Harvest black eyed peas

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How To Harvest Black Eyed Peas – Tips For Picking Black Eyed Peas

Whether you call them southern peas, crowder peas, field peas, or more commonly black eyed peas, if you’re growing this heat-loving crop, you need to know about black eye pea harvest time – such as when to pick and how to harvest black eyed peas. Keep reading to find out about harvesting and picking black eyed peas.

When to Pick Black Eyed Peas

Originating in subtropical Asia, black eyed peas are actually legumes rather than peas. They are a common celebratory feature of many a New Year’s day meal in the southern United States. Although a popular crop in that region, black eyed peas are actually cultivated around the globe, yet many of us only know them as the dried white bean with a black ‘eye.’

Black eyed peas can actually be harvested as either a fresh snap bean about 60 days post germination or as a dry bean after about 90 days of growing time. They are sown after the last frost or can be started inside 4-6 weeks before the last frost, although they don’t respond as well to transplanting as direct sowing. A better idea to get an early start is to lay down black plastic to warm the soil and then direct seed.

How to Harvest Black Eyed Peas

Both bush and pole varieties are available, but either type will be ready to harvest in about 60-70 days for snap beans. If you are harvesting black eyed peas for dried beans, wait until they have been growing for 80-100 days. There are a number of methods to harvest black eyed peas for dried beans. The easiest is to wait to start picking the black eyed peas until they are dry on the vine.

Bush beans begin producing before pole beans and usually become ready to harvest all at once. Stagger planting every two weeks will keep the bush beans producing longer. You can begin picking black eyed peas for snap beans when the pods are 3-4 inches (7-10 cm.) in length. Pick them gently so you don’t take the entire vine with the pods.

If you want to harvest for shelling beans or dry beans, leave the pods on the vines to dry completely. Wait to harvest until the pods are dry, brown and you can see the beans almost bursting through the pods. Shell the pods and allow the peas to dry thoroughly. Store them in an air tight container in a cool, dry area for at least a year. Add the empty hulls to your compost pile.

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This No Soak Black Eyed Peas recipe should be titled “go ahead and forget to soak!” because soaking isn’t necessary. That’s right, in about an hour, you can have a cooked pot of “lucky” beans for New Year’s Day. So, fire up your Instant Pot, or stovetop, or oven, because we’re giving you instructions on how to make black eyed peas for each method.

Black Eyed Peas Recipe with Ham

I can’t tell you how many years I’ve successfully eaten black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day because of this no-soak recipe.

It’s not that I don’t plan, I’ve just learned that soaking really isn’t necessary. You can have a pot of hearty, nutritious, black-eyed peas in front of you within 60 minutes of deciding to make it.

The ingredients for this recipe are dried black-eyed peas, cooked ham, and a few pantry ingredients, all of which are available at most grocery stores.

Black Eyed Peas Recipe Video

Eating black-eyed peas (Hoppin’ John) on New Year’s Day is a Southern tradition that’s believed to bring luck and prosperity in the coming year.

I’m not superstitious, but I’ll take all the luck I can get.

I happen to also love great food and an excuse to see people on the first day of the new year.

Do black eyed peas need to soak?

As I mentioned above, it’s really not necessary. Dry black eyed peas cook in about an hour without soaking, which is perfectly reasonable.

I’ve included three methods to cook black-eyed peas. You can pick your method and rock this recipe. It’s delish any way you decide to go!

  1. Instant Pot
  2. On the stove
  3. In the oven … yep, in the oven!

How to cook black eyed peas in the Instant Pot

  1. Place the inner pot in the Instant Pot base and plug in the unit.
  2. Add BLACK-EYED PEAS, DRIED ONION, SALT, PEPPER, BAY LEAF, CHICKEN BROTH (or water), and DICED HAM to the Instant Pot. If you want to add kale or collard greens, now would be the time to add it.
  3. Select the “Manual” function on the control panel and press “+/-” buttons to display 12 minutes on the LED (or 20 minutes for very soft beans). Toggle the “Pressure” function to set pressure indicator light to “High Pressure”. Allow the cook cycle to run.
  4. When the cycle is complete, the cooker beeps and LED display reads “0”. Allow the cooker do natural pressure release (NPR) until the ‘float valve’ drops (about 10 minutes). The cooker then goes into “Keep warm” mode. At this point, your black eyed peas are ready to enjoy.

Get the full recipe below

How to cook black eyed peas on the stove

  1. In a 3-quart, heavy soup pot (with lid), combine BLACK EYED PEAS, DRIED ONION, SALT, PEPPER, BAY LEAF, HAM, and CHICKEN BROTH (or water).
  2. Cook over high heat until it reaches a rolling boil for about 5 minutes.
  3. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer the black eyed peas 60-90 minutes, or until beans are softened to your liking. (optional) Near the end of the cooking cycle, you can add kale or spinach to this recipe. If using collard greens, you’ll want to add those with the other ingredients early in the cooking cycle.

