Plant Name        Vigna unguiculata          

Common name: Blackeyed Bean  

                Marathi:alasunda, chavali           

                Hindi: Lobiya    




Interesting facts and history

It was found in Africa but nowadays it is also cultivated in Southeast Asia, Africa, Southern United States and Latin America. Around 200 BC and 300 BC, it was introduced to India and Europe respectively. 


Identification guide


Black-eyed pea is an annual climbing plant growing up to 4 metres tall.

The plant is often cultivated for its edible seed in the warm temperate to the tropical zones. An abundant cropper, it can produce a harvest all year round in the Tropics, especially if new sowings are made every few months. The plant it is also grown as a green manure."



Leaves are alternate, trifoliolate with petioles 5-25 cm long.  The lateral leaflets are opposite and asymmetrical, while the central leaflet is symmetrical and ovate.


 Inflorescence racemose, flowers white, cream, yellow, mauve or purple.  There are accessions with determinate and with indeterminate growth habit.


 Seeds are variable in size and shape, square to oblong and variously coloured, including white, brown, maroon, cream and green, commonly in the range of 5,000-12,000 seeds/kg.


Habit / Habitat

Variability in plant morphology of the different accessions is high.  There are three types according to their uses:  for grain, forage or dual-purpose.  V. unguiculata is a herbaceous, prostrate, climbing, or sub-erect to erect annual, growing 15-80 cm high.     



Original range is uncertain, perhaps tropical Africa.

Native to:

West Africa, where the highest genetic diversity and the most primitive forms of wild V. unguiculata occur, was probably the primary centre of domestication.

Today, cowpea is cultivated throughout the tropics and subtropics between 35ºN and 30ºS, across Asia and Oceania, the Middle East, southern Europe, Africa, southern USA, and Central and South America."  


Edible parts

World wide use:                                        Grains

Used by tribal community in Jawhar:       Fruits


Method of consumption

Jawhar tribal:    Fruits boiled and cooked

Other Recipe

Seed - cooked. They can be eaten whilst still green or allowed to dry. The immature seeds are used as a vegetable - they can be steamed, boiled, stir-fried etc. Mature seeds are added to soups and stews, ground into a powder and used with cereal flour for making cakes, bread etc, or fermented into dosa. The seeds can also be sprouted and then eaten raw or cooked in stir-fries etc.

The roasted seed can be ground into a powder and used like coffee.

Immature seedpods - raw or cooked.

Leaves: cooked like spinach


Medicinal use

The crushed leaves are used in a poultice to heal and bond broken bones


Nutritional and medicinal information


It is rich in fiber, protein, iron, potassium, low in fat and calories. The cup of cowpea possesses 11.1 g fiber, 13.22 g protein, 4.29 mg iron, 475 mg potassium, 0.91 g fat and 198 calories. Along with that, various amino acids such as 0.612 g of tryptophan, 0.41 g of histidine, 0.188 g of Methionine and 0.894 g of lysine is contained in this seed.


Prevent Cancer

Cowpea possesses folate (Vitamin B9) which assists in lowering the chances of neural tube defects like anencephaly or spina bifida. The deficiency of folate leads to the birth defects such as malformations of limb and heart. Folate is also essential for the replication of DNA because the fetus cells could not grow without the presence of folate. This is an essential vitamin that is necessary for having a healthy pregnancy. The pregnant women should consume the prenatal vitamin so that they would consume the adequate amount of folate. Cowpea possesses Vitamin B9 by 356 µg which provides the eighty nine percentage of the daily recommended value.


Prevents Anemia

Cowpeas possess the mineral (Iron) in high amount which eliminates the anemia. Iron assist in the protein metabolism which is essential for the RBCs and hemoglobin production and also inhibits anemia. Anemia is the result of the low hemoglobin and red blood cells. Anemia affects the body parts and also reduces the energy levels. It leads to the poor functioning of the brain and reduction in immunity.   World Health Organization surveys that the half of the anemia cases are caused due to the deficiency of iron and other are caused due to the genetic factors.


Supports a Healthy Metabolism

Potassium, copper, various antioxidants and folate assist to maintain the metabolism health in the people who intake the cowpeas daily. Copper acts as an essential part in functioning 50 different reactions of metabolic enzymes in the body. The reactions of enzymes are vital to maintain the smooth functioning of metabolism. 0.458 mg of copper is present in the cowpeas.


Helps Maintain Strong Bones

Cowpeas possess the calcium and phosphorus which is a vital mineral to maintain the strength and structure of bones. Manganese assists in the formation of bones by regulating the enzymes and hormones which is involved in the process of bone metabolism. Phosphorus assists in the mineral density of bones that forbids the bone break, fracture and osteoporosis. To have the healthy bones, it is a must to balance the calcium and phosphorus levels. Cowpeas contains 4% calcium, 38% phosphorus and 35% manganese. The osteoporosis in women is helped with the presence of vitamin D, zinc, magnesium, calcium, copper and boron in cowpea.


Encourages Mental Well-being

Cowpea possesses tryptophan which is effective for treating disorders of social anxiety, insomnia and provides a sound sleep. It assists the neurotransmitters which maintain the level of energy, control mood and appetite. The cowpeas can enhance the level of histidine as it possesses histidine in 0.41 mg which provides thirty three percent of the daily recommended value.


