> Harvesting fresh purple-hulled peas:
While purple-hulled peas and okra are in season, Howdy Farmers spend their summer weekday mornings harvesting the two crops. The reason for harvesting each day is because the crops mature quickly. If not paid attention to, you’ll miss your peas’ prime and end up with oversized okra.
When pea pods are green and look like string beans, they aren’t ready - although they can be picked early and eaten like green beans if you’d like. But to cook the peas, wait for purple pods. Soon, the color will start to turn and become a mixture of green and purple. The pods should start feeling full and crisp, with visible lumps where the peas and forming inside. Each day you wait to harvest, the peas will quickly change color. If they look 50 percent purple one day, wait another until they look 75 percent purple. Perfect peas are a nice, deep purple – but we don’t always go for perfection! Once the peas turn purple, you only have a few days to harvest before they become soft or dried out. For fresh purple-hulled peas, harvest the crisp, full, mostly-purple pods. When shelled, the fresh peas will have a color ranging from green to greenish-white with a pinkish-purple dot or “eye.”
Hence why these purple-hulled peas are also called “pink eye” rather than “black eye” peas. Black-eyed peas and pink-eyed peas are all part of a group of peas called Southern Peas. Each is simply named based on the color of the “eye” of the pea.
See those white flowers on your pea plant? Those are edible, too! Harvest for a little extra garnish for dinner parties. The flowers have a slight, raw bean taste. Be cautious not to harvest too many pea flowers or else you will diminish the plants pea producing capabilities.
> Collecting purple-hulled pea seed:
If your plants were forgotten and the pods are drying out – let them. You can harvest the seed for next year. Pick out pods that feel crunchy to the touch and look dried, losing color and turning brown. Each day come back to see if more pods are ready. Collect the dried out pods. Sit down over a big container and peel the pod apart to reveal the peas. Dried out peas will look green-ish. Save the good ones, tossed the shriveled ugly ducklings. Store them in a paper bag until next season.
> Harvesting okra
Currently at the farm we have two varieties of okra growing. Hill Country Red okra is a combination of red and green. When mature, our okra appears mostly green with some hints of red. What is unique about this variety is the width of the okra. Unlike most, the fruit is very thick. Though they may look fat, the pod is still very tender. Keep an eye on the okra plants because as fast as the purple hulls change color, your okra will be growing big in no time.
At Howdy Farm, we’ve seen the Hill Country Red variety produce big, fat, green okra. Our other variety we have growing, Bowling Red, produces long, slender, red okra. We are playing around with different varieties to find out what grows best and what our customers and we find most delicious!
Most people prefer to harvest okra when young and smaller as they tend to be more tender. Okra is best when about two to three inches long, before it becomes tough. Find the okra that fits your desires and use shears to cut the stem just below where the okra starts to form. You may want to use gloves as okra leaves your hands feeling forever slimy. Sleeves come in handy, too, as okra leaves tend to scratch and itch the skin.
Do the okra flowers look familiar? The plant is in the same family as hibiscus. You can use the flowers as part of an edible arrangement. They make a pretty garnish but aren’t so yummy to the taste.
Photos and blog by Jessica Newman