Our purview extends just over the Louisiana state line and on into Texas where our roots grew deep for many years.

This weekend, Shankleville is hosting its first Purple Hull Pea Festival and one imagines it will be the hotspot of Newton County as the area morphs into the epicenter of the cowpea universe.

What are purple hull peas? They are reminiscent of blackeyes but more delicate. At this time of year in East Texas near the Louisiana line they are abundant and regularly carried in country grocery stores as well as by vendors at area flea markets. Your Mayhaw berry connection can probably hook you up with a pint or two.

Here’s what to expect at the pea party:

1) Contests (pea-picking, pea-shelling, and pea-shooting)

2) Classes (pea growing, pea cooking and pea preserving)

3) Participation in “FoodStory”-telling – the oral histories about how the peas were grown, cooked, preserved, sold, etc. in years past in the Deep East Texas region

4) A Symposium featuring speakers (Toni Tipton Martin!) with expertise in the history of farming, food (especially Purple Hull Peas) and their connection to the cultural context of Deep East Texas

5) A Farmers’ Market featuring Purple Hull Peas and other fresh produce

As Texas is not Louisiana it appears as though there will not be a Purple Hull Pea Queen. One of the great niches of festival life in the Bayou State is the culture of crowned queens. You can’t have a party in our state without a young gal being awarded a rhinestone tiara. That’s just not how we do it.

Work will prevent us from attending this inaugural festival but we will be there in spirit.

If you go:

Dates: Friday June 20th and Saturday June 21st 2014

Place: Shankleville Texas at the Addie L. and A.T. Odom Homestead

Website: http://www.shankleville.org/purple-hull-festival.html

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