Get the full recipe below

How to cook black eyed peas in the oven

  1. Preheat oven to 375°
  2. In a 3-quart, heavy soup pot (with lid), combine BLACK EYED PEAS, DRIED ONION, SALT, PEPPER, BAY LEAF, HAM, and CHICKEN BROTH (or water).
  3. Cover with a heavy lid and bake for 60 minutes. (optional) Near the end of the cooking cycle, you can add kale or spinach to this recipe. If using collard greens, you’ll want to add those with the other ingredients early in the cooking cycle.
  4. Carefully remove pot to check for doneness; Note: if liquid level has fallen below bean surface, add enough to slightly cover beans if the beans need more cooking time.
  5. Return covered pot to the oven for 15-30 minutes until beans are fully cooked; carefully remove when done.

Get the full recipe below

Check out my other post on How to Cook Dried Beans in 2 Hours…and look at the testimonials under the recipe. People swear by this method!

Black Eyed Peas Recipe Ingredients

  • dried Black Eyed Peas
  • dried onion flakes
  • salt and pepper
  • bay leaf
  • chicken broth (or water)
  • leftover ham (optional)

Can I add greens to this recipe?

Heck ya! Here’s what

Tools I use for this recipe

  • colander
  • 6 qt Instant Pot
  • Enameled dutch oven with lid
  • measuring cup
  • serving ladle

How do you serve black eyed peas?

Black eyed peas are often served with collard greens and cornbread. I do love beans and greens…and I simply gotta get my cornbread recipe up on the blog, guys!

You could also serve them with quinoa, or rice, as is more traditional with Hoppin’ John.

Need other black eyed peas recipes?

Check out my Black Eyed Pea Salad that’s very similar to cowboy caviar.

Also, I have a Black Eyed Peas Brownie recipe that’s gluten free.

5 from 20 votes

No Soak Black Eyed Peas Recipe for Instant Pot or Stove

An easy black eyed peas recipe made with leftover ham and a few pantry ingredients. This no-soak recipe has instructions for Instant Pot, stove, and oven method. Everyone needs a scrumptious black-eyed peas recipe to eat for good luck on New Year’s Day. Course Main Course, Soup Cuisine American Prep Time 5 minutes Cook Time 45 minutes Total Time 50 minutes Servings 8 1-cup servings Calories 82kcal Author Traci Antonovich

Ingredients

  • 1 16oz bag Dry Black Eyed Peas 3 cups
  • 1/4 cup Dried Onion Flakes
  • 1 tsp Kosher Salt
  • Black Pepper
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 7 cups Reduced Sodium Chicken Broth or water
  • 1/2 lb cooked Ham diced

Instructions

  • Sort and rinse the beans to remove any unwanted particles.

How to make black eyed peas in the Instant Pot

  • Add BLACK EYED PEAS, DRIED ONION, SALT, PEPPER, BAY LEAF, CHICKEN BROTH, and DICED HAM to the Instant Pot.
  • Secure the lid and turn the pressure release valve to the “Sealing” position.
  • Select “Manual” and set the Instant Pot on “High” pressure for +12 minutes.
  • When the cycle completes, allow the Instant Pot to sit for 10 minutes, undisturbed, for a natural pressure release (NPR).
  • Then, using an oven mitt for protection, release any remaining steam by turning the pressure release valve to the “Venting” position.
  • The cooker automatically goes into “Keep Warm” mode until you shut it off.
  • The entire process from dry beans to ‘done’ takes 45 minutes in the Instant Pot.

How to make black eyed peas on the stove

  • In a 3-quart, heavy soup pot (with lid), combine BLACK EYED PEAS, DRIED ONION, SALT, PEPPER, BAY LEAF, DICED HAM, and CHICKEN BROTH.
  • Bring everything to a rolling boil and continue boiling for about 5 minutes.
  • Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer the black eyed peas 30-60 minutes, or until beans are softened to your liking. Serve warm.

How to make black eyed peas in the oven

  • Preheat oven to 375°
  • In a 3-quart, heavy soup pot (with lid), combine BLACK EYED PEAS, DRIED ONION, SALT, PEPPER, BAY LEAF, DICED HAM, and CHICKEN STOCK.
  • Cover and bake for 60 minutes.
  • Carefully remove pot to check for doneness; Note: if water level has fallen below bean surface, add enough to slightly cover beans.
  • Return covered pot to oven for 15-30 minutes until beans are fully cooked; carefully remove when done.

Note: If you want a deeper, smokier ham flavor, add a 1/4 lb ham hock or ham shank to this recipe at the beginning of the cook cycle. Then, remove it at the end of the cook cycle. Remove any bone pieces that may have broken off into the beans during cooking.

To serve black eyed peas, remove the bay leaf before eating.

RECIPE NOTES

Yield: 8 cups Serving size: 1 cup Nutrition facts are provided as a courtesy and are estimates based on unbranded ingredients acquired from a nutrition database. For accurate calculations, please refer to brand packaging information and consult your nutritionist.

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts No Soak Black Eyed Peas Recipe for Instant Pot or Stove Amount Per Serving (1 cup) Calories 82 Calories from Fat 27 % Daily Value* Fat 3g5% Saturated Fat 1g6% Cholesterol 21mg7% Sodium 680mg30% Potassium 286mg8% Carbohydrates 4g1% Fiber 1g4% Sugar 1g1% Protein 10g20% Vitamin C 8mg10% Calcium 14mg1% Iron 1mg6% * Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet. Did you make this recipe? Tag me!Mention @thekitchengirl or tag #thekitchengirl

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Traci Antonovich

Recipe author and food photographer at The Kitchen Girl I’m on a mission to help you eat healthy AND save money through simple, everyday recipes, product reviews, and budget-friendly kitchen tips. Follow TKG

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Black Eyed Peas Recipe

Black Eyed Peas make a Southern favorite and are traditionally served on New Year’s Day to bring good luck. This black eyed peas recipe provides both stovetop, slow cooker, and Instant Pot methods!

Black Eyed Peas are one of the most comforting, amazing dishes in southern history. Well, at least they are in my family. Thankfully, they are one of the easiest, most budget-friendly, nutrient-rich dishes to prepare, too.

Growing up, there were many weeknights that we had supper with my grandparents and all my grandfather would want for supper was peas, cornbread, and a glass of milk.

Time after time, that was the meal grandmother loving prepared for him with black eyed peas simmering on the stove throughout the afternoon for that night’s supper. I always thought he didn’t know what he was missing by not eating whatever she’d prepared to go along with it for the rest of us.

Now that I’m older, there are many nights that a big bowl of these peas on top of a hunk of southern cornbread and a little bit of pepper sauce is all I want for supper, too. I get it and thankfully, they are something that my whole family enjoys. I guess that’s just one more thing I should’ve listened to my grandparents about. At least I know now.

How to Make Black Eyed Peas Recipe

I’ve included stove top, slow cooker, and Instant Pot methods for cooking them! Regardless of which method there are a couple of steps that you’ll want to take for the best black eyed peas!

Rinse

You’ll want to make sure to rinse and pick over your peas to make sure they are clean and prepped! Place them into a colander under cool running water. Rinse the peas, being sure to move them around in the colander with your fingers. As you are rinsing, remove any peas that are overly darkened as well as any other items from the peas that doesn’t belong.

Soak (for Stove Top and Slow Cooker Methods)

There are two soaking methods for peas that work perfectly: overnight soaking and quick soaking.

Overnight Soaking Method

Add your peas to a stockpot and cover with cool, clean water, plus about 2 inches. Allow to soak, uncovered, overnight. The next morning, pour your peas into a colander to drain away the soaking liquid.

Quick Soaking Method

Add your peas to a stockpot and cover with cool, clean water, plus about 2 inches. Bring your black eyed peas to a boil and continue to boil for two minutes. Pour your peas into a colander to drain away the soaking liquid.

Cooking Black Eyed Peas

Once your peas have been prepped, you are ready to proceed with your favorite cooking method.

Stove Top Black Eyed Peas

Add your peas back to your stock pot and cover with water, plus about 2 inches. Add in your ham bone, bacon, or salt pork, if using. If you prefer a vegetarian or vegan method, use 2 tablespoons olive oil. Set over medium-low heat on your stove. Bring black eyed peas to a simmer and continue to keep at a low simmer, adding water and stirring occasionally as needed, until the black eyed peas are fork tender, about two hours. Remove ham bone and serve.

Slow Cooker Black Eyed Peas

Add your peas back to your slow cooker and cover with water, plus about 2 inches. Add in your ham bone, bacon, or salt pork, if using. If you prefer a vegetarian or vegan method, use 2 tablespoons olive oil. Cover and cook on low setting for 8 hours. Remove ham bone and serve.

Instant Pot Black Eyed Peas

There is no need to soak your black eyed peas using the Instant Pot, making them even easier. Of course if you would like to soak them anyway, you certainly can.

Add your peas back to your Instant Pot and cover with water, plus about 2 inches. Add in your ham bone, bacon, or salt pork, if using. If you prefer a vegetarian or vegan method, use 2 tablespoons olive oil. Cover and cook on high pressure for 20 minutes. Allow the pressure to release naturally, about 20 more minutes. Remove ham bone and serve.

