Also known as Southern peas, field peas, purple hulk peas, or black-eyed peas, cowpeas are extremely heat tolerant, fast-growing, and productive. Their vigorous vines produce high yields and thrive in the hottest part of the summer when many other plants struggle.
There are many varieties of cowpeas, making for a colorful collection.
To sow cowpeas, plant the seeds 2-3 inches apart and about 1/2 inch deep (the general rule is to plant seeds at a depth of about 2 times their diameter).
Cowpeas in the Garden Ecosystem
Cowpeas are beneficial to the garden because, like other legume-family plants, they fix nitrogen in the soil. They can also be used as a cover crop, being chopped and mixed into the soil to add organic matter. They’re vining plants that grow tall and dense, helping to choke out weeds and serve as a summertime privacy hedge if grown up a fence or trellis.
Harvesting and Cooking Cowpeas
The bean pods can be harvested when young and cooked like snap peas. Or they can be left a bit longer, shelled when the beans are green, and cooked right away. They can also be left to dry on the vine so they can be shelled and preserved as dried beans.