cowpea bloom

Cowpea plant leaves are also edible and have been determined by the USDA to have the highest percentage of calories from protein among vegetarian foods.

Cowpeas 2 in SBG

Whipporwill field pea 2011a

‘Whipporwill’ cowpeas
from an Old Salem crop
saved as seed

Vigna unguiculata

Commonly referred to as field peas, black-eyed peas, Southern peas or crowders, the cowpea is an annual legume of ancient origin, going back more than 5,000 years to the Niger River Basin of West Africa. The cowpea was introduced to the American colonies by enslaved Africans during the Transatlantic Slave Trade, when many African foods came into the Americas.

A remarkable vegetable, the cowpea is not only tasty and nutritious, it also improves soil health where it grows and even thrives in poor dry conditions. It is often planted as a green manure crop or livestock fodder, and in Africa, cowpeas are frequently intercropped with Sorghum.

Two cowpeas are featured seed in Old Salem’s Homowo Harvest Collection of heirloom seed from plants native to Africa and seed from plants traditionally associated with African Americans. ‘Whipporwill’ is an old standard variety that dates back to well before the Civil War. ‘California Black-eyed’ is an old standard and common commercial variety that is familiar with its pale-color and prominent black spot.

Grow these heirloom cowpeas yourself! Seed is available in Old Salem at The Garden Shop.

The long, warm growing season makes this vegetable a Southern crop.

Mississippi Silver Hull Bean – Crowder Cowpeas are listed on the Slow Food Ark of Taste.