Here’s my black eyed peas recipe for the stock pot, slow cooker or Instant Pot! Regardless of the method you use, I hope you love them as much as we do!

Black Eyed Peas make a Southern favorite and are traditionally served on New Year’s Day to bring good luck. This black eye peas recipe recipe provides both stovetop and slow cooker methods! 5 from 7 votes

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Prep Time10 mins Cook Time2 hrs Total Time2 hrs 10 mins Servings: 8 Course Side Dish Cuisine American Author: Robyn Stone | Add a Pinch

  • 1 pound dried black eyed peas (16-ounces)
  • 1 ham bone leftover and frozen from previously cooked ham recipe or about 7 strips of thick-sliced bacon or salt pork
  • salt and pepper to taste

  • Rinse black eyed peas in a colander, discarding any peas that are discolored or any small pebbles that may be in the dried peas.
  • Pour rinsed black eyed peas into a large, heavy-bottomed stock pot and soak using one of two soaking methods. Quick Soak: Cover with water, plus about 2 inches. Bring to a boil and boil for 2 minutes. Overnight Soak: Cover with water, plus about 2 inches. Allow to soak in the stockpot, uncovered overnight. Once soaked, pour black eyed peas through a colander again to remove them from the soaking water.
  • Add peas back to the stock pot and return to stove over medium-low heat. Add enough water to the stock pot to cover the black eyed peas, plus about 2 inches. Add in ham bone, bacon or salt pork, if using. If you prefer a vegetarian or vegan method, use 2 tablespoons olive oil. Bring black eyed peas to a simmer and continue to keep at a low simmer, adding water and stirring occasionally as needed, until the black eyed peas are fork tender, about two hours.
  • Remove and discard ham bone, leaving bits of ham that would have cooked into the black eyed peas in the peas. If using bacon or salt pork, remove and discard. Salt and pepper to taste.
  • Rinse black eyed peas in a colander, discarding any peas that are discolored or any small pebbles that may be in the dried peas.
  • Pour rinsed black eyed peas into a large, heavy-bottomed stock pot and soak using one of two soaking methods. Quick Soak: Cover with water, plus about 2 inches. Bring to a boil and boil for 2 minutes. Overnight Soak: Cover with water, plus about 2 inches. Allow to soak in the stockpot, uncovered overnight. Once soaked, pour black eyed peas through a colander again to remove them from the soaking water.
  • Add black eyed peas to the slow cooker and cover with water, plus about 2 inches. Add in ham bone, bacon or salt pork, if using. If you prefer a vegetarian or vegan method, use 2 tablespoons olive oil. Place the lid onto the slow cooker and cook for 8 hours on low setting.
  • Remove and discard ham bone, leaving bits of ham that would have cooked into the black eyed peas in the peas. If using bacon or salt pork, remove and discard.
  • Add rinsed black eyed peas to Instant Pot and cover with water, plus about 2 inches. Add in ham bone, bacon or salt pork, if using. If you prefer a vegetarian or vegan method, use 2 tablespoons olive oil. Secure the lid to the Instant Pot and cook under high pressure for 25 minutes. Allow the pressure to release naturally, about 20 more minutes. Remove and discard ham bone, leaving bits of ham that would have cooked into the black eyed peas in the peas. If using bacon or salt pork, remove and discard.

Save Recipe Have you made this recipe?Tag @addapinch on Instagram or hashtag it #addapinch

Enjoy!
Robyn xo

From the Add a Pinch recipe archives. Originally published 2011.

Get over your fear of shucking. Fresh black-eyed peas are worth unzipping a pod for. They taste light and bright, unlike the more earthy but still delicious black-eyed peas cooked from dried. Other highly shuckable legumes include field peas, butter beans, lima beans, shellies, and cowpeas. Often you can find bags of shelled fresh legumes at the farmers’ market, but it’s easy to DIY.

I get bags of black-eyed peas from Beth of Wild Onion Farms. She said many people stop by her stand to say how much they love the fresh legumes, but then don’t buy. Too mysterious? Too much work? Hung up on whether to say shucking, shelling, or popping?

Don’t let this keep you from bringing home the beans. In just a few minutes, you can reveal an ingredient that can elevate summer meals. It only takes Beth about 10 minutes to shell a pound of beans, enough to feed two people. It takes me about 15 minutes. Because you don’t have to soak fresh peas or beans, they can actually help you get dinner on the table faster.

The classic place to shell fresh peas and beans is on the porch while chatting with your kinfolk, but you can do it while watching TV or listening to music. After a busy day, you might prefer just to enjoy the peas and quiet.

