Have you tried to grow Cowpeas? What are Cowpeas? Black-Eyed Peas are just one variety of Cowpea. Southern Peas, Crowder Peas, or Field Peas are other types. Different types of Cowpeas have different looks, tastes and textures. Grow Cowpeas by following this guide, and you can expand your repertore of delicious bean and pea dishes by experimenting with different varieties and recipes.
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Different types of Cowpeas
Cowpeas have different growing habits. Some are bush, some are vining, and some are in-between. Bush varieties include:
- Holstein (also known as Polecat), which have an 80 days to maturity growing season.
- Old Timer (also known as Purple Hulled Speckled).
- Ozark Razorback, which has a 90 day to maturity time.
Vining varieties include:
- Blue Goose Cowpea, with a 36″ vine.
- Big Red Ripper, with a long growing season of 140 days.
- Calico Crowder.
- California Blackeyed Peas (most likely the kind in grocery stores), with a growing season of 70 days.
- Dolique de Cuba, a trellised variety with 36″ pods.
- Red Ripper, with a growing season of 90 days.
There are others, of course. You can investigate to find a variety that suits your growing season and garden space.
Preparing the bed and Planting
Cowpeas prefer rich, well-drained soil in full sun to partial shade. Don’t put too much nitrogen fertilizer in the soil, as this will encourage leaf growth as opposed to pea growth.
Sow seeds directly in the garden after the soil has warmed to 65 degrees or more. You can get a 3-in1 soil thermometer here. They prefer hot conditions, so this crop may be better suited to a summer garden, rather than a spring garden. Plant the seeds 1-2″ deep, and 3-6″ apart. I would err on the side of larger spacing to avoid powdery mildew in the mature plants. If you are growing vining varieties, make even more space between the plants and between the rows.
In the summer garden, you can plan for succession plantings. Check the days to maturity of the crop you are planting, and you will know when to stop planting more seeds.
For instance, if your crop has a 90 day to maturity, you would stop planting in late August, so the plant has a chance to produce peas before the first frost in mid-November. Cowpeas like heat, but a frost will kill them.
Cowpeas are easy to grow. They will grow in poor soils, in drought conditions and in high heat days that will stop the growth of other plants. There are some insect and disease problems to watch out for, though.
Your plants can get Blight, Anthracnose or Brown blotch, which are avoided by buying resistant seed varieties. Powdery mildew affects the leaves and pods. To avoid this, don’t water the leaves, but water the ground around the plants.
Cowpeas are generally pest-free, however Aphids may be attracted to them. Ladybugs and other predator insects will take care of them. Armyworms, Corn Earworm and Mexican Bean Beetle can also attack the plants. In my area, Weevils may be a problem; planting French or Mexican Marigolds will deter them. Hand pick any stinkbugs you see.
You can grow Cowpeas as a companion plant with Corn. It will grow in the partial shade of the Corn, and will shade out growing weeds.
Cowpeas can be harvested at any stage of growth. You can eat the young leaves in salads, or cook them like spinach. The young, immature pods can be used in stir-frys. The green pods can be used like green beans. The dried beans can be used after soaking, or stored for use later. Different varieties will grow long pods, or stick up above the leaves, so they are easily visible.
Saving Seeds for next year
Different varieties have different procedures to save the seeds. You can harvest the green pods when you see the seeds swelling inside. Then split the pods open to release the green seeds. If you are going to harvest the dried beans, wait until the seed pods are dry and brown. Pick them before they split open by themselves and spill the seeds on the ground. At this stage, it is easy to split open the pod and release the seeds.
So, look back over the list of different types of Cowpeas. Pick one or two that interest you, order a seed packet, and grow Cowpeas. You might be surprised and delighted by the different tastes and textures you can grow in your home garden.
For more information, look here:
For seed sources, look here:
This site has the most varieties of cowpeas. Other seed sources list only one or two varieties. (Not an affiliate link.)
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