Cowpea, Black Eyed Pea, Crowder, Cream Or Conch
A wild pea that is very similar to this cultivated variety is native to central Africa and is now grown around the world where temperatures are moderate.
Of the more than 185 legume plants eaten by humans as leafy vegetables, Cowpeas are most common. Even their leaves in the dried form retain plenty of nutrients. The young pods, mature green seeds and dry seeds are also eaten. As a multipurpose crop for animals, it is consumed as hay, pasture, dried vines and pods. The foliage is used as green manure, and its rapid growth makes it an effective plant to control erosion.
The Cowpea succeeds best in warm weather surviving some drought conditions and even some shade. It is not particular to soil types, will thrive where soil is well drained, properly inoculated and moderately rich with lime. If Cowpeas are new to the field, the seed should be dusted with soil from a field where they have previously grown or with purchased inoculant, bacteria, which will live on the roots of the Cowpeas enabling them to use nitrogen from the air. If grown for hay or silage, it is advantageous to combine Cowpeas with sorghum, kaffirs, Sudan grass, Johnson grass, soybeans or millet. When grown in combination with another crop, the quality and balance of nutrients of the mixed feed is better than either crop grown by itself. The mixed hay will cure and handle well. Growing Cowpeas in a field along with corn can result in excellent silage. As a soil-improver, they are sometimes planted when the corn is cultivated for the last time.
Harvesting and Seed Production
When dried peas are the desired product, the Cowpea may be harvested when most of the pods on the plant have turned brown. The plants may be pulled up by hand, left in the shade to dry till all pods are brown, then beaten on a tarp to release the seeds. They can also be mechanically combined. Cowpeas may be stored for five years if kept cool and dry.
Pests and Diseases
Root-knot nematodes are very destructive to Cowpeas and thrive in the same soils where Cowpeas are grown. Methyl bromide has been relied upon as a very effective soil fumigant but is being withdrawn from the commercial market because of its danger to humans if inhaled. Breeding of resistant varieties seems to be the best hope for reducing losses.
Cooking and Nutrition
People around the world eat the young leaves steamed like spinach and young pods, like snap beans. The dried Cowpeas can be ground into a protein-rich flour. Dried Cowpeas need to be soaked overnight in water to cover or brought to a simmer and left to cool. In both cases the peas should be drained, rinsed, and the water discarded. They can then be added to many dishes, combined with different spices or baked. Like other dried seeds of legumes, (lima beans, pink beans, soybeans), Cowpeas are a good source of vegetable protein, fiber and contain very little fat