Blackeye and Purple Hull Peas

Nita's Note:  As I was gathering information for this section, I realized that each new one contradicted the last. So, I asked our expert ! Byron Tumlinson wrote back with everything I had wondered about and it will be listed first on this page as the main instruction for growing and storing. Randy and I both have wonderful memories of eating the young blackeye in-pod as a green bean. They have so much more flavor than the ones we get to grow as "green beans." Kentucky wonder and all of those. These are the best in the world. 


Purple hull and black eye peas are of the same family.  They are all called cow peas and are best planted in the warmer times of the year.  I usually plant them when the ground has warmed up to around 60 to 65 degrees are even warmer.
They like a soil that is a little higher in nitrogen than most plants.  I find that rotted chicken manure is the best fertilizer you can use on them.

I plant in wide beds, and the plants are planted 6 inches apart. Be sure to keep them watered, but not soggy.  The seeds will rot if the ground is either to wet or to cold.

When the young plants start to come up, be sure to pull the weeds or grass from around them as they compete for the moisture and fertilizer. Other than that, they pretty well make it on their own.  I like to start picking them when the seeds are starting to fill out, but before the pod gets tough.

They make excellent green snap peas to eat fresh or freeze. We blanch ours in boiling water for about 30 seconds, then plunge them in an ice water bath to stop the cooking process, and store them in freezer bags in the freezer.  They keep very well for up to 9 months this way.

For dried peas, just let them dry on the vine.  You can tell when they are dry enough because the pea will rattle in the hull when you move it.  The hull will also turn brown. 

You can either leave them in the hull and put them in the freezer or you can shell them and then place them in the freezer.  This kills any bugs that may be in them.  They will keep fine until you want to use them for wonderful black eye or purple hull pea soup, or if you would like to use them for planting the next year. 

Byron Tumlinson, Bio-Intensive Gardening.



As natives of Africa, they are well adapted to hot, dry summers. The peas are also rich in vitamins and nutrients that can help prevent cancer and heart disease.
They are more likely to succeed in areas with warm soil temperatures (at least 60F) and no danger of frost for 90 to 100 days after planting.  They are highly tolerant of drought and a wide variety of soil conditions, including heavy clay and sandy soils. Soil pH can range from 5.5 to 7.  In areas with cooler climates, the plants will tend to be plagued with pests and disease.

Control weeds early in the season with shallow cultivation. Later the peas will shade out most weeds. Avoid cultivation after the plants begin to bloom. Irrigation is normally not necessary; southern peas are renowned for their ability to grow and produce under harsh conditions. Southern peas are self-pollinating with insects, as well as wind, being responsible for moving the pollen to achieve fertilization.

There are four types of cowpeas.  They are:

  • Field pea - Vigorous, vine-type plants with smaller seeds.
  • Crowder pea - The seeds are crowded into the pods and starchy.
  • Cream pea - Small plants with light colored peas.  Examples are 'Texas Cream' and 'Zipper Cream'.
  • "Black-eyed" pea - Intermediate size plants. Examples are 'Blackeye Pea' and "Pinkeye Purple Hull BVR'.
Irrigation is a breeze with southern peas. If access to water is limited the two critical irrigation times are the time of flowering and one week after that.