Everything You Need to Know About Growing Cowpeas

Cowpeas Harvesting

Last Updated on 2 years by Michelle

Consider growing cowpeas if you’re looking for an easy-to-grow, nutrient-rich legume to add to your garden!

Also known as black-eyed peas or field peas, cowpeas are a warm-weather crop that can be planted in late spring or early summer.

Cowpeas are heat tolerant and can grow in a wide range of soil types, making them a versatile choice for any garden.

Many gardeners overlook cowpeas when planning their gardens, but they have much to offer.

In this blog post I’ll discuss everything you need to know about growing cowpeas, from their nutritional content, to their preferred growing conditions, to the best varieties to grow. Are you ready to grow cowpeas? Let’s get started!

What Are Cowpeas?

Cowpeas are actually beans, not peas at all! They can be eaten fresh like green beans when harvested early, shelled like english peas, or dried. Cowpeas are also known as black-eyed peas or field peas.

The young leaves can also be eaten, but this is not done as much as it was in the past.

a pile of blackeyed peas

Black Eyed Peas

Black-eyed peas are a type of legume that is popular in many parts of the world.

They are often used in soups and stews, and can also be eaten as a side dish. The peas are black and have a small black eye, hence their name.

They are grown in many parts of the world, including Africa, Asia, and the Americas.

How to Grow Cowpeas

Black-eyed peas are relatively quick to grow and can be ready to harvest in as little as 60 days.

They grow well in poor soil and in areas prone to drought. When cooked, they have a mild nutty flavor and a creamy texture.

Field Peas

Field peas are a type of rotational crop that is grown in field habitats around the world.

They are also known as cowpeas, black-eyed peas, crowder peas, and southern peas.

How to Plant Cowpeas

Field peas were historically grown as a food source for livestock, but they are now also grown for human consumption. 

Field peas are native to Africa and were introduced to the United States by African slaves.

The name “field pea” comes from the fact that they were originally grown in field habitats.

In the Southern United States, field peas are often called “black-eyed peas” or “cowpeas”. 

Field peas have a nutty flavor and can be eaten fresh, cooked, or dried.

They are a good source of protein, fiber, and vitamins. Field peas can be harvested in as little as 60 days.

Crowder Peas

Crowder peas are a type of field pea that is popular in the Southern United States.

Crowder peas are named for their crowded appearance of the peas in the pods. They are usually dark-colored, but can also be white or yellow.

How Tall Do Cowpeas Grow?

Crowder peas have a nutty flavor and can be eaten fresh, cooked, or dried. They are a good source of protein, fiber, and vitamins. Crowder peas can be harvested in as little as 60 days, but can take as long as 70 days.

A key take-away here is that cowpeas are referred to by many names, so do a little digging if you see a reference to something that resembles a cowpea, but you aren’t sure.

Varieties of Cowpeas

There are many different varieties of cowpea plants. They are also known as black-eyed peas, field peas, and crowder peas.

No matter which kind of cowpea plant you grow, be sure to choose heirloom seeds or open-pollinated seeds so that you can save seeds that you harvest.

Saving your own seeds will allow you to grow them next year without having to purchase more seeds.

Some of the most popular varieties you can plant include:

Purple Hull Pinkeye Cowpea

The Pinkeye Purple Hull pea plant is popular in the southern United States for both its vigorous yields in hot dry weather and its nutritional value.

The 7-10 inch long pods grow in clusters at the very top of green, leafy stems with around 10 – 14 beans inside each pod.

You can harvest these for fresh eating when they are light green to use as you would a green bean.

Or, you can wait until the hulls are purple to shell the peas from the cowpea pods and cook them like you would shelled grean peas.

You can also leave some unharvested if you want dried pods. This will happen rather soon so keep an eye on them.

Zipper Cream Pea

Zipper Cream Pea is a beautiful blend between cowpeas and English peas.

The plants grow to 2-3 feet tall, producing many 6 inch pods that will fade slightly as they mature.

Their heat tolerance makes them perfect for planting in late spring or early fall when other vegetables might not fare so well outdoors.

California Blackeye #46 Cowpea

The California Blackeye #46 Cowpea is a drought-tolerant, heat-loving plant that produces large black-eyed peas.

Plants are around 24″ tall and have dark green leaves.

The peas are white with a black eye, and the pods are about six inches long. Each pod contains four or five peas.

California Blackeye #46 is a popular variety for fresh eating or eating as a dry pea.

California Blackeye #5 Cowpea

The California Blackeye #5 Cowpea is similar to the California #46. The main difference between them is that one vines and the other doesn’t.

They are a drought-tolerant, heat-loving plant that produces large black-eyed peas.

The plants are around 24″ tall and can vine to be taller. The peas are white with a black eye, and the pods are about six inches long.

Texas Cream 40 Pea

Looking for a cowpea variety that is delicious, drought-tolerant, and easy to grow?

