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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Nutrition of Purple Hull Peas

Purple Hull Peas are easy to grow and packed with nutrition for both man and beast. It, along with crowder and black eyed peas, are commonly called cowpeas. I have found that the chickens will eat the seeds, and the goats will eagerly eat the pods alone, or the pods with the peas intact. When we shell the peas, I always keep the pods for the goats. They're funny, especially One Stripe. When she sees me coming with a garden bucket (metal instead of the black rubber ones we use to feed the goats), she runs over to see what I have in store for her. She will generally eat whatever I offer, whether it is beet greens, carrot tops or comfrey. But she really gobbles down the pea pods. Because of this, and the common usage of cowpeas for animal feed, this nutritional post will include the types of nutrients the animals receive from this versatile vegetable, as well. 

Cowpeas are a legume and will grow well in hot, dry climates. They are utilized all over the world as a valuable food source. Another benefit to the home gardener is the ability of cowpeas to fix nitrogen in the soil. If you have a new patch of ground you are gardening, plant cowpeas or another legume the first year to build up the nutrients in the soil. It will benefit other crops the following year.

The nutrition data listed for 1 cup of cowpeas (blackeye, crowder, southern), boiled with salt is:
  • protein 13.2g
  • carbohydrates 33.5g
  • dietary fiber 11.1g
  • sugars 5.6g
  • Vitamins A, K
  • folate
  • choline
  • calcium
  • magnesium
  • phosphorus
  • potassium
  • sodium
  • zinc
  • selenium
  • flouride
  • omega 3 & 6 fatty acids
  • calories 198
Overall, cowpeas are a very nutritious addition to the diet. They store well when dried or canned, it is easy to harvest seeds for subsequent planting seasons which remain viable for several years (I planted four year old seeds this year), and they are prolific producers in our area.

The differences between cooked peas and raw mature seeds is quite dramatic. Here are a few of the differences.
  • protein 39.3g (26g more)
  • carbohydrates 100g (66.5 more)
  • dietary fiber 17.7g (6.6 more)
  • calories 561 (a whopping 363 more)

Eating the peas raw, or feeding them to livestock raw will provide a much greater nutritional benefit. This is just another example of why we need to consume the water, broth or juice from the vegetables we cook. There are a tremendous amount of nutrients cooked out into the liquid.

I have been happy to discover that the chickens will peck at the dried pods to get the seeds out of them. That is a plus, since we won't have to shell them for chicken feed. The goats will eat the dried pods whole, seeds and all. They are like kids in a candy store when it comes to cowpeas, and I am very glad. It's an easy to grow crop that produces for about four months here. This will allow us to grow a very nutritional vegetable for both man and beast. 

Other benefits of growing cowpeas include the ability to grow a lot of plants in a small space. When my friend Grace saw my pea patch she asked, "How are you going to pick those? They have all run together." Good question. I just walk where I know the rows once were. I like to utilize all of the ground in the garden, and this worked out well. If you prefer a garden with nice neat rows you can walk down and tend to your vegetables, my garden will drive you crazy. I plant everything very close with the goal of covering all of the available dirt in vegetables. If they kind of invade each other's space and overlap, that's okay with me. It gives me a few more meals instead of trying to deal with the grass and weeds that always take over empty spaces. And I have enough grass and weeds now, even with my overcrowding.

If your climate allows, I would recommend some type of cowpea for your garden. It is a great producer loaded with nutrition and it will help build up your soil. And even Frank the carnivore likes them. I think I will grow an even bigger patch next year.

Until next time - Fern


  1. They are yummy! Picking mine tomorrow.

    1. They are yummy, M.E., and so healthy and versatile. I still need to pick some more so they will keep producing. What is your favorite way to fix them?


    2. My mother in law fixes them with just a little pepper and salt. This year I look forward to trying a few new recipes....if you have some suggestions email me

    3. I usually do the same as your mother-in-law, except sometimes I add some bacon or sausage grease. I don't have any other recipes for them. Maybe someone else has some they can share with you.


  2. What do I do with the empty hulls? Can I put them in my garden as compost or something?

    1. You could compost them, Cindy, I feed them to my goats. They love them! Yet another way to 'compost' them into meat and milk. Good question, thank you.


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