Helps heal and repair muscle tissue

Cowpeas contain isoleucine which assist to raise the endurance and also fixes the tissue in the muscles and promotes the clotting of the injury. The presences of amino acids enhance the energy. Valine, isoleucine and leucine are three chain of amino acid which enhances the recovery of muscles. It also stabilizes the blood sugar. 0.53 grams Isoleucine, 1.01 grams leucine and 0.63 grams Valine is obtained in one cup of cooked cowpeas.


Helps maintain bowel health

The cowpeas possess dietary fibers which promote and softens the stool. It reduces the constipation with the easy flow of bulky stool. The bulk is added to the stool because the fiber helps to absorb the water. The diet rich in fiber reduces the chances of small pouches in the colon and hemorrhoids.


Supports a Healthy Cardiovascular System

The presence of Vitamin B1 is a must for the production of neurotransmitter which is also known to be acetylcholine which passes messages between the muscles and nerves. The recent studies summarizes that thiamine counteracts with the heart diseases and maintains the healthy function of ventricles which cures the heart failure. Adding vitamin B1 rich food Cowpeas to your diet may help to prevent cardiovascular diseases.


Supports Immune system

Cowpeas possess threonine which may assists the immune system by promoting the antibodies production. The threonine produces the serine and glycine which is essential for the collage, muscle tissue and elastin production. It maintains the healthy and strong connective muscles and tissues. Cowpeas which are rich in threonine may help to boost your Immune system


Prevent Cold Sores

The lysine in the cowpea reduces the genital herpes or cold sores and also speeds up the healing process. The daily intake of the cowpeas reduces the chances of recurrence of cold sores. One cup of cowpea provides 0.90 g of lysine which means 27% of DV."       


Harvesting and preserving

A plant of the lowland tropics, where it can also be cultivated at elevations up to 1,500 metres. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 20 - 35°c, but can tolerate 10 - 40°c. The plant cannot tolerate frost It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 600 - 1,500mm, but tolerates 400 - 4,100mm.

Prefers a position in full sun, tolerating light shade. Succeeds in a wide variety of soils, from sandy loams to clays, so long as they are well-drained. Prefers a pH in the range 5.5 - 7.5, tolerating 4.3 - 8.8. Good yields have been obtained on peaty soils, but the plant dislikes alkaline soils since this reduces nodulation of bacteria on the roots and causes chlorosis of the leaves.

Young seed pods can be harvested about 2 months after sowing, whilst mature seeds can be obtained in 3 - 5 months. Up to 6 tonnes per hectare of pods can be obtained per hectare, or 400 - 750kg of dried seed.

There are many named varieties. Most cultivars are day-length neutral, though short-day forms are also known.

This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby. When removing plant remains at the end of the growing season, it is best to only remove the aerial parts of the plant, leaving the roots in the ground to decay and release their nitrogen.


Propagation and Storage

Seed - pre-soak for 12 hours in warm water and sow 1 - 3cm deep in situ. The seed germinates best when the soil temperature is above 21c.          


Other uses

Cowpea is one of the most widely used legumes in the tropical world.  The grain is used widely for human nutrition, especially in Africa.  It is one of the most important tropical dual-purpose legumes, being used for vegetables (leaves and flowers), grain, as fresh cut and carry forage, and for hay and silage .  Mixing of different cowpea varieties for food and feed purposes is common in northern Nigeria.

The species has a high potential as a green manure.  It can be incorporated into the soil or spread on the soil surface 8-10 weeks after sowing, and can provide the equivalent of 80 kg/ha N to a subsequent crop.  In trials, maize grain yields, associated with the use of cowpea as green manure , have been doubled compared to unfertilised control treatments.  Also, maize grain yields were 30% higher than those from treatments which had 80 kg/ha of inorganic N fertilizer applied.  Estimates of fixed nitrogen from cowpea often range from about 50 to in excess of 100 kg/ha.

In Australia, cowpea is grown as a green manure crop in coastal sugarcane areas, as a forage or dual-purpose grain and forage crop in coastal and subcoastal southern Queensland, and as a grain crop from central Queensland to central NSW.

Cowpea has the potential to make excellent hay.  When grown specifically for this purpose, quality can equal lucerne hay.  Even in smallholder systems, when used as a dual-purpose legume, residues can be used as animal feed or for soil enhancement.  E.g. in West Africa cowpea hay is an important product for sale in local markets. Excellent hay, and particularly silage, can be made by harvesting a mixed crop of cowpea and forage sorghum or millet.

  1. unguiculata subsp. dekindtiana may have potential as a forage plant. Some accessions have been evaluated for use as ley pastures on alkaline clay soils in southern Queensland in recent years. Yields have reached 6 t/ha in the first year and usually match the yields of other well-adapted legumes.  However there was little seedling regeneration in the second year at all sites and so there appears to be little advantage in this subspecies over late flowering cowpeas or lablab (Lablab purpureus ).  Other legumes such as burgundy bean, Macroptilium bracteatum , are likely to be of more value if short-term phase legumes pastures of 2-3 years are being sought.



Kingdom:             Plantae

Division:              Spermatophyta

Sub-division:       Angiospermae

Class:                    Diocotyledonae

Sub-Class:           Polypetalae

Series:                  Calyciflorae

Order:                   Rosales

Family:                  Leguminosae

Sub-family:          Papilionaceae

Genus :                  Vigna

 Species :              unguiculata       



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