California black-eye peas are available year-round, are inexpensive, and can be found in any well-stocked supermarket near the rice, or check the ethnic food section. You may need to visit a health-food store for more exotic varieties.
Packaged or loose, select peas that look clean, are not shriveled, and are uniformly sized with even color and uncracked hulls. Discard any pebbles, as well as any peas with pinholes, a sign of insect infestation.
Some varieties of California black-eye peas are available canned. They offer convenience but are rather mushy and very salty, although researchers have found that rinsing them under cold running water for one minute eliminates up to 60 percent of the added salt.
If stored properly, they can last for a year or more when dried. If packaged, keep them in their unopened bag. Once open, or if you bought them in bulk, store them in a dry, airtight glass jar in a cool, dark spot. Store cooked ones in an airtight container for up to one week in the refrigerator or freeze for up to six months.
California Black-Eye Pea Preparation and Serving Tips
When cooking, it's best to plan ahead; they do not qualify as "fast" food. It's best to soak overnight for six to eight hours. This softens the peas, reduces the cooking time, and removes the gas-promoting undigestible carbohydrates.
But if you haven't planned far enough ahead, you can quick-soak them (although you'll end up with less-firm ones): Put the peas in water and boil for one minute, turn off the heat, and let them stand in the same water for one hour.
After soaking, discard any ones that float to the top, throw out the soaking water (which contains the gas-producing indigestible carbohydrates), and add fresh water to the pot before cooking. Add enough water to cover by two inches.
In the next section, we'll discuss the health benefits of black-eyed peas.