This legume, which is a subspecies of the cowpea, is grown in different parts of the world because its medium-sized bean is edible. In the American South, there are many varieties of black-eyed peas that include heirloom varieties, varying in sizes as well as the “color of the eyes”. The California Blackeye is a very common black-eyed pea variety commercially grown and harvested today. It has a pale light brown to cream-white color with a prominent black spot.
Species: V. unguiculata
Binomial name: Vigna unguiculata subsp. unguiculata
Cultivar group: Unguiculata
Cultivar: Black-eyed peas
Black-Eyed Pea Trivia
- The popular term is black-eyed pea but it is also called a black-eyed bean.
- Despite the name black-eyed pea, other varieties have different “eye color” like brown, red, pink, or green.
- Vigna unguiculata subsp. dekindtiana is the wild relative of Black-eyed peas.
- An asparagus bean is related to the black-eyed peas – Vigna unguiculata subsp. Sesquipedalis.
- The black-eyed peas have a nearly identical appearance with goat’s-eye bean of northern Mexico, known locally as frijol ojo de cabra. This is commonly mistaken as black-eyed peas.
- Black-eyed pea blossom produces nectar which means a large plantation of black-eyed peas can be tapped for producing honey.
- Some people believe that the tendency of black-eyed peas to swell when cooked symbolizes prosperity.
Black-Eyed Pea Buying Guide
There are frozen black-eyed peas sold in the grocery store, supermarket, farmers market, or other avenues for retail sales. Buying dried black-eyed peas is better compared to buying canned black-eyed peas. Dried black-eyed peas are cheaper and have little to zero sodium content, whereas canned black-eyed peas cost more and come with the risk of adding more sodium to what you are cooking (and eating). Consider this also when buying: canned black-eyed peas can be contaminated with Bisphenol A or BPA. Cans used for food are usually lined with a resin that contains BPA and according to research, BPA could potentially seep into food. Dried black-eyed peas do not pose the threat of BPA exposure. Last but not the least, dried black-eyed peas taste better. Canned black-eyed peas sometimes have a metallic taste, especially those which have been on the shelf for too long.
Black-Eyed Pea Production & Farming in Texas
The black-eyed pea is a drought-tolerant warm-weather crop. Plant this after the danger of frost has passed and the soil is already warm, otherwise, the seeds will rot. After planting, expect signs of black-eyed peas growing in the next 2 to 4 days. Make sure to plant the black-eyed peas with the eye facing downward, in a well-drained, moderately fertile, and slightly acidic (pH 6.0-7.0) soil.
The black-eyed pea is a popular crop in Texas and the Southern United States. In fact, there is a dish known as Texas caviar. This traditional South American dish is made from black-eyed peas marinated in vinaigrette-style dressing and chopped garlic.
Black-eyed peas can survive in USDA Hardiness Zones 5 through 11. Texas can grow plants in the USDA Hardiness Zones 6 through 9B. This means you can grow black-eyed peas in Texas.
Pests are not a big problem for black-eyed peas which very seldom have to deal with an infestation, although some threats should be monitored by growers as well. The use of pesticides or insecticides should be done with care to avoid killing pollinators frequenting black-eyed peas. Nonetheless, black-eyed peas have their own share of pest problems including root-knot nematodes, beet armyworms, loopers, stink bugs
- Root-knot nematodes – Use a carbamate (a pesticide derived from carbamic acid) that has nematicidal and insecticidal properties against plant-parasitic nematodes and soil insects.
- Beet armyworms – Use Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt-azaiwi strain) and spinosad. These are your options for natural insecticides. These are proven effective against young armyworms. Furthermore, they don’t harm the environment.
- Loopers – To kill this pest, you can spray your plant with Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) spray, insecticidal soap spray, or anti-parasite spray spinosad.
- Stink bugs – Use chemical sprays containing zeta-cypermethrin, bifenthrin, or carbaryl.
