White Acre Cowpea

The White Acre Cowpea is one of many varieties of cowpeas, the most familiar of which is the Black-Eyed Pea. We normally trial many varieties of a given crop before settling on one or two favorites, but this is one of the few cases where we liked what we saw early on and just kept growing it. We originally bought seed from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange and have been saving our own each year since.

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This cowpea has a bush habit. The plants grow quickly and tend to do a pretty good job of shading out weeds, though a bit of hoeing early on is usually a good idea. The long pods contain quite a few seeds, though the seeds themselves are relatively small.

The flowers are quite beautiful.

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Though the peas can be eaten green, they’re a lot of trouble to shell, so we generally let the pods dry fully. We harvest by hand when the pods dry enough to sound crinkly at picking times, then we run them through a mechanical sheller. Winnowing with a box fan yields reasonably clean seed.

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Sometimes we cut back the spent plants prior to frost as a nice supplemental goat food.

Cowpeas have a very nice flavor and can be used in diverse ways; we’ve used them for everything from hummus to refried beans. We somewhat prefer the flavor of the common dried bean (Phaseolus vulgaris), but we find that the cowpeas produce a more reliable crop and are less susceptible to molding in the pods if the harvest period is rainy.

Honey Locust

Honey locusts are especially common here in former, now overgrown, pastures. The vicious thorns are the most obvious identifying characteristic of this tree, and they help to deter herbivores from nibbling on the branches or bark. Some trees have only a few, while others are armored along nearly every inch of trunk. Lower branches often die back and drop thorns onto the ground, posing a hazard for boots, tires, and goat hooves. In the fall, the trees produce long pods which have a sweet, slightly fruity smell when broken open. Goats are quite fond of the pods, which are probably reasonably nutritious given that the honey locust is a member of the legume family. Honey locust wood is dense and an excellent source of firewood if you can manage the thorns.