One of my favorite things about summer is that fresh Southern field peas are easy to find, at least around Birmingham and other places in the South. One particular type of field pea—lady peas—are probably my all-time favorite summer ingredient, and I love to cook up a pot to serve warm as a side—or turn them into a lovely salad as I’ve done here. It’s a versatile side, full of fresh summer flavor. It goes on repeat around here all throughout the season. Be sure to scroll below for more info on lady peas.
About Lady Peas
Lady peas are a type of Southern field pea with a clean flavor and less-starchy texture than other varieties, such as crowder peas or pink-eye peas/purple hull peas. They have a delicate flavor and wonderful creamy texture that is just something special. If I’m cooking up a pot to enjoy as a warm side dish, I’ll first sauté onions, then add the peas, bay leaves, thyme sprigs, and chicken stock to cover. Once the peas reach the level of tenderness I like, I’ll take them off the stove and just let them sit for a bit. I find that this step (letting them rest) produces amazing results—the creamiest texture throughout. For this salad, though, I like to keep the texture a teensy bit firmer, so I skip that step. Here’s what shelled lady peas look like:
Aren’t they pretty? Well, I think they are. I can usually find them easily from June till late July at farmers markets and farm stands. Here’s a little more about lady peas from the good folks at Southern Living, if you care to learn more about them. If I can ever find them still in their pods (surprisingly hard to find), I snatch them up—because shelling peas is one of my favorite things to do.
You can turn this salad into a main by adding some protein—some grilled chicken or shrimp, sliced steak, or my favorite, seared scallops: