Get over your fear of shucking. Fresh black-eyed peas are worth unzipping a pod for. They taste light and bright, unlike the more earthy but still delicious black-eyed peas cooked from dried. Other highly shuckable legumes include field peas, butter beans, lima beans, shellies, and cowpeas. Often you can find bags of shelled fresh legumes at the farmers’ market, but it’s easy to DIY.
I get bags of black-eyed peas from Beth of Wild Onion Farms. She said many people stop by her stand to say how much they love the fresh legumes, but then don’t buy. Too mysterious? Too much work? Hung up on whether to say shucking, shelling, or popping?
Don’t let this keep you from bringing home the beans. In just a few minutes, you can reveal an ingredient that can elevate summer meals. It only takes Beth about 10 minutes to shell a pound of beans, enough to feed two people. It takes me about 15 minutes. Because you don’t have to soak fresh peas or beans, they can actually help you get dinner on the table faster.
The classic place to shell fresh peas and beans is on the porch while chatting with your kinfolk, but you can do it while watching TV or listening to music. After a busy day, you might prefer just to enjoy the peas and quiet.
How to Shell Fresh Black-Eyed Peas and Field Peas
- Rinse the pods and compost or toss any that are mushy. Set out a bowl or colander to catch your bounty.
- Pick up a pod and squeeze it so that the side seam opens. Sometimes with greener pods, I use a paring knife to make a little cut in the seam to get the unveiling started.
- Pull the pod apart and let the peas drop into your waiting container. Nudge any lingering legumes. Squeeze, peel, and drop with the remaining pods.
Next step, see my recipe for Fresh Black-Eyed Peas with Summer Vegetables.
If you have youngish, still flexible pods, don’t compost them yet. Marcella Hazan, the authority on Italian cooking, recommends peeling the inner membrane away from shelled pods, then boiling the peeled pods to make broth or soup. I’m going to try this with my next batch.