A Good Day with Black-eyed Peas September Gardening

Friends Drift Inn Farm – Gardening

Heirloom Black Eyed Peas my garden harvest in Sept 2012

Click to Read Banshees, Haints and Cowpeas


Heirloom Gardening with a Southern Favorite – Field Peas

Charlie often rolls his eyes during spring planting season. You know the look husbands give their wives when they think their partners have lost their minds; but instinctively realize that to object might result in tears or bodily injury – depending on how bad the hot flashes are at that moment in time. Giggles

So it was the day I planted twp packets of cowpeas, Vigna unguiculata, known as Black Eyed Peas to most folks. Two packets resulted in about a 30 foot row. That doesn’t sound like much; you know – just enough for me to see what they are all about so I could write about them.

Yeah right!

Cowpeas aka Black Eyed Peas, you gotta plant you some next year!

It is said that cowpeas were once a staple in some Appalachian regions. A variety called “Myrtle’s Cowpeas” is in several collections that are reported to originate a few counties over from my location. They are not something Charlie remembers his grandparents growing, and it is not something my family grew either. But that never stops me from my quest for all things Appalachia.

Somehow in all the garden chaos this year, I did not write down the variety of cowpeas I grew. All I know is they were supposed to a compact bush. Let me tell you, they ran a good deal. I just let them go; spilling over into the next row. (Update: The variety was California Black Eyed Peas)

I hoed around them early in the season, but as my attentions turned elsewhere they ran amuck outgrowing the weeds and adding a little nitrogen to my soil.

Jake picking black eyed peas, aka cowpeas, during KET Kentucky Life shoot

When Kentucky Life came to film in August, the black-eyed peas were in their glory. Yellow podded legumes with just a hint of purple that turn up towards the sky….rather than dangle downward like most beans. Because the pods are high on the bush, they are very easy to pick; no crawling required. Jake laughed as we broke open a few pods to reveal the white bean with black “eyes.”

After the film shoot, I had important stuff to tend to. You know like canning tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers. Again, I neglected the lowly cowpeas.

As the tomato crop dwindled, I returned to my cowpea row. The pods had dried in the field, a good thing. On a foggy mountain morning, I went down to pick. I expected to bring home a gallon bucket or so of the Southern favorites.

I picked. I picked. And then I picked some more. Good thing Charlie was not around, I am sure he would have rolled his eyes.

Cowpeas aka Black Eyed Peas in the shells heirloom gardening 2012

The five gallon bucket was pressed down, heaped up, and overflowing when I reached the end of the row – which by now was only 25 feet having lost five foot to a very fat and sassy groundhog.

It took me several hours of shelling, but at the end of the day I had about three pounds of dried black-eyed peas ready for storage and probably another gallon of beans still in the pods, not yet dried enough for shelling.

Wow! I laughed and laughed when Charlie came home seeing the fruits of my labors. “So what are you going to do with all those black-eyed peas?” he asked wryly and his eyes rolling.

Y’all I don’t have a notion. I just wanted to see if they would grow well here. (They do! Giggles)

What is your favorite black-eyed peas recipe?

Do you have a favorite strain of cowpeas? I am looking for suggestions for next year’s garden.

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About Joyce Pinson

Joyce Friend Pinson is a regional farm-to-table columnist for the Appalachian-News Express. She is a local television host. Her column show and blog, Friends Drift Inn, explores food, gardening, and real life farm-to-table stories from the perspective of a baby boomer in Appalachia. Joyce has a background in agriculture, media, and small business. Joyce is an heirloom gardening addict and home canner. She has a penchant for big hats, pointy toed shoes, and bourbon. Along with her husband Charlie, Joyce really does live in a barn where they ballroom dance. And laugh. And cook. And giggle.