna did not get tired of cackling every time a black eyed pea jumped down her shirt. Shelling beans seems to be good "therapy" - it inspires conversation and social interaction and it is a good tactile fine-motor activity as well. Black eyed peas also happen to be tasty and good for your health, which makes them an all-purpose legume in our house.
I have never been a fan of dried black eyed peas or the way they turn mushy when you cook them. However, I could be a slave to fresh black eyed peas! Their taste is delicate and fresh and I love their texture - when they are cooked to just tender the skins pop in your mouth. Shelling fresh black eyed peas is a lot of work, but it's so worth it! So far, the recipe below (based on this recipe here) is my favorite way to cook fresh black eyed peas. I make them with chicken broth and smoked sausage, but you could substitute vegetable broth instead and leave out the sausage for a vegan version of this dish.
I like fresh black eyed peas served over sauteed greens, such as spinach or chard.
Fresh Black Eyed Peas
1 medium onion, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, minced
about 1 pound fresh black eyed peas
1 tbsp. lime juice
1 tbsp. hot sauce (I like Tabasco Chipotle)
smoked sausage, cut lengthwise into 2 inch chunks
1 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro, plus more to garnish
salt and pepper to taste
2 large scallions, white and green parts sliced thinly
Place the onion, garlic and black eyed peas in a pot. Pour in enough chicken broth to just barely cover the peas - you want this dish to be thick, not soupy. Stir in the lime juice, hot sauce, cilantro and smoked sausage. Add salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer about 45 minutes until the peas are tender, stirring often to prevent sticking. Turn off the heat. Adjust the salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste. Stir in the scallions and garnish with chopped fresh cilantro, if desired. Serve hot over rice or cornbread.