southern peas

canokieFebruary 11, 2012

It sounds like southern peas are well adapted to this climate, so I would like to try growing them this year. The only kind I have ever tasted were black-eyed peas, and to be honest I didn't like them very much. So I was wondering if all southern peas taste basically the same, or if it would be worth trying one of the other kinds? If you have grown these and had success, could you please recommend some varieties for me to try?

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Originating in NJ, I am far from an expert on southern peas ;) However, I will concur with you on the desirability of black eyed peas. I still fix them when nothing else is available. But they do seem, to me, to be at the bottom of the heap. In my limited experience we've found a couple we like better. Penny Rile (available through Sandhill Preservation Center), Zongozotla Pintitos (which I have, but which is not commercially available), Kentucky Red (a large seeded variety I got at the one Oklahoma Gardening spring fling I managed to attend) and Black Crowder (also available through Sandhill Preservation Center).

However, very soon, I'm sure that others with more experience are going to drop in and make some good suggestions. I LOVE growing these, as they are so well adapted to our climate, they make one FEEL GOOD just by growing them!

Tahlequah, OK

    Bookmark   February 12, 2012 at 7:25AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

I grew up eating southern peas, so of course I love them. When preparing them, I usually cook them with a little onion, maybe a jalapeno pepper and some bacon or ham to add flavor.

Our favorite one is Pinkeye Purplehull. We also like Big Red Ripper, White Acre, Whippoorwill and Knuckle. Really, the only ones I don't care for very much are the California Blackeyes, which appear to have been bred so they could be picked by mechanical harvesters. In my opinion, they weren't bred for flavor.

As a bonus, if you can accumulate enough hulls after you shell the peas, you can make pea hull jelly, which is surprisingly tasty.

If, by chance, you or anyone in your family is allergic to bee stings, you need to be careful around southern peas. Their blooms attract lots of bees, wasps and yellow jackets.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2012 at 10:34AM
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I love about all kinds of peas, but if you are short of space other plants will give you more bang for the buck.
I like to grow black eyes, purple hulls and zippers. By the time you invest you space and labor to pick and shell them you don't get a lot of return on your investment.


    Bookmark   February 12, 2012 at 2:19PM
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I found southern peas to be some of the easiest things to grow. I don't do anything to them really but plant and water, Purple hull peas, and let them sprawl on the ground and they have done wonderful.

This year I may throw up a trellis to grow them up.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2012 at 9:32AM
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Among all the peas I tried southern peas did well last year. We had good harvest of both tender for still fry and celled green peas for soup, rotti, subji etc. Shelled green peas when they are still green are good for fresh eating or roasting... lightly roast with salt and pepper and with some butter. -Chandra

    Bookmark   February 14, 2012 at 10:10AM
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George is overly modest. He is a seedsaver and generous too. The Kentucky Red seed he gave me last year was the best cowpea I've ever eaten and very productive, even though I planted them late. They did get a lot taller than I expected. This year this one will go on a trellis as they made 8 ft vines. I have a few seed of this one I will share for a SASE. And as Chandra said, young pods can be snapped and stirfried.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2012 at 1:18PM
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I would love one that grows on a trellis.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2012 at 3:05PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


There's quite a few Vining types that can be trellised, including Big Red Ripper (Mandy), Turkey Craw, California Blackeye (the original OP one), Texas Longhorn Field Pea, Georgia Long, Penny Rile, and Whippoorwill and Steele's Black Whippoorwill. Many of these vining types easily attain a height of 8 to 10', and the growth of Big Red Ripper can just about double that. It is a great one to grow on a fence where you can 'make' it grow sideways by planting it beside a fence and typing new growth to the fence every few days. Or, if you need to grow something viney to shade a shed or other structure from the heat, it is a rampant grower that can shade a garden structure in no time.

Also, even the cultivars described as 'semi-vining' often will get 5-6' tall or taller if they have something to climb, but often stay shorter if they don't have anything to climb.

Sometimes it is hard to figure out which varieties are determinate vs. semi-determinate or indeterminate because a lot of seed sources don't consistently give that info in their descriptions. Usually the words 'field pea' indicate an older variety that likely is vining to semi-vining.


    Bookmark   February 14, 2012 at 5:31PM
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Thanks Dawn for the list and I do have some of those. I just didn't know which ones to trellis. I have a small quantity of Red Ripper, Zongozotha, and Kentucky Red, then I have a BC pack of Penny Rile and Turkey Craw.

I also have Pinkeye Purple Hull, Texas Cream 40, California Blackeye, and some unnamed pea that that came from the Amish in Missouri. So it looks like I have lots to choose from so will probably need to put them in at different times if I am going to save seed.

Thanks for the info, that helps a lot.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2012 at 7:57PM
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Thanks everyone for the helpful feedback.

Larry brings up a good point about bang for the buck. since I am working with a very limited space (only 100 square feet of raised beds). How would a dry shell bean like Rattlesnake compare with southern peas in terms of production per square foot?

