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The other day ago, I got a really exciting response to an older post:
Maybe you can help me find a “field pea” I have been looking for. My ancestors moved to Florida in the 1840′s and brought with them their favorite plants from Georgia and South Carolina. Ribbon cane for home made syrup, mustard green seeds, collards, sweet potatoes, corn and field peas. We had the pea seeds until a couple of years ago when our supply got damp and ruined. I have searched all over to find a supplier for the seeds. We called them running acre peas. They have very long pods and a robust vining growing habit. The pea itself is a small oval shape and very pale green with no color in the eye. They cook up to a light “pot licker” and are extremely tasty. If you know where I can get some of this seed, I would really like to know.
I am curious whether or not your family was part of the so-called “Florida Cracker,” culture or whether your roots are in the movement of African Americans into Florida as a part of the spread of slavery or escape. Either way this is very exciting. I’m very interested in the former culture, because there are so many links between the three cultures in Florida–white, black and Native American.
Since you gave me the name I did a bit of internet research. M.J. Stephens of the University of Florida tying the varieties of Vigna species. As you know the Vigna family is of African origin and is quite widespread. I’m calling your attention to group 8. The common name for them are “conch” or “conk” peas and my friend William Woys Weaver grows them for his seed bank in Pennsylvania. Seed Savers Exchange has it in their books and has growers that still raise them. I have seen this type of pea from Georgia through northern Florida so your family’s history matches up nicely with what we know of this variety of cowpea.
- Blackeye Group
The seeds are not crowded in the pods. They are white, with dark black eyes.
Examples: Ramshorn Blackeye, California Blackeye #5, Giant Ramshorn, Extra Early Blackeye, Blackeye Crowder, Queen Anne, and Royal Blackeye.
- Blackeye Crowder Group
Similar to regular blackeyes, except the seeds are crowded in the pods.
- Colored-eye Group
This group has seed-eye coloring other than black. Usually it is brown, tan, or pink. Seeds not crowded.
Examples: Alalong (Longhorn), Todd, Alabunch, Big Boy, Texas Big Boy, and Royal Pink Eye.
- Colored-eye Crowder Group
Same as above (No. 3), except seeds are crowded in pods. Includes Red “holstein eye” pattern.
Examples: Pinkeye Crowder, Browneye Crowder, White Pinkeye. Calico (Hereford), and Alabrowneye.
- Black Crowder Group
The Seeds are solid black when dry, purple when immature. Seed most always crowded.
Example: Black Crowder.
- Brown Crowder Group
Most crowders fit into this group, and most all brown seeds fit here. Some seeds are tan colored, with only slightly darker eyes.
Examples: Grown Crowder, Sugar Crowder, Silverskin Crowder, Alabama Crowder (not the same as Alacrowder), Mississippi Silverbrown, Jackson 21, Dixie-Lee, Producer, Calhoun Crowder, and Colossus.
- Speckle Crowder Group
Speckled blue seeds are moderately crowded in pods. Have largest seeds of the Southern peas.
Examples: Blue Goose (Gray Goose), Whittle, Speckled Java, Gray Crowder, and Taylor.
- Cream Group (Conch)
Seeds are light green or white, and relatively small. Cooking water comes out bright and clear. Since most creams are uncrowded, most fit into this group.
Examples: Floricream, Sadandy, Cabbage (Bush White Acre), Running Acre (Running Conch), Topset, Snapea, Climax, Bush Conch, White Acre, Terrace, Gentlemen, Texas Creams (40, 8 12 others), Elite, Freezegreen, Mississippi Cream, and Royal Cream.
- Cream Crowder Group
Uncolored seeds, but crowded in pods.
Examples: Lady Cream, Lady Finger (Rice or Catjang), White Sugar Crowder (actually have a colored eye, so would fit the colored-eye crowder group), Zipper Cream (also called Zipper Peas), Mississippi Silver, and Royal Cream Crowder.
- Purple Hull Group
Seed pods show some purple coloring, either at tip or all over. Seeds may or may not be crowded. Usually white peas with buff, brown, or pink eyes.
Examples: Jackson Purple Hull, Dixie Queen, Herbken, Knuckle Purple Hull, Pinkeye Purple Hull, Purple Tip Crowder, Purple Hull, Big Boy Purple Hull, Coronet, and Crimson.
- Field and Forage Group
This group includes all those grown most usually for forage cropping and soil improvement. However, they make o.k. table fare.
Examples: Iron, Clay, Whipporwill, New Era, Groit, Brabham, Victor, Arlington, Red Ripper, Columbia, Michigan Favorite, Chinese Red Pea, Coronet, and Tetapeche Gray.
- Long Pod Group
This group is characterized by having extra-long pods. Length ranges from over 10 inches up to 36 inches.
Example: An example of a 10-inch variety is ‘Snapea’ developed by Al Lorz in Florida. A long example would be the yard-long variety called ‘Yard-long Bean’ (Vigna unguiculata, subspecies sesquipedalis (L.) Verde. Its unusually long pods are borne on trailing, climbing vines reaching 9 to 12 feet in length, requiring trellising. The pods are snapped instead of being shelled.
Your family had mustard, collards, sweet potatoes, field peas, sorghum (ribbon cane) and corn. I would bet that they probably had watermelon, peanuts or (pindars), and some sort of hot pepper. I’m wondering if ya’ll grew okra as well. Let us know more about your family’s tradition!