Black badger peas: ancient British pulses

May 7, 2014 8:25 am Published by 1 Comment

You’re not likely to find black badger peas on the shelves of your local supermarket. They’re unlikely, either, to crop up under that name on a standard pub-lunch blackboard or find their way into school dinner menus. And yet, they’ve been grown in Britain for at least 500 years, and under other names, are eaten with relish all over the country. We’ve just started to stock black badger peas from Hodmedod (a company that sources only UK-grown pulses) and thought it was time to find out a bit more about them.

Black Badger Peas

Nothing to do with badgers?

Black badger peas

Black badger peas are also known as ‘maple peas’, ‘pigeon peas’, ‘carlin’ or ‘carling peas’ (in Yorkshire), ‘black peas’ (in Lancashire), and ‘grey peas’ (in the Black Country). It’s thought that they originated in the gardens of the early monasteries, where their plants grew spectacularly high, with lovely blossom. We’re delighted that Hodmedod has found a way of sourcing them from British farms, allowing us to enjoy them without guilt about air-miles.

The peas themselves are small, hard and brownish and hold their shape well when cooked (although they’re preferred in a mushy form in many areas: ‘boil them to the back of beyond’ is a not untypical description in one northern food-blog on the subject). You could use them as a good, local, substitute for chickpeas or lentils in any number of dishes. Hodmedod have got a stash of recipes that use them, many of which should appeal to those in the south of the country too (all chopped basil and sun-dried tomatoes, you know).

But to honour their long tradition of use in this country, here’s two old northern recipes, using their old names:

Yorkshire Carlin Peas

According to local folklore, carlins began to be eaten during a siege of Newcastle in 1327, when only a cargo of these peas, from Norway, arriving in the nick of time just before Easter, saved the inhabitants from starvation. The peas are still traditionally eaten on the Sunday before Palm Sunday. (There’s a traditional saying about flatulence on the following Monday, but I’ll leave that to your imagination.)


200g carlin peas (black badger peas)

Pinch of salt

25g butter


Soak the peas overnight, then drain and boil for about 20 minutes. When cooked, but not too mushy, transfer to a frying pan in which you have heated the butter, and fry for two or three minutes. Serve with salt and pepper (or some prefer sugar and a splash of rum)!

Lancashire Parched Peas

Parching is an old term meaning long, slow boiling. These peas are traditionally served on Bonfire Night, or at fairgrounds. Anywhere outdoors, really, where you need something tasty and hot to wrap your hands around.


150g black peas (black badger peas)

1 tsp vegetable stock powder

2 tsp cider vinegar


Soak the peas overnight, then drain and boil – for an hour or longer, depending how northern you’re feeling at the time. When the peas are soft, drain them. Then add them to a mixture of cider vinegar (2 tsp) and stock powder (1 tsp), along with salt and pepper. Simmer this mixture for a further 10 minutes, then serve in small cups.

By ‘eck and eeh by gum, they’re good.

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This post was written by Sue

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