    Bookmark   February 14, 2012 at 8:31PM
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helenh(z6 SW MO)

Do any of you use them for soil improvement? Also they were mentioned by someone as a trap crop for stinkbugs.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2012 at 9:28PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Helen, Sometimes I use them for soil improvement within the garden and other times I just pull the plants and throw them on the compost pile. Last year I left the plants in the ground and rototilled them into the soil in early winter. What I do depends on whether I have plans to plant a succession crop of something else in their space once they're through producing.

I do like to use field peas in newly-broken ground purely as soil improvement but for that purpose I use varieties that I don't find especially wonderful for eating. Sometimes I'll break new ground and grow one of the Texas field peas in it for the first year or two to improve the soil before I plant anything else into that area. I even did that when we moved here---planting field peas in future shrub beds for two years before we planted the shrubs there, and the soil still wasn't nearly as improved as I'd hoped.

Canokie, I don't grow Rattlesnake as a dry bean. I grow it as a snap or even as a shell bean, but not as a dry bean. Dry beans take a while longer to mature and dry down on the plants and, since you're dealing with limited space, leaving the pods on the plants longer means a lower harvest over time because plants that are maturing beans are slower to form more new beans.

Rattlesnake is a very heat-tolerant, drought-tolerant and productive bean but one reason it is so productive is that you are continually harvesting beans and it is continually setting more beans. Once you start leaving the beans on the plants longer for dry beans, it takes longer for the plant to make more, so you harvest fewer overall. About the only time I leave any beans to dry is at the end of the season when the freezer is full and we've eaten so many snap beans that we're ready for a break from them.

Having said that, Rattlesnake would outproduce most pole southern peas over the course of the season, I think.

It takes a lot of beans to give you one pound of dry beans and that's the main reason I don't grow any bean primarily as a dry bean when you can walk into a store and buy 1 bag of dry beans for so little money. It just isn't cost-effective for me to improve the soil, buy the seeds, plant the beans, water them, weed them, harvest them, dry them and shell them when I can buy a pound of dry beans for less than a dollar at the grocery store. It makes me feel like I put $20 or $30 worth of material, water and work time into producing a $1.00 bag of dry beans.

Other people likely don't share my feelings about raising dry beans, and maybe I wouldn't feel that way if I had a 5-acre garden and lots of space for dry beans, but I don't have room in my current garden to raise dry beans or a desire to do so. To be honest, when I have grown dry beans, put them in storage in the pantry and then pulled them out later to cook, they didn't taste any different to me than dry beans bought at the store and cooked at home.

And, if I was only going to grow one snap pole bean variety, it wouldn't be Rattlesnake unless I knew in advance that we were going to have weather just like we experienced in the summer of 2011. In fact, Rattlesnake might not even make the Top Five list of what I'd grow. If I could grow only one, I'd likely pick Garafal Oro or Musica, not that I'd ever have enough discipline to plant only one variety.


    Bookmark   February 14, 2012 at 9:51PM
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For what it's worth - last year I grew Penne Rile, Pink Eye Purple Hull, Lady Peas and Whipporwill. Pink Eye is DH's fave plus I can make "grape" jelly from the hulls. I ran out of time or I would have made jelly from the hulls of the Lady Peas, which are a buttery flavored cream colored pea. But the winner for production was the Whipporwill that darn near took over the garden, even with the heat and the drought! If I grow them again this year, I'll have to trellis them. The others grew well with CRW made into a long "V" to support either side. (I took apart a tomatoe cage and used 2 pieces to form the "V". They were 6'x2'.)

Carol and Canokie - I have some seeds I can share if you're interested. (I got the Whipporwill from Dawn in a Swap a couple of years back and the Penny Rile from Owiebrain.)


    Bookmark   February 14, 2012 at 10:58PM
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Paula, Thanks for the offer, but I have some things I need to use up. We had a thread like this once before and I tried to buy both Penny Rile and Whipporwill and BC didn't have them in the store the day I was looking for them then I forgot about it. They still have both listed and I'm sure I will be back over there again before I need more.

Last year I planted from an envelope of Purplehull that you had given me, but it was such a bad gardening year, that I just let them go to seed and saved the seed, so I have plenty of those also. I think they came from Dawn to you, then from you to me, over the years. I also have a pack that I bought and didn't use.

Talk about enablers, I have so many things from so many on this forum that I have a hard time deciding what to plant. I went through peppers and eggplant last night trying to decide which ones I would plant, and I could fill my entire garden with those two things. I also found a few more tomatoes that I just have to plant that Diane sent me along with her pepper seed.

And just for the record (and I know you know this since he is your neighbor), but don't ever trust Chandra. He knows that Al likes eggplant so he sent me a list to chose from. I was really interested in trying some of those that he bought in India so I told him to send me 3 or 4 seeds from any of the top six on his list. I could plant a half acre with what he sent. Someday I would like to give him something nice if I can ever figure out what. He is too generous and it's nice to have him for a friend.

We are supposed to have showers tomorrow so I guess my onions have to wait a little longer.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2012 at 12:03AM
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