This section is from the book "The Standard Cyclopedia Of Horticulture Vol2", by L. H. Bailey. See also: Western Garden Book: More than 8,000 Plants - The Right Plants for Your Climate - Tips from Western Garden Experts.
Fig. 1086. The American name for the cultivated forms of Vigna catjang, Walp. (1839), and Vigna sinensis, Endl. (1848), two of the Leguminosae allied to Dolichos and Phaseolus; grown for forage, and the seeds used somewhat for human food. From Phaseolus (the common bean) Vigna differs in not having a spiral keel, and from Dolichos in its lateral introrse stigma which lies opposite to a recurved protruding terminal style beak. In other than American literature, the cowpea is known as China bean and black-eyed bean. Botanically it is a bean rather than a pea. The cowpea is a rambling tender annual, native to India and Persia. Its cultivation also extended to China at a very early date. In this country it is extensively grown in the southern states, as a hay crop for stock and as a dry shell bean for human consumption. It is also invaluable as a green-manure crop (see Cover-crops). Including both the true cowpeas (Vigna sinensis) and the catjangs (V. catjang), Piper lists 270 varieties. As a class the catjangs may be distinguished from the true cowpeas by the smaller size of the seeds and pods and by the latter remaining upright throughout their growth period, never becoming strictly pendulous even after ripening.
At the present time the true cow-peas are much more widely grown than the catjangs but the latter may yet come into more prominence on account of the resistance to the weevil of their small hard seeds. The cowpea is to the South what clover is to the North and alfalfa is to the West. It is sown broadcast after the manner of field peas. From three to five pecks of seed are used to the acre. See Cowpeas, Farmers' Bulletin No. 89, U. S. Dept. of Agric, by Jared G. Smith; Bulletin No. 102, pt. VI, and Bulletin No. 229 of the Bureau of Plant Industry, U. S. Dept. of Agric; Cyclo. Amer. Agric, Vol. II, p. 260. For a botanical discussion of the cowpea and its taxonomic relatives, see Vigna. Geo. F. Freeman.
Fig. 1086. Cowpea (X 1/4). Peas natural size.