How to Shell Fresh Black-Eyed Peas and Field Peas

  • Rinse the pods and compost or toss any that are mushy. Set out a bowl or colander to catch your bounty.
  • Pick up a pod and squeeze it so that the side seam opens. Sometimes with greener pods, I use a paring knife to make a little cut in the seam to get the unveiling started.
  • Pull the pod apart and let the peas drop into your waiting container. Nudge any lingering legumes. Squeeze, peel, and drop with the remaining pods.

Next step, see my recipe for Fresh Black-Eyed Peas with Summer Vegetables.

Something-for-Nothing Tip

If you have youngish, still flexible pods, don’t compost them yet. Marcella Hazan, the authority on Italian cooking, recommends peeling the inner membrane away from shelled pods, then boiling the peeled pods to make broth or soup. I’m going to try this with my next batch.

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Shelling beans are a little different than your typical string beans we are all familiar with. Unlike their cousin the green bean, the pod is not consumed. Rather their drying seeds are used. Shelling beans also include varieties such as lima beans, soybeans, peas, butter beans, broad beans, black beans, black-eyed peas and fava beans. Inside a shelling bean pod are distinct beans that are harvested at the height of maturity, then cooked fresh or dried for later use. They also freeze very well. They are typically harvested when the pods are drying out but haven’t burst yet. The pod itself is typically not tender or eaten, since they are harvested for what’s inside.

Here’s how to select a choice shelling bean. Look for pods that are bumpy, and a bit dried out so the seeds are fully developed, however, the stems still remain green. Shelling the bean is easy and is referred as “threshing.” You can scoop the seeds out by running your thumb or finger along the inside of the pod halves.

You can cook the beans when harvested by including them in soups, stews and other dishes. They do take 20 to 30 minutes to soften. They are considered a vegetable, unlike other beans (legumes) that are dried and used later, but shelling beans are cooked very similarly to legumes. They make a great addition to salads and other dishes, alongside meats, roasts, etc., or vegetable dishes.

Shelling beans are high in thiamin (B-1), folate (B-9), dietary fiber, zinc, manganese, iron, magnesium and potassium. Varieties local to Washington state include black, dark and light red kidney, pink, pinto, and small red and small white.

Making these beans the star of the show or perform a supporting role, you can easily make some pretty tasty grub! At family gatherings, potlucks and other group meals you can almost always find a freshly made bean salad that is cost-effective and goes a long way. The great part about salad making with shelling beans is that you can pick just about any ethnicity to use as your flavor profile by varying spices, and you can do the same with some of the salad elements. For example, you can give it a Mexican theme by adding cumin and cayenne and red pepper to the salad dressing. You can make it have an Italian theme by including thyme, rosemary and lots of fresh basil. Same for Middle Eastern flavors. The idea is that the bean easily accepts a vinaigrette with the variety of flavors these themes offer. Add fresh vegetables, tomatoes, even olives if so desired, along with a little cheese such as feta or Cotija cheeses. Seeds such as sunflower, sesame, pepitas, or poppies are an awesome topping. You can also include other animal proteins like chicken, shrimp, clams, beef or pork to complement the plant proteins for a full cadre of proteins that your body can absorb.

Everyday Mysteries

Question Are black-eyed peas really peas?

No.

Blackeye pea. Federal Grain Inspection Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture Marketing Service.

Black-eyed peas (Vigna unguiculata) are a variety of the cowpea and are part of the family of beans & peas (Leguminosae or Fabaceae in the USA). Although called a pea, it is actually a bean. Both peas and beans are legumes, and both have edible seeds and pods. 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.

Black-eyed pea plant. Thomas Jefferson praised it as “… very productive, excellent food for man and beast.” Historic Jamestowne, National Park Service.

The common names of beans and peas are not consistent; other legumes popularly called “peas” are the butterfly pea (Clitoria ternatea), the chickpea (Cicer arietinum), pigeon peas (Cajanus cajan), and the winged pea (Lotus tetragonolobus). As legumes they are extremely nourishing vegetables, both to people and to the soil. They are able to fix nitrogen, meaning nitrogen from the air is taken in by the plant and bacteria living in the roots convert it to a useable plant nutrient. Because of this process, nitrogen-fixing plants improve soil quality by adding nutrients back into the soil.

Southern blackeyed-peas. What’s Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl.

Fun Facts about black-eyed peas:

  • Cultivated since pre-historic times in China and India, they are related to the mung bean. The ancient Greeks and Romans preferred them to chickpeas.
  • Brought to the West Indies by enslaved West Africans, by earliest records in 1674.
  • Originally used as food for livestock, they became a staple of the slaves’ diet. During the Civil War, black-eyed peas (field peas) and corn were thus ignored by Sherman’s troops. Left behind in the fields, they became important food for the Confederate South.
  • In the American South, eating black-eyed peas and greens (such as collards) on New Year’s Day is considered good luck: the peas symbolize coins and the greens symbolize paper money.
  • They are a key ingredient in Hoppin’ John (peas, rice and pork) and part of African-American “soul food.”
  • Originally called mogette (French for nun). The black eye in the center of the bean (where it attaches to the pod) reminded some of a nun’s head attire.

