#BlackHistoryEats / Day 13 / Cow peas

Source: Flickr Global Environment Facility

Source: Flickr Global Environment Facility


  • Cow peas ( Vigna unguiculata) are also known as black-eye peas, black-eye beans, southern peas, and crowder peas (among many other names) and there are currently hundreds of various seed varieties
  • Cow peas originate in West Africa and made there way in to American cuisine (especially southern cuisine) along with okra, peanuts, rice and other beans via slave ships during the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade. Today they still grow in Africa (especially in Niger and Nigeria) as well as in South America, Southeast Asia, and the United States
  • Traditionally, they are grown on the outer part of the fields as a preventative to weed growth as well as providing nitrogen to the soil
  • They are also very drought tolerant and can thrive in places with high heat like millet and sorghum
  • Along with collard greens, cow peas (black-eye peas) symbolize wealth, luck, and prosperity and are a traditional New Year's Eve dinner for many Black/African American families today


  • Cow peas (like all beans and legumes) are a great affordable source of both soluble fiber and protein
  • They are a great source of calcium -- this is especially important for folks like us who do not consume dairy! 1 cup of boiled black eye peas (211 mg) has a similar amount of calcium to 1 cup of whole cow's milk (270 mg)
  • Cow peas are also rich in potassium (mineral that helps Potassium is a nutrient that helps keep your blood pressure levels at healthy numbers, which lowers your risk of heart disease.
  • They are also rich in minerals such as iron, calcium, phosphorus and zinc


  • The whole plant (not solely the beans) is traditionally used. In fact, many areas around the world still depend on cow pea leaves as a nutrient dense food source. The leaves are eaten raw or often boiled down like collards or spinach
  • In many grocery stores in the United States, cow peas are labeled as black-eyed peas. They are often sold canned, frozen and dried. If buying them canned, make sure to drain and wash them throughly in cold water before cooking (this will reduce the salt by almost 50% as well as remove any additives that they have been sitting in). I recommend using dried beans and soaking them overnight before cooking them (they are even cheaper when purchased in bulk).
  • Here is the famous Afro Vegan Chef Bryant Terry's recipe for Berbere-Spiced Black-Eyed Pea Sliders (find the recipe in the table of contents)
  • Here's a link to my Sweet-N-Spicy Hoppin' John recipe (black eye peas and collard greens)
Taylor Johnson-GordonComment