White Acre Cowpea

Vigna unguiculata

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.

bio_cowpea_white_acre

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.

bio_cowpea_white_acre_flower

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.

white_acre_cowpea_dry

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.