Cowpea, which can also be referred to as black-eyed pea is grown mainly for its edible beans, but what many people don’t know is that the crop can be grown as a vegetable.
Cowpea farming is common in Southeast Asia (mainly India), Kenya and other African countries. In Kenya, the leaves are popularly known as Kunde and make amazing recipes.
The cowpeas are the easiest of the plants in the bean family to grow. They do well in the harshest of climates and require very little rainfall. Cowpeas are rarely grown under irrigation since they yield a lot of leaves when exposed to a lot of water but produce little grain.
The rainfall required for the farming of cowpeas is about 200mm in the season of growth. Worth noting is that cowpeas are indigenous to Africa has been in the continent over 3000 years ago.
For better yields, well-drained and fertile soils are ideal for the effective farming of the cowpeas. Land should be well prepared before planting and seeds planted directly to the fields should have a spacing of between 30 to 40 cm.
Unlike other leafy vegetables, cowpea requires less maintenance throughout its growing period. It is drought resistant and can thrive in poor soils. And the best thing about growing the southern bean as a vegetable is that you don’t need to have acres of land and to use expensive inputs. That small garden in your home is enough to cultivate the black-eyed peas.
Depending on the fertility of the soil and the atmospheric temperatures. Intercropping can be done with maize, millet or sorghum.
Cowpeas tender leaves and young pods are edible and can be used to make delicious and nutritious vegetable dishes. According to food scientists and nutritional experts, the leaves have a high nutritional value.
Cowpea leaves have many health benefits. They are a good source of vitamins and antioxidants, and like other greens, the leaves have a high fiber content. A diet containing this vegetable is great for diabetic, cardiovascular and overweight conditions.
Cowpea leaves are ready for harvest after 3 weeks. The crop usually has a number of leaves after this time, which means that picking some of them will not hurt it.
Pick the leaves when you are sure to cook them within 3 days. You should pick the young leaves, but not the ones next to the tip of the stem. The younger leaves are more tender, succulent and nutritional compared to the older leaves. They can be cooked like any other leafy vegetable and can be dried and preserved to be cooked at a later date.
When it comes to the pods, harvest the soft, green ones. Pick the pods when you are sure to cook them within 5 days, and you can cook them together with the leaves.
Some pods mature up and become hard before you can harvest them. Wait for these pods to ripen and form full beans before picking. When you have enough of the mature pods, you can separate the beans from the vines and use them to make another type of a meal.
You can also wait for the pods to dry up and separate the dry beans from the pods and save them as seeds. Your crop can still produce more edible leaves. Trim any withered parts of the crop to allow it generate new leaves. After another cycle of bearing pods, uproot the crop and plant a new one.