This highly attractive miniature cowpea with tiny dark red peas is probably one of the longest under continued cultivation. British botanist William Titford mentioned in 1811 that it was growing in Jamaica, but we find it cultivated as a landrace in Mexico, Central America indeed any part of the New World touched by trade with Africa, where this cowpea originated. A vining type, the plants ramble over the ground and should be planted in rows 3 to 5 feet apart. The 8 ½ inch pods rise high above the leaves (which are also edible) and form in pairs with about 20 to 24 seeds per pod. The vines will produce from mid-summer until cool September evenings shut down the production of flowers. Ideal as a cover crop for fixing nitrogen in the soil, the Red Rice Cowpea was historically cooked with rice or converted into red gravy eaten over rice. The dry peas will cook in 30 to 40 minutes, while the sweet shelling peas can be parboiled in a minute.
This is one of the favorite cowpeas of Seed Collection Manager Owen Taylor, both for its productivity, easy harvest, and beautiful appearance. Allow 70 to 80 days for the commencement of pod production. Also see our White Rice Cowpea.