Pea – Southern

Q: We are trying to find “White Acre” peas for planting in our garden. We cannot locate them anywhere and were wondering if they are known under another name. We had some of these at a diner for lunch and they were really tasty.

A: Before I tell you where to get the seed, let me educate you a bit about this favorite Southern food. According to M. J. Stephens at the University of Florida, there is great confusion among consumers about Southern peas. The first mix-up is if “cowpeas” and “Southern peas” are peas at all. In fact, they are beans, members of the Vigna genus, not the Pisum genus of true peas.

There are many different named varieties of Southern pea as well as many unnamed strains. Part of the confusion comes from folks who save their seed. One gardener might name his peas “Carolina Blackeye” and another might name the identical plant “Florida Straightpod”.

Here is a general guide to Southern pea identification according to Mr. Stephens:

Varieties with seeds that are so closely spaced that the seed ends are pressed against each other are called Crowders. Each seed has slightly blunted ends from this compression. Seed color varies, but is either concentrated around the seed-eye or is general all over the seed coat.
Those varieties that have no color are called Creams. Most of the cream peas are loosely spaced; they are also called ‘conch’ peas. Your ‘White Acre’ is a Cream pea. Colored hull peas like ‘Pinkeye Purple Hull’ and ‘Purple Tip Crowder’ are also common pea varieties.

All that said, my friend Willis Swint at Swint Seed & Feed in Jonesboro will be happy to sell you some ‘White Acre’ peas for your garden. As you’ve discovered, they make quite a tasty dish.