Just recently I became familiar with the term Cowpea. This was very embarrassing for me considering I am 6th generation Texan and all of my ancestors are southern. Cowpeas are a group of peas consisting of Blackeyed peas, Purple Hull peas, Crowder peas, Cream peas and more. Considering these peas were a staple of every Sunday supper while I was growing up, the name cowpea should’ve been genetically bred into me. All true Southern meals have at least one of these peas present. After doing a little research I was delighted to find that southern cowpeas are very easy to grow from seed. Thus began the great seed catalog search.
I am happy to report that I found Cowpeas from our seed companies Botanical Interest and Seed Savers Exchange. California Blackeye #5 , Mississippi Silver crowder pea, Coronet Pinkeye Purple Hull and Italian Black are the varieties of southern peas we carry. Cowpeas are grown much like green beans and prefer hot weather. This makes them perfect for our summers. They can tolerate our humidity and our droughts and prefer marginal soil. These peas can be eaten young like a green bean or left on the vine to dry and then boiled ,frozen or canned. Field peas are also used as a cover crop because of the cowpeas excellent ability to fix nitrogen in the soil.
Cowpeas should be planted into the ground from May to August so now is the perfect time to try a crop. Plant seeds 3 to 6 inches apart depending on the pea type. Check your seed packet for information on spacing.Plant the peas 1 inch deep and mist them to help with germination. Germination rates are from 5 to 10 days. This is one of the few times you do not fertilize your plants. Because of the nitrogen fixing ability of these peas, adding nitrogen will only produce big green leaves and inhibit pea production. These plants do not require large amounts of water. Water them regularly when they began to flower. Cowpeas can have any type of habit from bushy to vining depending on the type. Vining types will need some sort of trellis to climb. These are relatively stress free plants. Just sit back and watch them grow. Whether you pick them early and eat them green or wait for them to dry, cowpeas make a delicious addition to any meal. They are very high in fiber and protein so they are good for you too. Nothing beats blackeye or purple hull peas and a cornbread supper, especially if the peas come straight from your garden.