Growing black-eyed peas in Michigan

One of my vegetable experiments this year was black-eyed peas. I started eating them (as a dried bean, not a shell bean) last year when a blood test revealed that I have allergen-induced antibodies to most beans and peas – but not black-eyed peas. They are a different genus from pintos, black (turtle) beans, and green beans, and when you grow them, it’s very clear that they are a different beast.

I planted them in…hmm, having a hard time remembering, and I cut myself slack with the records this year. It was well after last frost and the soil had warmed a bit. I think end of May or possibly even early June. I weeded and smoothed the seed bed, then planted them with my Earthway seeder.

Garden July 2010

Clockwise: Black-eyed peas, potatoes, kale house; three sisters (back)

It did a decent job of dropping one seed every 3″ or so, though there were a fair number of double-drops. I watered it well, covered the whole thing with a 75% layer of straw (you could see about 25% of the dirt between the straws) and walked away. I didn’t water them again all season; our natural rainfall was adequate despite a few hot, dry spells.

Here they are in the foreground, about half-grown on July 27th. By the middle of  September, they had overtopped those 6′ bean poles by about 3′. The plants are very sturdy. They have been munched by deer (only on the edge of the bed) and I’ve yanked their pods off, and none of the tendrils have broken. The plants have certainly not uprooted.

Black-eyed pea pods

Black-eyed peas drying: about a dozen per pod.

I harvested the first batch of pods today (Sept. 18th). Some were dry long ago, but not enough to make it worth picking them yet. I lost a fair few to deer (or some other hungry mammal); some of the pods were bitten in half or missing. They only took the ones from the edge of the bed, though, so there were plenty left from me. You can see in this pic some of the lovely fall colors the pods (and also the leaves) are turning. I picked these when the seeds were mature and pretty dry; the pods will have to dry in this box for a few days before I’ll try to shell them. The pods are pretty leathery right now, and they don’t crack open the way other dry beans do. The pods also much bigger than any other dried bean I’ve grown – a dozen per pod seems about average.

Black-eyed peas

Black-eyed peas: out of the shell and drying

Here they are out of the pod. I tried a few at the “shell bean” stage (as I’m sure my Tennessee-raised grandmother would tell  me is the proper way to eat them) but they were such a pain to shell at that stage, I didn’t do many. If anyone has tips on that, I’d love to hear them.

Black-eyed peas cook faster than standard dry beans – more like cooking lentils, actually. I do soak them, but they only need to cook for 30 minutes or so. I’ve overcooked them more than once. They have a somewhat “green” taste and smell, especially while cooking, that took some getting used to, but I do like them. They actually make excellent refried beans.

I will probably continue to grow these. They are exceptionally low-maintenance, had no insect pests, and look to produce a pretty decent crop. I’ll try to remember to post how many cups of beans I shell out. The box above is probably 12″x15″x2″ and is maybe 75% of the harvest of a 50sf bed. They are also another good example of one of my favorite gardening techniques: growing plants as a compost crop (these fix nitrogen) and getting a bonus harvest.



  1. Ginny said,

    September 23, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    Your Black eye peas look can also blanch them and put them into the freezer.When I’m lucky I do them that way and also “Cranberry beans”, here in NC they call them “October beans” Ginny

  2. Jocelyn said,

    November 14, 2010 at 1:55 pm

    I agree that they taste green and starchy. I think they (like lentils) are one of the few beans that really go well with butter.

  3. Sandy said,

    March 1, 2014 at 2:34 am

    Blackeyed peas have a better flavor if they are picked while they are still green with the immature green pods snapped and cooked with the shelled peas.

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