Legume of the month: Black-eyed peas

Published: December, 2019

In Southern states, people often eat black-eyed peas and collard greens on New Year’s Day, a tradition believed to bring wealth and good fortune in the coming year. The classic recipe for this dish, called Hoppin’ John, often includes some form of pork. But the Half-cup Habit website has a vegetarian version; see https://pulses.org/nap/recipe/hoppin-john.

It may be just luck, but black-eyed peas seem to be less likely than black beans or pinto beans to cause intestinal gas, according to a small study. All legumes contain fiber and substances known as oligosaccharides that can’t be broken down by human digestive enzymes. But the billions of bacteria living in the gut can digest oligosaccharides, often creating gas in the process.

According to the study authors, most people ended up back at their baseline flatulence levels after a few weeks of eating any of these bean varieties. This digestive adaptation is yet another reason you should eat legumes on a regular basis. Aim for at least one-and-a-half cups a week, as suggested by the U.S. Dietary Guidelines.

Image: FreezeFrameStudio/Getty Images

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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.

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

Depending on where, when, and what you planted, you are probably in the thick of, or rapidly approaching, harvest time. But how do you know whether to pick or not to pick? This is a question I have been asked A LOT. Not all plants clue us in by turning bright red like tomatoes! To set you up for harvesting success, I created a…

3 part harvesting mini-course- just for you!

There are a few factors involved in when to harvest, so today, let’s look at the general basics.

Start to harvest your greens when they are about the size of an 1 year old!

Time: The time frames on the seed packets will give you a general idea of when to harvest. Be sure to document on the calendar when you planted so you can mark the appropriate number of days till harvest. This is a great activity to do with elementary age children for calendar and time practice.

Color: The color of the fruit or veggie to be harvested is the first indicator. Is it the color that the seed or start pack advertised? If you are harvesting tomatoes, they could be a wide variety of colors from Green Zebra heirlooms that stay green when ripe, to the garden center favorite Better Boys which turn the classic bright red. Know what variety you planted and when they turn the right color pick em!

Size: This is also a good quick indicator. Know what kind of varieties you are planting and then pick according to the size advertised on the packet or label. Do you remember which tomato plants are cherry tomatoes and which are not? Did you plant regular or ichiban eggplant? Be sure you know what your mature fruit should look like to help know when to pick.

These beans are ready! They are taking over the garden!

Now, let’s go a little deeper into some specifics.

Beans and peas for shelling– You can’t see inside their shells to know if they are ripe, so how do you know when to pick? Watch the pod color. On the center line of the pod you will see literally a seam. For legumes like black eyed peas and butter beans that you will be shelling, when this seam becomes yellow, pick the pod. This is when the beans are the plumpest and freshest. Also, look at and feel the pod. Can you clearly see and feel the beans bulging? This is a good sign to pick. If the pod feels tight and smooth, more like a green bean, the beans inside are not ready.

It is fine to pick the beans beyond this yellow seam stage, even to the point when their shells become dry, loose, and papery, but try to avoid picking them when the pods are still deep green because they will be hard to shell and the beans will not have reached maturity. It is inevitable that you will miss some pods, so when you find them dried, pick them and store the dried beans separately for later soaking and cooking. Do be sure the beans are very dry before your store them. (More to come on storing in part 3!)

These beans are about ready, bulging, and the seam down the right side is starting to yellow at the bottom.

Green beans and snow peas– These are the type of legumes that you eat the pods, so you want them fresh and tender. Explore all in the vines and bushes to find all the pods that are hiding! There will be so many pods to pick! Look at the length and plumpness of each pod compared to the others on the plant. You will notice many stages of pods. This will give you a good idea of its harvest readiness. Pea pods are thin and crisp and green bean are plump and crisp.

Green beans are pretty forgiving if they get large you can still eat them, but many pea pods will become stringy if they get too large, so be sure to pick pea pods when they are not too much more than a couple inches long.

Pick you okra when they are about this size of your finger. The right one is getting too big.

Okra– This one is opposite. The smaller they are the better. When okra get very large they are too woody to eat so be sure to be a vigilant okra harvester once they start coming in. Ideal okra picking size is 1.5-3 inches. They can grow really fast so if you see an okra that is almost ready to pick but a little small be sure to get out there and pick it the very next day. It seems like they sometimes grow 2 inches overnight!