If so, Texas Creme 40 pea is a great option .

This heirloom, open-pollinated cowpea variety produces beautiful cream-colored peas that are perfect for fresh eating or canning.

Plants have an upright growth habit and produce white flowers with pods set high on the plant for clean, easy harvesting.

Pods average 6-8″ long and are slightly curved. Pods are light green and will dry to a tan color.

Texas Creme 40 pea is a versatile variety that performs well in a wide variety of soil conditions, from sandy to clay.

So if you’re looking for a cowpea variety that is easy to grow and produces delicious peas, Texas Creme 40 is a great option!

When to Plant Cowpeas

When growing cowpeas, you can plant them in late spring or early summer. They should be planted after the last frost date in your area.

If you live in an area with a long growing season, you can plant cowpeas in late spring and harvest them in early summer.

If you live in an area with a shorter growing season, you can plant cowpeas in early summer and harvest them in late summer.

Planting Cowpeas

Cowpeas can be planted directly in the garden. They do not need to be started indoors.

They grow well in a raised bed, containers, or directly in-ground. Be ready to offer them a sturdy trellis once they start growing.

Simply dig a small hole in the soil and drop in a seed to plant cowpeas.

Or, you can dig a long trench about an inch deep and drop the cowpea seed into the trench about a foot apart.Cover the seed with soil and water well.

Cowpea seeds will germinate in about one week. Once they have germinated, thin the plants so that there is one plant every 12 inches.

Water the plants well and fertilize them monthly with a balanced fertilizer, like a fish emulsion.

Be ready to offer them a sturdy trellis once they start growing.

In my experience, even the bush varieties that are supposed to be short in stature will tend to vine especially when they are healthy plants.

Growing Conditions for Cowpeas

Cowpeas prefer full sun and well-drained soil. They are drought resistant and can grow in poor-quality soils.

Planting in soil with a nitrogen deficiency is no problem for cowpeas, since they fix nitrogen into the soil from the air as they grow.

How to Grow Cow Peas

To improve drainage, add organic matter to the soil before planting. Cowpeas can be grown in raised beds or in containers.

You don’t need to water frequently, since cowpeas are very heat tolerant, and are drought resistant.

Nutritional Profile of Cowpeas

Cowpeas are a good source of protein, carbohydrates, and fiber. Cowpeas are also low in fat and calories. One cup of cooked cowpeas contains about:

  • Protein: 8 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 25 grams
  • Fiber: 5 grams
  • Fat: 1 gram
  • Calories: 120

Cowpeas are a versatile food that can be used in many different dishes. They can be boiled, steamed, or stir-fried.

Cowpeas can also be used in soups and salads. When purchasing cowpeas, look for fresh, plump peas. Avoid peas that are yellow or discolored.

How Many Plants You Should Grow Per Person

If you are growing cowpeas for a family of four, you will need to plant about 16 plants. This will give you enough peas to eat fresh, cook, and dry for storage.

Here is a guide for how many plants to grow per person:

  • One plant per person if you only want to eat fresh cowpeas.
  • Two plants per person if you want to cook and eat fresh cowpeas.
  • Four plants per person if you want to cook, eat fresh, and dry cowpeas for storage.

Harvesting Cowpeas

Cowpeas can be harvested 60-90 days after planting. To harvest, simply pick the pods off the vine.

If you are growing cowpeas for dried beans, wait until the pods are dry and brown before harvesting. Dried cowpeas are exactly what you need for saving seeds.

When to pick cowpeas

The pods can be harvested and shelled, or the whole plant can be cut down and threshed.

Storing Cowpeas

Fresh cowpeas can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week. To store dried beans, place them in an airtight container and store in a cool, dry place. Dried beans can be stored for up to one year.

Cooking with Cowpeas

Cowpeas are a versatile food that can be used in many different dishes.

They can be boiled, steamed, or stir-fried. Cowpeas can also be used in soups and salads.

Here are some recipe ideas to get you started:

  • Black-Eyed Pea Salad
  • Southern-Style Collard Greens
  • Vegan Hoppin’ John
  • Cowpea Curry
  • Slow Cooker Red Beans and Rice

No matter how you choose to cook them, cowpeas are a delicious and nutritious addition to any meal. So get out there and start growing!

Conclusion

Cowpeas are a versatile and nutritious legume that can be grown in a variety of conditions.

They are an excellent source of protein, carbohydrates, and fiber, and can be used in many different dishes.

Cowpeas thrive in warm weather, and can be planted in both spring and summer. They do not require a lot of maintenance, and can even tolerate drought conditions.

When it comes to harvesting, cowpeas can be eaten fresh or dried.

Fresh cowpeas can be used in salads, soups, and stews, while dried cowpeas are often used in traditional African dishes.

No matter how you choose to use them, cowpeas are a delicious and nutritious addition to any meal. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start growing!

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