Black-Eyed Pea


General Information

Fresh Black Eyed Peas are a shelling bean and legume and a subspecies of the cowpea. These fresh beans are not a pea but rather a bean surrounded by a long and green pod. Some Black Eye pods can grow to two feet in length, although they are rarely found fresh. The beans themselves are a petite white legume with a curved shape and a narrow black circle in the center of the bean’s structure – this is the signature “eye”. The eye is developed at the exact spot where the bean attaches to the pod. The color of the eye may be black, brown, red, pink or green. All the peas are green when freshly shelled and brown or buff when dried. Black-eyed peas are firm when cooked and have a slightly nutty flavor. Most Black Eye peas are sold as a dry legume and are a traditional meal for the New Year.



Cowpeas were first domesticated in Western Africa circa 3000 BC. They spread throughout the continent which gave rise to new beans with different colored pods and seeds. Black Eye peas are native to Northern Africa. They were then brought to the West Indies and eventually America via the triangle trade routes during colonial times. Their culinary heritage led to them becoming a staple food across the Deep South of United States. History has written their legend; a lowly but substantial food source for livestock and limited to the tables of slaves, sharecroppers and poor. Yet, in post-civil war food culture, they rose to mainstream popularity and in contemporary times they are a common commodity shelling bean crop cultivated throughout North America, Africa and Asia.