Melons– This is an important family to really know the days until harvest form the seed pack. Watch for color, size as in diameter, and plumpness. Even with melons that stay green on the outside, you will notice a change in the green hues. Less ripe green melons are a darker green and fade to a lighter brighter green as they ripen. (More on melons in Part 2 because they get tricky with water quantities.)

Cucumbers– These cucurbits can get bitter when they get too large and the peel starts to yellow, so be sure to pick them when they are plump and bright green. In my experience, they may never reach the size indicated on the packet, but they will look nice and fresh and plump so keep and eye on their skin and girth and you should be fine. You know a cuke is really fresh when it still has the little spikes on the peel. Notice them on the ones you harvest form your garden. I love to pick them off! With these I’d say better to pick a little early than too late.

Super psyched on their sweet potato harvest!

Sweet potatoes and yams– Even though they are underground these are easy because you know they are ready when their leaves begin to yellow. Thank you sweet potatoes for the easy sign!

Root veggies like radishes, beets, and carrots– You know it’s time to pull them up because often you will see the top of the veggie bulging up out of the soil. This isn’t always the case, so feel free to dig around the base of the leaves and feel for a bulge. The days until harvest will give you a general idea of when to start “rooting” around! (I’m so cheezy!!)

This is an exaggerated example to prove the point. See the root bulging, but this is a radish and should have been picked months earlier! A beet like this would be perfect!

Peppers– Many people don’t realize that green peppers are just unripe peppers. I suspect this may be why they make many people’s stomachs hurt. So if you like green peppers, hot or sweet, pick them green. If you want ripe peppers, wait until they turn red, yellow, orange, purple, or whatever other rainbow variety you planted!

Brassicas (Greens, brussel sprouts, and broccoli)– First, all the flowers of the brassica family are edible so feel free to sample them as your plants finish up and go to seed. They taste like broccoli and honey and look great in salads! Greens are easy to harvest because they can be picked as needed, just be sure not to pick the very innermost leaves so the plant will keep growing. (This goes for lettuce too, but lettuce is not a brassica.)

With broccoli, pick when the main center head looks big and plump and the little florets are not tight. as the plant matures these florets will loosen and eventually open up into actual flowers. If you miss a head and it gets really loose or goes to flower, never fear, you can still eat it just fine! Once you pick the main head of a broccoli plant leave the plant growing and it will continue to produce smaller heads for months. These of shoots are what they sell at the store as broccolini.

See the little brussel sprouts growing between the leaf and stalk

Harvest your brussel sprouts when they looks plump like little cabbages on the stalk and the very outer leaves start to loosen a bit. These little heads will be hiding in the armpits of the larger leaves and main stalk. Pick the heads as needed ro you can harvest the entire plant for a big meal. The main leaves of the brussel sprout plant (as well as the broccoli plant) can be eaten the same as you would prepare collards or cabbage.

Okay, so you are now set up for general harvesting success. Thursday I will cover some of the more advanced harvesting considerations such as inclement weather, predators, fungus, and I’ll even get a little woo-woo on you and talk about intuition. Then next Tuesday, we’ll talk about some storing basics for your garden bounty!

Want a a harvest tip for a veggie I didn’t cover? Ask in the comments below!

Seeds to Sprout:

Be sure you are signed up for the Wings, Worms, and Wonder newsletter before Wednesday (tomorrow) to get the upcoming secret subscriber freebie and discount info on the soon to be released Nature Journal Prompt Cards!

The Farmer’s Almanac has lots of free info on specific veggies. Just type in your veggie or fruit in question into the search. I got you started here with beans.

Johnny’s Seeds has interactive planting calendars that can help you track when you planted so you know when to harvest.

When you stick to picking the outer leaves of the greens, after a season they will be very tall and interesting looking like this kale plant. It is about 5 feet tall!

