Friday, July 31, 2009


You don't go into Publix and buy a pound or 2 of fresh cowpeas, but they're a staple in the Florida summer garden. These hearty, heat and humidity-loving, soil improving little gems have a lot going for them. They're essentially black-eyed peas... only coming in vast colors and shapes and not just black-eyed. We have 3 varieties growing this year:

Purple Hull Pink Eyes (from Baker Creek)- very strong and prolific. I really like these because the pod ripens to a deep purple making them easy to find in the bushy jungle I call our summer garden. Not drawing too many bugs and slow the dry out. Only problem is they color your fingernails black when you shell too many.

Mississippi Silvers (from Southern Exposure or Baker Creek)- Again, strong and prolific. Pods ripen to a pale yellow and dry out faster so I've learned to harvest twice a day when I can. What isn't ready one morning can be beyond ready the next. The peas are small and tan. Pods are easy to shell (the 3 year old farmer girl does all our cowpea shelling).

California Black Eyes (from a hardware store's seed rack)- I really don't recommend these. In fact I'm really learning my lesson over snagging whatever is on a store's seed rack. I just don't think they have Florida in mind when Morse Ferry is putting together their display. These draw bugs and worms continuously. They too fade to pale yellow and will immediately rot on the vine with all the worms that will chew on them. Not nearly as prolific either.

We eat a lot of soups (from bone broths of home grown chickens or local grass-fed beef) so I generally throw then into whatever soup I've got cooking. But there are tons of salads and side dishes that can be made from them. I generally collect them for a week and if I haven't used them, I put them in the dehydrator and then into a jar for storage.

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