February 26, 2019

Southern Pea Taste Test

Southern peas, field peas, cowpeas; different names for the same thing. For human consumption, however, "southern peas" sounds nicer than either of the other two, don't you think? The most common of these are black-eyed peas, and I'm sure many folks have heard of crowder peas as well.

A number of years ago I started growing Ozark Razorback cowpeas. I really like them because they produce heavily with tall seed stalks growing multiple pods - very easy to pick. I chose them because they are a small pea, so I can feed them to our critters as well as eat them ourselves.

Last year I found a variety called "Southern Brown Sugar." How could I resist that? That's what I grew this past summer. The other night I decided to cook up three-quarters of a cup of each kind and have a taste test.

Ozark Razorback cowpeas on the left, Southern Brown Sugar on the right.

I cooked them the same way and served a spoonful of each with our meal.

Southern peas, fried ham, and cornbread.

You know what? There wasn't much difference in flavor at all! Both are heritage varieties, but all things considered, I'll probably just stick with the Ozark Razorbacks. I think they produce a little better and are easier to pick. Still, it was a fun experiment.

Anyone else grow southern peas?

 Southern Pea Taste Test © February 2019


  1. Interesting to know! I enjoy black-eyed peas, but don't know that I've ever eaten any other variety. Haven't grown them, either.

  2. Taste-test experiments like that are so much fun! I can't grow dried beans or peas without much hassle. They grow well, but having the weather to get them to dry is the problem. In the fall we get cool, typically wet weather pretty quickly and the only way I've successfully gotten dried beans was to pull the whole plant and hang them in the garage to dry. Trouble is it's quite difficult to hang and dry the whole crop! Guess I'll just have to stick with buying them in bulk and calling that my "crop!"

  3. Well I don't grow anything so I can't comment on that aspect of this post, but I do love beans and peas of all types, but I mostly am limited to the canned varieties.

    I can say I did a test tasting once. At some point many years ago my husband and I had collected a number of various bottle of vodka (my husband's preferred alcohol.) A coworker's husband had returned from a trip to Russia and she gave me a bottle of actual Russian vodka - no English language on it. When I brought it home, I commented to my husband that I had never had vodka straight - always mixed it with something else - and said I doubted there was much difference. He quickly corrected me saying there was a difference and we could check it out with our own 'inventory' as compared to the Russian bottle. So we got out the shot glasses and all the bottles - must have been 6 of them - and started testing. And there was a difference, mostly in sweetness to my tongue. And not as distasteful as other liquors that are taken straight.

    Now what is funny about this story is we decided to do this at 11:00 am on a Saturday morning. Just sitting at the kitchen table with all our bottles and shot glasses, etc. and our grown daughter walked in the house and stopped dead in her tracks - looking at us each individually and then at at all the bottles (and repeat) and silence!! Then she pulled out a glass and sat down and asked why we didn't let her know about this! hahaha!

  4. Purple hull peas, another cow pea, or so I call them. Taste great. Can and freeze well. Produce heavily. To top it off, there is no guess work when they are ready to pick. The hulls turn purple. We've grown them for years after a one year trial of black-eyes.

    Good experiment. Thanks! Fern

  5. I don't grow them, but I would have been tempted by the "brown sugar" peas, too, Leigh ;)
    In case you don't see it on my blog, I wanted to be sure to thank you here as well, for your comment on the "someone else's snow" watercolor. You put a big smile on my face, because that is exactly what I was hoping wo uld happen - that the viewer's eye would first be reading the brown landscape elements and then the snow would suddenly "appear." :)

  6. I don't grow them but I sure do love to stick a bunch in a crockpot overnight to soak and then add some ham hocks in the morning and let it simmer all day.

  7. Field peas were about the only kind of peas I knew about growing up. I like the whiter peas better than the darker ones. Don't ask me what the names are, though. We never ate dried peas except for black eyed peas. We froze the fresh peas for consumption during the year.

  8. Michelle, I have to admit that black-eyed peas are probably my least favorite. Flavor-wise, they are all pretty similar, which I suppose says that I like other kinds of dried beans better than southern peas!

