AKA Southern Peas, Black Eyed Peas, Vigna unguiculata, Rope Beans, Yard Long Beans, Stock Peas, Field Peas
Cowpeas are an easy to grow, warm weather crop. The plants thrive in poor soil, they’re drought tolerant and will grow in full sun or part shade. Provide some sort of support for the vines to climb. I use fishing line run between two stakes. When the vines die back, cut the plant back to the ground. The long taproots will decompose and deposit nitrogen to your soil.
Cowpeas are easy to care for. Plant the seeds directly into the soil or wrap them in a wet paper towel, place in a plastic bag and transplant when ready. The beans sprout within a few days. Fertilizing the plants will result in a bushy plant with little pods. Just leave them alone.
The plants will develop small flowers buds that turn into pods. Cowpeas are self-pollinating, usually pollinating themselves before the flower even opens. Pollinators, such as bees and butterflies, do add to the productivity of the pods. The peas can be eaten at any stage. The young, tender green pods can be cooked like green beans or the beans can be eaten raw, they are a little harder to remove the shell at this stage. When left on the vine, the pods will turn purple and dry out. The dry beans can be cooked or replanted. I like to take the dry pods, place them in a pillow case, tie shut and dry in a clothes dryer on low for 10 minutes. This makes sure they won’t mold and makes them easier to shell (remove the beans).
- Use these plants as a natural way to improve and fertilize your soil. As with other herbaceous legumes, Cowpea plants are Nitrogen Fixers. As the plant dies back, nitrogen is released into the soil.
- The beans and leaves are edible for humans and livestock.
- Canning: Rinse/strain the dry peas to remove any debris (husks, leaves, dirt). Boil for 3 minutes and remove bubbly foam. Pour beans, 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt and water into jars (just enough water to cover beans). Wait several minutes for the beans to soak up the water and add more if needed. Follow standard canning instructions for your pressure cooker.