Captain's Dinner
Captain's Dinner, Photo © Karin Engelbrecht 

The capucine is a Dutch variety of the gray pea, which is quite similar in flavor and texture, also known as: Raasdonders; Grauwe Ganzen; Blauwschokkers; Velderwten. For Dutch recipes, you can also order capucines online.

While many people think of capucines as a type of bean, they are actually part of the pea family (Pisum sativum) and grow on climbing plants, often with beautiful purple pods and delicate purple flowers.

How'd the Dutch Peas Get Their Name?

The story goes that these Dutch peas owe their name to the same order of Capuchin monks that the cappuccino was named for. Apparently, because capucines have a similar grayish brown color as the robes of this order. Some writers claim that the name capucine goes back to the Middle Ages, but what is certain is that the Dutch have been cultivating and enjoying their favorite gray pea variety for centuries.

Ideal Food for Long Ship Voyages

One practical reason for their popularity was that, in their dried form, capucines were an ideal food for long ship voyages--perfect for a trading nation like the Dutch. In fact, dishes with capucines were once popular on the ships of the Dutch East India Company (VOC), where they were enjoyed by the officers, while the ordinary seamen had to make do with pickled herring and risks. And, faded ship menus from the Holland-America passenger line, most famous for carrying some 400,000 European emigrants from Rotterdam to New York between 1872 and 1900, also feature a dish called Captain's Dinner, with capucines, bacon, potatoes, and rookworst or meatballs, served with various pickles.

Popular Dish: Kapucijnerschotel

Another popular dish with capucines is simply called kapucijnerschotel, and combines the peas with ground beef, spices, apples (or applesauce), and piccalilli.

Often thought of as a winter food, because of the popularity of dried and tinned varieties, capucines are at their most delicious eaten fresh from the field in the summer: Once prodded, they look almost like regular field peas but their bright green color turns khaki once cooked.

Each pod contains about 9 or 10 peas.