Carlin Sunday – Carlins
Do you remember Carlin Sunday? Carlins seem to have dropped out of favour nowadays. But when I was a lad in the northeast of England, we used to have Carlin peas also called Maple peas, Black peas or Pigeon peas once a year on the Sunday before Palm Sunday. It was a yearly tradition in much of the north and on Carlin Sunday even the local pubs and clubs would provide bowls of them free for their customers.
These small black peas were mentioned in Elizabethan times, and in all probability carlins would have been grown by monks of the early Middle Ages, in the monastery gardens. In those days beans and peas were a large part of the staple diet. The six-foot high plants produce abundant crops and can be eaten when fresh, or dried for use in the winter months.
There was even a rhyme that mentioned them.
Tid, Mid, Miserai
Carlin, Palm, Paste egg day.
We shall have a holiday,
bonny frocks on Easter day.
Carlins according to an old tale even rescued the good citizens of Newcastle upon Tyne from starvation during the English civil war. In those days Newcastle was a Royalist city in support of King Charles and a Scottish army crossed the border and swept south intent on capturing Newcastle and securing the coal supplies on behalf of their allies the parliamentarians. Newcastle however was no easy nut to crack and the city was put under siege. The siege of 1644 lasted from July until October and at one stage the supplies ran out and the people were starving. Just when thing were at their worst a Dutch ship saved them by evading the blockade and reaching the port with its cargo of carlings.
My mother used to serve the peas hot, sprinkle with salt and pepper and we would add a good slosh of vinegar before devouring them with gusto.
2 oz butter
A good pinch of salt
Place the Carlins in a bowl, cover with water, add pinch of salt and soak overnight.
After soaking, drain and place in a pan of boiling water for 20 minutes. (Boil for longer if you like them softer)
Heat up the butter in a frying pan, drain peas, add to the pan and fry for 2 to 3 minutes.
Serve hot with salt, pepper and vinegar.
Or if you wish you can serve them hot, sprinkled with brown sugar and a good splash of rum.
The following carlin recipe has nothing whatsoever to do with my mum, but I spotted it on an Internet site belonging to the ‘Irish Seed Savers Association’ and I thought it would be interesting to try. The recipe was sent in to the site by Lorraine Marshall and I have reproduced it below.
Carlin Pea Fritters
4ozs Dried whole Carlin peas
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
2ozs self-raising wholewheat flour
1/8 pt(75ml) milk ( I use soya milk)
freshly ground black pepper
oil for shallow frying
Cover peas with boiling water and leave them to soak for several hours, then drain and rinse them. Put into a saucepan with more water and simmer until they’re soft- about 45 mins.
Drain them and mash them (I find that the carlin peas cook unevenly some are still hardish, so I get my husband to mash them with a fork!).
Add oil, egg, flour and milk plus salt and pepper, mix well.
Fry in a little oil in desert spoonful sizes until crisp and brown on both sides. Drain well on kitchen paper.
Copyright Fred watson February 2008