Today I harvested all of my bush green beans and all of my cowpeas. Bush beans are supposed to give one harvest, mine were working on a second harvest but the heat was stunting growth. I’ve got a nice family sized harvest of large and tiny beans. I par boiled a pot full and they are in the freezer now. All bush bean plants have been pulled up and the plot is ready to be prepared for fall planting.
My cowpeas are Ozark Razorbacks, so consider this my official review of this variety. They produced more than any other cowpea I’ve planted (about 8 varieties over the last dozen years). They took a while to germinate, and I thought I had lost them to squirrels. After they came up, they seemed to take a long time to really take off and grow. Once the warm weather set in, these beautiful plants took off like I had hoped. Cowpeas like to spread out and vine up things. Though not like pole beans, they do take spill over the garden edge. They form a dense canopy and few weeds will grow beneath them.
While they are heavy producers and thrive in the summer heat, I needed this planting to act as nitrogen fixers in my new, not-so-great soil. Since Cowpeas make great soil improvers, I planted them with that in mind. They can even be tilled under as green manure. I will use their roots and the rest will go to compost. I did not let them go through the entire summer, but have pulled up all of the surface vegetation to prepare for fall planting. Before pulling everything out, a huge basket full of pods were harvested. Sadly, dozens of young Green Anoles were displaced in this morning’s carnage, but they’ll get on just fine elsewhere.
I was very pleased with the Ozark Razorbacks, I’m going to put some seed into storage for consideration next year. Because I knew they would be pulled out before August was over, I let most of the pods dry on the vine (they are much easier to process that way too). Because I did not pick them after my first several harvests, I do not know if this variety would be a heavy producer throughout the heat of summer, but I can’t see why they wouldn’t keep producing with constant harvesting. Still, I am sufficiently impressed with the yield.
As far as flavor goes, these rank right up there with my favorites. I enjoy most fresh cowpeas except for black eyed peas, and especially like any of the small white varieties (they sell them at the supermarket as “Zippercream”). These are delicious, especially with cornbread. I like them simple – boil them until super soft, which leads to a rich, brown gravy. Start off by adding a little bacon grease and some chopped peppers (whatever you like, for heat or for flavor). I could probably suggest adding some tomatoes as well if you want to add some acidity. This cowpea, like most cowpeas, serves well as a southern classic.