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"Black-eyed peas" redirects here. For the hip-hop group, see Black Eyed Peas.

Black-eyed pea
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Fabales
Family: Fabaceae
Genus: Vigna
Species: V. unguiculata
Subspecies: V. u. unguiculata
Trinomial name
Vigna unguiculata unguiculata
Black-eyed pea beans

The black-eyed pea, also called black-eyed bean, ChawaLie, Lobia, etc. in various languages in India, is a subspecies of the cowpea, grown around the world for its medium-sized edible bean. The bean mutates easily, giving rise to a number of varieties. The common commercial one is called the California Blackeye; it is pale-colored with a prominent black spot. The currently accepted botanical name is Vigna unguiculata subsp. unguiculata, although previously it was classified in the genus Phaseolus. Vigna unguiculata subsp. dekindtiana is the wild relative and Vigna unguiculata subsp. sesquipedalis is the related asparagus bean. Other beans of somewhat similar appearance, such as the "frijol ojo de cabra" ("goat's eye bean") of northern Mexico, are sometimes incorrectly called "black-eyed peas" and vice versa.



Originally native to India (poetically compared with young slim girls in literature in some languages in India in the pod form), but widely grown in many countries in Asia, the black-eyed pea was introduced into the West Indies and from there to the Southern United States as early as the 1600s in Virginia. Most of the black-eyed pea cultivation in the region, however, took firmer hold in Florida and the Carolinas during the 1700s, reaching Virginia in full force following the American Revolution.[1] The crop would also eventually prove popular in Texas. Throughout the South, the black-eyed pea is still a widely used ingredient in soul food and various types of Southern U.S. cuisine. The planting of crops of black-eyed peas was promoted by George Washington Carver because, as a legume, it adds nitrogen to the soil and has high nutritional value. Black-eyed peas are an excellent source of calcium (211 mg in a 1 cup serving), folate (209mcg), and vitamin A (1,305 IU), among other nutrients.[2]


This heat loving crop should be sown after all danger of frost has passed and the soil is warm. Seeds sown too early will rot before germination.

Black eyed peas are extremely drought tolerant and excessive watering should be avoided.

The crop is relatively free of pests and disease. Root-knot nematodes can be a problem, especially if crops are not rotated. As a nitrogen fixing legume, fertilization can exclude nitrogen three weeks after germination.

The blossom produces nectar plentifully and larger areas can be a source of honey. Because the bloom attracts a variety of pollinators, care must be taken in the application of insecticides to avoid label violations.

Lucky New Year food

New Year's Day in Alabama: black-eyed peas, ham hock, and pepper sauce

Eating black-eyed peas on New Year's Day is thought to bring prosperity.

The "good luck" traditions of eating black-eyed peas at Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, are recorded in the Babylonian Talmud (compiled ~500 CE), Horayot 12A: "Abaye [d. 339 CE] said, now that you have established that good-luck symbols avail, you should make it a habit to see Qara (bottle gourd), Rubiya (black-eyed peas, Arabic Lubiya), Kartei (leeks), Silka (either beets or spinach), and Tamrei (dates) on your table on the New Year." However, the custom may have resulted from an early mistranslation of the Aramaic word rubiya (fenugreek).[3]

A parallel text in Kritot 5B states that one should eat these symbols of good luck. The accepted custom (Shulhan Aruh Orah Hayim 583:1, 16th century, the standard code of Jewish law and practice) is to eat the symbols. This custom is followed by Sephardi and Israeli Jews to this day.

In the United States, the first Sephardi Jews arrived in Georgia in the 1730s, and have lived there continuously since. The Jewish practice was apparently adopted by non-Jews around the time of the American Civil War.

In the Southern United States,[4] the peas are typically cooked with a pork product for flavoring (such as bacon, ham bones, fatback, or hog jowl), diced onion, and served with a hot chili sauce or a pepper-flavored vinegar.

The traditional meal also features collard, turnip, or mustard greens, and ham. The peas, since they swell when cooked, symbolize prosperity; the greens symbolize money; the pork, because pigs root forward when foraging, represents positive motion.[5] Cornbread also often accompanies this meal.

