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Purple Hull Peas

A bowl of Purple Hull pea soup is a popular Southern comfort food. Purple Hull peas are often confused with black-eyed peas. Here is how these two are different: although both come from the cowpea family, they are not identical crops. The color is the first clue – when you open the pods to reveal the seeds, the cream-colored Purple Hull peas have pink-colored eyes, which is why it is also called Pink-Eyed Peas. A black-eyed pea, as the name suggests, has a black or dark brown eye.

The pod (or the hull) of the purple hull peas are slender and elongated, with a length ranging from 7 to 15 centimeters and each one containing 6 to 13 seeds. The seeds are oblong and kidney-shaped. You can tell what stage of maturity the pod or hull is based on the color. It starts from light green and then the color changes to purple-green, light purple, and deep burgundy as it reaches maturity. Color is not the only thing that changes as the hull matures, so does the texture. It starts tender and crisp and will eventually become dry, fibrous, chewy, and tough. The seeds inside the hull develop a glossy sheen. It is common to see cream-colored seeds but there are also ivory-green seeds although both have the same distinctive purple or pink eye that distinguishes them from the black-eyed peas.

Classification Information:
Kingdom: Plantae  
Order: Fabales
Family: Fabaceae
Genus: Vigna
Species: V. unguiculata
Subspecies: unguiculata

Purple Hull Pea Trivia

  • Many Americans enjoy purple hull peas today, even though the purpose of introducing this crop in the US is for farmers to have an easy-to-grow, inexpensive food source for livestock.
  • It is common in the southern United States to eat cowpeas such as purple hull peas when having New Year’s dinner because of the belief that this will bring good luck. They feast on purple hull peas, pork, cornbread, legumes, and greens.
  • Every June, Emerson holds the annual Purple Hull Pea Festival. Emerson is a town in Columbia County, Arkansas. It has purple hull pea recipe contests, live performances, arts and crafts, games, and other competitions.

Purple Hull Pea Buying Guide

Freshly harvested seeds and pods are sold at local markets. These are also sold frozen and dried in specialty grocers and supermarkets. While production and canning from food companies ensure there is a supply of purple hull peas all year long, the peak season for purple hull peas harvest is late spring and early fall, so if you are buying from a local farmer or at the farmers market, do not be surprised if you see a rise in the supply of purple hull peas when it is peak harvesting season.

Purple Hull Pea Production & Farming in Texas

There are three different types of purple hull peas – vining, semi-vining, and bush. It is a great crop to plant after tomatoes. Plant purple hull peas when the threat of frost is gone, in full sun or at least partial shade. You can sow the seeds directly or start the seeds indoors. This plant does not need fertilizer because it fixes its own nitrogen. It needs soil with a pH of 5.8 to 7.0 and it should be well-draining. The general hardiness zone of cowpeas is zones 5 to 11, which means the purple hull pea can grow in Texas since the hardiness zone spectrum covering Texas ranges from 6 to 9B. Cowpeas like purple hull peas are grown in places like Texas as well as in Missouri, Arkansas, California, and the other US southeastern states. Cowpea production in the US, including purple hull peas, is estimated at 60,000 to 80,000 acres.


Pesticide may be necessary for your purple hull pea plants because of the presence of pests like aphids. Kill aphids using neem oil, insecticidal soap, or horticultural oil. You can also use the pesticide malathion, which is the most commonly used organophosphate insecticide in the United States, or rotenone, a selective, non-specific insecticide typically used in home gardens for insect control.  


Africa, in Niger, in particular, is the place of origin of the purple hull peas. It made its way to the US during the slave trade in the 18th and 19th centuries. The purple hull peas traveled to Egypt, across Asia and Europe, and then found their way to the southern US. Today, purple hull peas are grown in Central America, South America, Africa, Asia, and Europe.


You can buy canned purple hull peas. The upside is you can stock this in your pantry for several months. The downside is that it contains chemicals and preservatives like calcium chloride and disodium EDTA. Fresh frozen purple hull peas are also sold in groceries and supermarkets in sealed plastic packs. The packaging contains important information like where the purple hull peas were harvested, nutrition information, quantity, name of the manufacturer, instruction for cooking and storage, and other important information.

Enjoying Purple Hull Peas

Purple hull peas are tender and soft when cooked. It has a sweet and nutty flavor. But the seeds aren’t the only ones that you can eat. The pods and young leaves are also edible. Cook the leaves the way you would cook or use spinach in a dish.


If fresh purple hull peas are stored in the refrigerator, they will keep for five days. Don’t store it any longer than five days. If you are storing cooked purple hull peas, make sure they are placed in a food container with a lid that provides an airtight seal. You can keep them here for four days. To preserve them for longer than that, store them in the freezer. Just make sure that the pack or container you are using is freezer-safe. It should not stay in the freezer for longer than four months. 


Purple hull peas are a great side dish. Season it with garlic, onion, salt, and pepper and it is already a tasty side dish to any vegetable or meat dishes. Add it to steamed broccoli, glazed ham, and cornbread and you have a complete and yummy plate to serve! Purple hull peas go well with a lot of different kinds of food. It is great with meat like pork. It complements the taste of chicken or vegetable broth, butter, onions, garlic, bay leaf. If you are planning to use herbs and spices, use basil, mint, thyme, sage, dill, turmeric, cumin, coriander, and cinnamon. Purple hull peas are used when making curries, soups, and stews. You can blanch it, boil it, steam it, or braise it.

When cooking, you may want to change the cooking time depending on whether you are using fresh Purple Hull peas or frozen ones. The frozen purple hull peas were blanched before it was frozen, so it is already partially cooked which will explain why it cooks faster compared to fresh purple hull peas.

Nutritional Benefits:

Purple hull peas are a good source of fiber which helps the body in digestion. It is also a good source of folate and iron. It also has calcium and potassium.



  • Serving Size: 1 Serving
  • Calories: 90
  • Carbs: 19g 6%
  • Sugar: 0g
  • Fiber: 5g 18%
  • Protein: 6g
  • Fat: 0g 0%
  • Saturated Fat: 0g 0%

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