Friday, June 20, 2014

Cowpea Shoots

One of the new crops my friends Faye and Lynn are growing this season
is black-eyed peas, or cowpeas.
It's been fascinating to witness the growing habit of this crop.
Most often, black-eyed peas are found as a dried bean
that has to be soaked and cooked to enjoy.
Left in the pod, they will indeed dry with no help from us,
but picking fresh peas right off the vine to use before they dry
is a new venture.
It also fosters a sense of exploration with regard to trying new food sources.

Here are a couple of ways we've been enjoying this delicious legume.

Sprouting is an easy way to use these beans.
It takes only minutes to get started
and the nutritional benefit is worth the time it requires.

The batch I used to sprout were the ones that were already turning from green to tan,
so they are a bit older.
They work well for this task, in case they get away from you
and you need to use up some that are starting to dry too quickly.
These pods, unlike sugar snaps, are inedible,
unless maybe you like chewing leather.

The beans are shelled first.
The older the pod, the easier they are to shell. 
Just snip the end off with your finger,
and pull down the string to expose the beans
(I call it "zipping").

We got about a cup of beans,
so I split it up into two mason jars.

For one jar, I used a paper towel cut into a square
and a canning lid.
This allows air circulation, but keeps anything from falling into the jar.

You can also use a paper towel with a rubber band
if you don't have canning jar lids.
We get these bands on broccoli that we purchase at the grocery.
They are just the right size for this job.

On the first day,
simply place the beans in a quart-sized jar,
cover them with water and place the lid on top.
Keep them in a semi-dark spot for 24 hours.
Empty out the water, then rinse the beans with fresh water
twice a day until you get the sprouts the size you like.
The main thing to remember is to shake any excess water out
before replacing the cover.
You don't want them sitting in a puddle of water after the initial soak.
I put the starting date right on the jar
so I can see how fast they sprout.

It doesn't take long.
Within 3 days or so, you'll have small shoots.
They are ready to eat when the tails are at least as long as the bean.
It's a fun homeschool project for kids.

When your sprouts are ready to be savored,
keep them in the fridge, covered with a lid.

I enjoy them most on salads,
but you could add them to stir-frys, tacos, pasta
or any savory dish.

We also obtained some fresh peas that were newbies off the vine.

I simply shelled these and placed them in a jar
and stuck 'em in the fridge for noshing.
You can see how much greener they are than the ones we used to sprout.

These are great just for poppin' in your mouth,
but I use them in salad too, for a bit of crunch.
They're the new crouton.

I hope you'll give fresh cowpeas a try.

Here's another blogger's experience growing this versatile legume.

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