Another suggested origin of the tradition dates back to the Civil War, when Union troops, especially in areas targeted by General William Tecumseh Sherman, typically stripped the countryside of all stored food, crops, and livestock, and destroyed whatever they couldn't carry away. At that time, Northerners considered "field peas" and field corn suitable only for animal fodder, and didn't steal or destroy these humble foods.[6]

Culinary uses worldwide

Several cups of chè đậu trắng, a Vietnamese dessert made with black-eyed peas

Rice and peas is a popular dish in Jamaica and other Caribbean Islands. In the American South, a variation of this dish is called "Hoppin' John", made of black-eyed peas cooked with rice and pork.

Texas caviar, another traditional dish in the American South, is made from black-eyed peas marinated in Italian salad dressing and chopped garlic, and served cold.[7]

In Portugal, black-eyed peas are served with boiled cod and potatoes, with tuna, and in salads.

In Vietnam, black-eyed peas are used in a sweet dessert called chè đậu trắng (black-eyed peas and sticky rice with coconut milk).

In Greece and Cyprus, black-eyed peas are eaten with vegetables, oil, salt, and lemon.[8]

In the northern part of Colombia, they are used to prepare a fritter called "buñuelo". The beans are immersed in water for a few hours to loosen their skin and soften the bean. The skins are then removed either by hand or with the help of a manual grinder. Once the skins are removed, the bean is ground or blended, and eggs are added which produces a soft mix. The mix is fried in hot oil. It makes a nutritious breakfast meal.

In North India, lobia is cooked as daal.

Cultural references

  • The Southern band R.E.M.'s song "The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite" includes the phrase "a can of beans or black-eyed peas, some Nescafé and ice".
  • In the song "Cornbread" by the Freestyle Fellowship, rapper Aceyalone includes the phrase "black-eyed peas with a lot of Tabasco" into a list of things he likes.
  • In the song "Goodbye Earl" by The Dixie Chicks, poisoned black-eyed peas are fed to an abusive husband by his wife and her best friend.
  • The vegetables are also mentioned in Bobbie Gentry's 1967 ballad "Ode to Billie Joe": Papa said to Mama as he passed around the black-eyed peas, "Well, Billy Joe never had a lick of sense; pass the biscuits please."
  • The Black Eyed Peas are a six-time Grammy Award-winning American hip-hop group from Los Angeles.
  • In the song "Soulville" (sung by many soul and motown artists, including Aretha Franklin) the outro lyrics include the line "I'm talking 'bout the black-eyed peas, down in soulville".



  1. ^ Joseph E. Holloway. "African Crops and Slave Cuisine". California State University Northridge. Retrieved 2010-01-31. 
  2. ^ "Black-Eyed Peas". Retrieved 2010-01-31. 
  3. ^ Zeldes, Leah A. (December 30, 2009). "Eat this! Black-eyed peas, for a lucky New Year!". Dining Chicago. Chicago's Restaurant & Entertainment Guide, Inc.. Retrieved December 31, 2009. 
  4. ^ "On New Year's Day, it gets the full Southern treatment, which usually means Hoppin' John – a traditional soul food consisting of black-eyed peas cooked with ham hocks and spices, served over rice. In the South, eating black-eyed peas on New Year's is thought to bring prosperity" Celebrate New Year's with black-eyed peas by Rachel Ellner December 31, 2008 Nashua Telegraph
  5. ^ Greene, Teri (2009-01-02). "A Tasty Tradition: New Year's meal means good luck, good eats". Montgomery Advertiser (Montgomery, Alabama): 2, 3A. Retrieved 2009-01-02. 
  6. ^ Melissa Johnson. "Black-eyed Pea Tradition Dates Back to 1800s". The Seguin Gazette-Enterprise. Retrieved 2007-07-13. 
  7. ^ Joyce Sáenz Harris. "Try Some Texas Caviar". The Dallas Morning News. Retrieved 2008-10-19. 
  8. ^ Swiss Chard and Black Eyed Beans

External links

  • [1] USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program. Germplasm Resources Information Network - (GRIN) Online Database . National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland. (16 July 2005)
  • [2] Porcher Michel H. et al. 1995 - 2020, Sorting Vigna Names. Multilingual Multiscript Plant Name Database (M.M.P.N.D) - A Work in Progress. School of Agriculture and Food Systems. Faculty of Land & Food Resources. The University of Melbourne. Australia. (2005).
  • Alternative Field Crops Manual: Cowpea


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