Black-eyed peas are native to West Africa. According to the United Nations, Nigeria is the largest producer, importer, and consumer of black-eyed peas in the world. An estimated 96% of the annual global harvest of black-eyed peas comes from African countries. Nigeria accounts for 61% of the continent’s share and 58% globally. In the US, California and Michigan rank among the highest-producing states when it comes to producing dried black-eyed peas. This crop is grown extensively in the southern part of the country.
Dried black-eyed peas are sold in plastic packaging. It could be an ordinary plastic pack, vacuum-sealed, or resealable. You can also buy black-eyed peas in a can. Either way, black-eyed peas processed for commercial sale should have packaging that includes a label indicating manufacturer details, nutrition details, best before or expiry date, ingredients, and other important information that should be disclosed to the public.
Enjoying Black-Eyed Peas
When you eat black-eyed peas, you will notice their savory flavor.
Cultural practices and superstitious beliefs influence the eating of black-eyed peas in the Southern United States. Hoppin John, a popular Southern American recipe, is eaten during the new year, with the belief that doing so would bring people good luck. In Guayana and Suriname, they prepare a dish – rice, black-eyed peas, and other peas and a variety of meats cooked in coconut milk and seasonings – and they make sure this is the first thing they eat during New Year for good luck.
You can keep canned black-eyed peas at room temperature. Keep it in the cupboard or pantry – anywhere the can is not exposed to moisture or where it can get wet since this may impact the condition of the can. Frozen black-eyed peas can be stored in the freezer after buying these from the grocery. Use containers with a secure lid when storing dry black-eyed peas. Keep this in a cool, dry place, and make sure not to store them for more than a year.
Black-eyed peas go well with pork (i.e. bacon, fatback, ham, ham bones, or hog jowls), onions, pepper, chilis, vinegar, cabbage, collard, turnip, and mustard greens, among others.
Black-eyed peas are used in popular dishes found all over the world. In Egypt, black-eyed peas are cooked in onion, garlic, tomato juice, and red meat. You eat this with rice and pastina. In neighboring countries Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria, the black-eyed pea is also a popular ingredient and cooked almost the same way. Akara (or koose) is a dish popular in Nigeria, Ghana, and the Caribbean, featuring mashed black-eyed peas with salt, onion, and pepper. This is a fried dish. Moin-moin is a pudding made from black-eyed peas. This is popular in Nigeria.
The Indonesian hot and spicy red curry dish sambal goreng uses black-eyed peas, which Indonesians call kacang tunggak or kacang tolo. Other recipes like sayur brongkos and sayur lodeh also use black-eyed peas. In India, black-eyed peas are used to make many dishes like daal, chawli amti, huli, and Olan. Chè đậu trắng or black-eyed peas and sticky rice with coconut milk is a popular Vietnamese sweet dessert. It is common to blanch black-eyed peas and dress them with olive oil, salt, lemon juice, onions, and garlic. This is how they eat black-eyed peas in Cyprus and Turkey, while the Portuguese serve black-eyed peas with boiled cod and potatoes and tuna. Akara, a kind of street food popular in Salvador City in Brazil, is of Nigerian origin and it uses black-eyed peas which are peeled, mashed, made into balls, and deep-fried in dendê. Black-eyed peas are used in making the Colombian fritter buñuelo. In Guyana, South America, and Trinidad and Tobago, black-eyed peas are eaten with rice.
Black-eyed peas are packed with calcium, folate, protein, fiber, and vitamin A. Black-eyed peas are rich in polyphenols. This helps the body fight diseases and protects the cell from cell damage.
When Are Black-Eyed Peas in Season in Texas?
To find out when Black-Eyed Peas are in season in Texas, please check the seasonal chart below. Why is this important? We are rarely encouraged to think about the physical lengths our food travels before arriving on the market shelves. And all of this travel comes with a hefty environmental cost that is concealed from the consumer’s eye. One of the most salient benefits to eating seasonally is that you are effectively reducing your carbon footprint and supporting a more geographically sustainable food economy. Check other fruit and veg that’s in season in Texas now.