Are Black-Eyed Peas – A Pea or A Bean?

(Last Updated On: January 1, 2017)


Happy New Year!!!! Are you planning on enjoying any black-eyed Peas today? For many this legume is a stable of on New Year’s day. Superstition has it that if you don’t eat them on the first day of the calendar you will be poor throughout the year. Better not risk it. Let’s get it started – Eating black-eyed peas that is, not listening to them.

As I pondering black-eyed peas, are they really pea? I am grew 18 different varieties of peas last year for my other blog, the pea project, and black-eyed peas are nothing like them. For one black-eyed peas grow in warm weather, where as peas like the cool weather of spring. So what are they then? A bean? They do grow in a pod like a bean. Black-eyed peas are a type of cowpea. Wait I thought I you just said they weren’t a pea? A cowpea is a type of legume, which peas are as well. Again the difference comes in the way they grow. They are different than a green bean or your standard dried beans. You are eating a seed that comes out of a long, skinny pod – so culinary speaking you can call them a bean. When I cook them, I treat them like a bean.

For those into science and want to talk genus here is some more information –
According to the Penguin Companion to Food, bean is a “term loosely applied to any legume whose seeds or pods are eaten, not classed separately as a pea or lentil.” Beans traditionally were in the genus Phaseolus, but now some of the species, including the black-eyed pea, are in the genus Vigna. Peas are in the genus Pisum.

Cooking Black-eyed Peas Like a Bean

As I mentioned when I cook black-eyed peas I treat them like a bean. For dried ones I either give them a soak overnight just as I would an dried bean, or I put them directly in my slow cooker overnight or for 6-8 hours until softened.

Grow Your Own Black-eyed Peas

If you are into gardening, want to grow your own black-eyed peas? That way you can enjoy them fresh, not just dried or canned. Yes you did find fresh ones in the store, especially at New Year’s. The price is usually high. I saw $5.99 for 11 oz tub of them at Whole Foods. The dried version was $1.99 at Kroger the same day. The fresh ones had some things added to them to extend their shelf life. No thanks! Yet there is something to be said about eating them fresh. The flavor is…well more fresh tasting. I love growing bean varieties that most people use for dried beans and eating them fresh before they dry out. A great source for black-eyed pea seeds is Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. They offer the California Blackeyed Pea which is the most commonly grown variety.

2017 – the Year of the Cowpea?

As I mentioned the black-eyed peas is a type of cowpea. And did you know that 2017 is the year of the cowpea? Well that is what Jamie Jackson of Missouri Herbs is hoping for. Check out her fantastic post on all the wonderful health benefits that the cowpea and thus the Blackeyed pea contain. Maybe there is something to eating them on New Year’s being good for your pocket book. Eating healthy is a great way to save money down the road. As they say “pay the farmer now or pay the doctor later”.

Are you going to eat black-eyed peas today? Eat them today and any day. One suggestion is to try the recipe that is linked to the picture below.

Blackeyed Pea Salad
A salad that is topped off with cooked black-eyed peas, served with a blood orange vinaigrette.