Black peas, also called parched peas or maple peas, form a traditional Lancashire dish served often on or around Bonfire Night (5 November). The dish, popular in Rochdale, Oldham, Wigan, Bury and Bolton, is made from the purple podded pea (Pisum sativum var. arvense) which is soaked overnight and simmered to produce a type of mushy pea. Parching is a now defunct term for long slow boiling.
Black peas are commonly found at fairgrounds and mobile food counters. They are traditionally eaten from a cup with salt and vinegar. They can be served hot or cold, the former being especially popular in the winter months. At fairgrounds they were traditionally served in white porcelain mugs and eaten with a spoon. In more recent years they are served in thick white disposable cups. Many people fail to re-create the same taste black peas provide when bought at a funfair. In the "world famous" Bury Market and in Preston parched peas are sold ready cooked and served in brown paper bags or in plastic tubs, as an autumn delicacy.
Consumption is limited to certain areas within the historical boundaries of Lancashire, notably Oldham, Wigan, Bury, Rochdale, Preston, Stalybridge, Leigh, Atherton, Tyldesley and Bolton. A similar dish, although prepared slightly differently, is made in the north-east of England and parts of Cumbria. Carlin peas are a traditional staple of Carlin Sunday (the Sunday before Palm Sunday). Other names given are pigeon peas (not to be confused with the tropical pigeon pea (Cajanus cajan), black badgers and brown badgers. Unlike the Lancashire black peas, Carlin peas are fried with butter for a few minutes and are often boiled for an hour rather than being slow boiled for up to three hours. They are also served fried and seasoned with vinegar and black pepper.
The availability of black peas is seasonal, being typically available from the end of October and throughout November. They are available from local stores and also pet shops (as the peas are a good carp bait) although these may not necessarily be food grade.
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- Society for Folk Life Studies (1964). "Carlin Peas". Folk Life (9). ISSN 0430-8778.