    Mama Pea, have you tried to grow favas? I think I read somewhere that they do better in cool weather. I'm thinking they might make a good hoop house bean for us.

    RT, great story! It's amazing that a category of consumable can have so many flavor nuances. :)

    Fern, thank you for mentioning the purple hulls! I'm always willing to experiment and will have to try them.

    Quinn, you just made my day! Thank you for telling me about the water color. :) Reminds me of a "test" given to adults to find the arrow in the FedEx logo. They rarely can. Ask a preschooler and they point it out immediately!

    Ed, yes, ham hocks or the leftover Christmas ham bone makes the best beans!!!!

    FFG, I never realized there were so many varieties until I started looking at seed catalogues. I've tried various beans throughout the years and find for dried, black turtle seem to grow best here. All the cowpeas do well, though.

  9. Leigh,
    I beg to differ with you. They are not the same thing.

    Cow peas are black eyed peas. They come in a variety of colors from white to brown. They range in size with long pods and easy to shell. They have the characteristic black, yellow, pink eye where the pea connects to the pod. They do best and easiest to harvest.

    Field peas are very small. Acre peas or crowder peas are the most common.They are smaller than black eyes are a bear to shell. They are solid colored or speckled. It takes a whole lot of these to make a meal.

    The taste is different. I've grown and like both.Cockeyed Jo

  10. Jo, technically that may be true (documentation?), but if anyone goes to buy any of the varieties mentioned, they're going to find them listed by garden and cover crop seed companies as I mentioned.

  11. I’m so excited to see this article! A few years ago I bought a load of soil to set up a garden, and the soil was so bad the only thing that would grow were the purple hull cow peas, which grew like crazy! I’d love to hear more about how you cook & prepare these... I never cooked any of mine fresh before drying.

    I saw ‘Florida Farm Girl’s comment about freezing the fresh peas which seems like a great idea since then I’m assuming they would cook faster than dried.

  12. Great test, and I appreciate your doing it. I just love cowpeas, and I want to try the Southern Brown Sugar, because like you said, how could I resist? ;)!

  13. Loved the brown sugar peas. Can’t imagine how they got that name 😉

    You have to stop tempting me either all the numerous varieties. I will not have but one maybe two raised beds this year. Space is at a premium 😊

  14. Meredith, so nice to hear from you! Wow, your soil must have been pretty bad! I've never cooked cowpeas fresh either. Usually I let them dry on the vine and pick then. I agree they should cook faster if fresh. It would be a good experiment!

    Wyomingheart, I know! They saying goes "what's in a name," and to that I say "influence." LOL

    Goatldi, I thought I was all settled on which varieties I liked best, but then another seed catalog arrives in the mail ... ;)

  15. Howdy, thank you for posting the seldom grown and eaten cow pea. I have never raised the Razorback variety. Where do you buy your seed? When do you plant them?

  16. I had not thought of crowder peas in years...we used to raise them at home and I loved them. Thanks for jogging my memory. Yours plate of food looks delicious.

  17. Ruthlynn, I bought the seed from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. That link will take you directly to the product page. They don't offer them every year, so get them while they've got them! They are frost sensitive, so I plant them after the last expected frost.

    Rose, maybe you should plant a few this summer. :)

  18. No, but I will now especially since I live in "Razorback country"! LOL! Thank you for the post as I had wondered about 'cowpeas'.

  19. Sam, the razorback peas were developed by Horus Botanicals of Salem, Arkansas, and so appropriately named!

  20. I grew a field pea one year as a cover crop. I was delighted that the greens made wonderful salad additions. It's definitely a crop I want to continue to grow in a greater quantity. I could see the goats eating them whole with the bean. Have you tried drying them whole for winter storage? Maybe that wouldn't work with all those little beans dropping out...

  21. Debby, they make great goat food. The goats eat the whole plant fresh, or dried as hay. They'll eat the dried pods whole, with or without the peas. The dried pods do tend to split so that the peas fall out. For those that I shell for house use, I feed the empty shells to the goats too.


Welcome to 5 Acres & A Dream The Blog! Thank you for taking the time to join in the conversation.