This past weekend, my dad brought in some cowpeas. Now, the type of cowpea that we grow is pretty impressive looking as well as delicious. The name of what we grow is Georgia Long, and they do get long. We’ve even seen a few reach 30 inches.
Anyway, the Georgia Long bean is one that my family originally got from a Seed Savers Exchange member from Missouri back in 1987. Here’s a short story that my dad wrote about this cowpea, “I received seed for this variety in 1987, from a Seed Saver’s Exchange Member in Missouri.1
Right away, my wife Jerreth and I shared some seed of Georgia Long, with her grandparents in Salem, Illinois (southern part of the state). They grew it every year from then until at least 1997. Grandma passed away in 1995 and Grandpa’s health was so poor, that in 1997 he presented me with a bottle of seed and asked me to keep it going from him, as he couldn’t garden any more. He had forgotten that we had given the variety to them originally. While growing this “bean,” Grandpa planted about 20 feet on tripods and had so many that he absolutely couldn’t eat them all. He would put out his surplus on a picnic table in the front lawn and a sign advertising free green beans! (I still have some of the 1996/1997 seed, in the same bottle. It tested out at nearly 100% germination in 2007!)
We lost our seed sometime between 1988 and 1992, when we lived in a very high cold rain forest in the Mexican state of Puebla. Life was too unsettled to keep seed going, and most of our heirloom varieties were not suited to that climate. We got more seed from Jerreth’s grandparents in 1994, and grew it until 2000, in the Mexican state of Hidalgo, in an irrigated desert environment. It did very well in the desert. This variety likes heat and tolerates white alkali conditions.”
An older gardener who was in his 80’s that my Dad spoke with some years ago, said he though these cowpeas might be the same as Yardlong.
Any way you cut it on the history of this cowpea, I know that every year, we enjoy harvesting this impressive cowpea, and definitely enjoy eating it over the winter.