Friday, April 13, 2012

Confidence Builder For The New Florida Summer Gardener

Perfect for children of all ages who feel unsure about growing food in the humid heat of Florida and the Gulf Coast, the "Cow Pea"  (Vigna unguiculata) sprouts easily and bears food even in poor soils. Just keep the soil damp with daily hand waterings the first two weeks to get the seedlings established. There are MANY varieties bred from the base species that is native to hot Africa....Crowder Pea, Zipper Pea, Field Acre Peas, Black Eye Pea (note: none are true peas (Pisum) which need cool temps) and many more. Easiest and CHEAPEST of all is to buy a small bag of dried Black Eye Peas from the grocery store, plant 10-20 of them one inch deep about a foot apart in full sun. When they are a few inches tall start peeing on the row a few times a week to enrich the soil, or give them a drench of 3 tablespoons of Alaska Fish Fertilizer per gallon of water monthly. Natural rhizobia bacteria living in their roots will take nitrogen gas from the air and convert it into nitrogen fertilizer, making Cow Peas a food crop that IMPROVES poor soil. The hotter and muggier it gets the better they do.

Fresh blooms look and taste nice atop a salad, the pods are eaten whole when young and tender, shucked when more mature with plump green seeds inside, and, in the fall, harvested as a dry bean for cooking. The young tender leaves are very rich in protein and are delightful in summer salads and stir fry, as are the tender vine tips.

The pic of of the seeds of a very primitive heirloom VERY close to the base species, "Clay", which is virtually identical to "Corrientes". Both are available from the good folks at Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.

Go ahead...relax...try Cow Peas this summer, planted now into late May.

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