Harvesting Black-Eyed Peas

The little gnatties like to feast on dead and decaying plant matter, and love it moist. Yep that ‘covermoss’ is prone to sheltering and keeping a colony of the little buggers. I clean up my plants and keep them ‘clean’ all the time (old leaves removed and no debris left in the top of the pot) and that helps some on not ever seeing them. I housesit for someone and she always comments when she comes back that I have cleaned up and cleaned out every one of her plants… she always has problems with various disease issues and if she would just CLEAN UP she’d have a lot less problems. Also, remove the trash immediately… she would have this big rolling garbage cans and wouldn’t empty them for months on end. I remove my greenhouse trash when I’m through and ready to go back to the house. If I run into something like mealy bugs, that gets carried out immediately! (a local nursery has issues with it, anything you bring home from there has to be isolated and cleaned up) Between that friend and myself we have fought this war for fourth winter. I am now ‘clean’ and she is still having issues (I have also tossed a few plants to stop the infestation and she won’t… so she keeps breeding more). If you get mealy bugs in your house and your houseplants; second worse is spider mites; you will have a long and hard one to get that one cleaned up. First picture, if you remove the few leaves you find and remove them from the area then wash up, you will probably get it right there. Missing one fleck, you will find first or second picture in 1-4 weeks. I don’t spray because a lot of sprays they seemed to ignore; I killed the plant along with the bugs; and in my greenhouse I am doing semi-aquaculture and sprays/chemicals are not a good thing around the fish. I can tell you insecticidal soap has never seemed to work even if I pretty much drowned the plant in it and it usually has killed the plant at that level. I do ‘clean up plants’ and ‘toss badly infected plants pot and all’ … at times I can find a part of the plant that is almost clean, hand clean a few small flecks off, and put it into an isolation cutting cup-and toss the main plant. In a few weeks either it has gone rampantly infected in which case I toss the whole cup, or it’s clean yet and rooted so I can pot it up. I’ve cried over some plants I’ve tossed, but. Upper Left, Usually you will see just one or two flecks, underside of leaves, near a leaf to stem join, by the time you see this much you’ll be well into the battle. Size of very small salt grains if that big. Upper Right, Well engaged, this is trim this off and remove it; or if the whole plant looks like this it’s going to be tossed. Lower Left, if you see these, about the size of two to three salt grains glued together in a string, you have major problems Lower RightMature mealys, about 1/8 inch long, (3mm), and I usually see the matures as a light gray like this. The smaller is white, the mature is this grey, and they are highly detailed. Start checking all the plants around this one and be very serious about check EVERY bit. All it takes is one tiny white cottony looking fleck….

Black-Eyed Pea, Vigna Unguiculata: “New Year’s Luck”

For luck in the new year, eat black-eyed peas. Jews have been serving them on Rosh Hashanah for 2,500 years and the legumes (native to Africa) came with slaves to the American South in the 17th century.

Vigna unguiculata is a vine-like plant common in warmer growing zones. But don’t be deceived; though it’s also called “cowpea,” “goat pea,” “Southern pea,” and “field pea,” the plant bares legumes, not peas. The “eyes” of the white beans can range in color from black to brown to pink to green.

Above: A black-eyed pea plant in bloom. Photograph by Dinesh Valke via Flickr.

The origin of the tradition of eating black-eyed peas in the US on New Year’s Day is up for debate. One story goes that, during the Civil War, Union armies moving through the South ransacked the Confederates’ food supplies but left dishes of black-eyed peas and pork untouched, thinking it unfit for humans, and leaving plenty for the Southerners to subsist on. Others say that the dish is a symbol of emancipation. Regardless, the black-eyed pea is a common ingredient in Southern dishes.

Above: The plant benefits from having plenty of room to sprawl. Photograph by Forest and Kim Starr via Flickr.

Black-eyed peas, full of nutrients, were championed by George Washington Carver as a source of nitrogen in soil.

Above: Black-eyed peas being shelled for the holiday. Photograph by Jud McCranie, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Cheat Sheet

  • Black-eyed peas are best for gardeners (or farmers) with plenty of space: It’s recommended that four to six seeds are planted in each hole at spaces of 1 foot.
  • In addition to producing healthful legumes, the black-eyed pea plant is also friendly to bees and a plentiful source of honey.
  • A tell-tale sign that the legumes are ready for harvesting: The seeds will appear swollen. Shell and cook peas quickly after harvesting for the freshest possible beans—or dry them and save them for next New Year’s.

Above: Wild and domesticated, black-eyed peas vary in size and hue. Photograph by Ton Rulkens via Flickr.

Keep It Alive

  • Black-eyed peas can only be grown in warm soil, with no risk of frost or cold, generally in the late spring and throughout the summer.
  • No need to hose down your plants daily, even in hot summers; black-eyed peas are drought-resistant and can withstand long stretches without water.
  • Grow black-eyed peas in the sunniest part of the yard; they thrive in direct light.

Above: A pot of freshly shelled black-eyed peas, ready to simmer. Photograph via Food52. For five delicious ways to use these healthful legumes, see One Pot of Black-Eyed Peas, Five Dinners on Food52.

Best wishes for a bountiful new year. For more posts on turning over a new leaf, see:

  • 6 Ways to Green Your Office in the New Year.
  • Garden-to-Table Recipe: New Year’s Cleanse.
  • Gift Guide 2016: Seed Collections for Adventurous Gardeners.

Finally, get more ideas on how to successfully plant, grow, and care for black-eyed peas with our Black-Eyed Peas: A Field Guide.

Interested in other edible plants for your garden? Get more ideas on how to plant, grow, and care for various edible plants (including flowers, herbs and vegetables) with our Edible Plants: A Field Guide.

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