Thursday, October 7, 2010

Cowpeas in New Spotlight

We have posted on a number of crops and the one thing going for long established cultivars is that users are totally comfortable using them and know how.  One only has to think about the long development of soy beans to understand that it is often surprisingly tricky.

This sounds like a crop whose application and popularity could be hugely expanded. Since it is a legume it can also be used in conjunction with other crops that deplete nitrogen.

I added the wiki item on it to see a complete description.

Ancient crop in new spotlight

by Staff Writers
Dakar, Senegal (UPI) Oct 1, 2010 

One of the world's oldest crops could combat hunger for millions, sustain livestock in developing countries an even feed astronauts in space, researchers say.

Scientists from around the world gathered in Dakar, Senegal, last week to talk about the wonder crop at the Fifth World Cowpea Research Conference, a release from the organizers, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, said.

The cowpea, also known as the black-eyed pea, is one of the world's most ancient crops and is currently cultivated on 24 million acres, mainly in Central and West Africa, but also in India, Australia, North America and parts of Europe.

It was brought to the Americas on slave ships and became a favorite of President George Washington, who was looking for a variety of pea that could withstand the warm climates of the southern United States.

"It's hard to imagine a more perfect crop, particularly for Africa, where food production lags behind population growth, demand for livestock products is soaring, and climate change is bringing new stresses to already challenging growing conditions," Christian Fatokun of the IITA said.

For many in Africa, the crop is a critical source of food during the "lean period," the end of the wet season when food can become extremely scarce in semi-arid regions of sub-Saharan Africa.

Cowpeas provide strong yields, even in hot and dry conditions, and scientists are developing ever more resilient varieties.

Even NASA is on the cowpea bandwagon. With the plant's ability to produce nutritious leaves in only about 20 days, NASA scientists are considering sending cowpeas to the International Space Station, where they could be cultivated to provide food for astronauts.

The Cowpea (Vigna unguiculata) is one of several species of the widely cultivated genus Vigna. Four cultivated subspecies are recognised:

§                     Vigna unguiculata subsp. cylindrica Catjang
§                     Vigna unguiculata subsp. dekindtiana
§                     Vigna unguiculata subsp. sesquipedalis Yardlong bean
§                     Vigna unguiculata subsp. unguiculata Black-eyed pea
Cowpeas are one of the most important food legume crops in the semi-arid tropics covering Asia, Africa, southern Europe and Central and South America. A drought-tolerant and warm-weather crop, cowpeas are well-adapted to the drier regions of the tropics, where other food legumes do not perform well. It also has the useful ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen through its root nodules, and it grows well in poor soils with more than 85% sand and with less than 0.2% organic matter and low levels of phosphorus.[1] In addition, it is shade tolerant, and therefore, compatible as an intercrop with maizemilletsorghumsugarcane, and cotton. This makes cowpea an important component of traditional intercropping systems, especially in the complex and elegant subsistence farming systems of the dry savannas in sub-Saharan Africa.[2] Research in Ghana found that selecting early generations of cowpea crops to increase yield is not an effective strategy. Francis Padi from the Savannah Agricultural Research Institute in Tamale, Ghana, writing in Crop Science, suggests other methods such as bulk breeding are more efficient in developing high-yield varieties.[3]

Cowpeas are a common food item in the southern United States, where they are often called field peas. Two subcategories of field peas are crowder peas, so called because they are crowded together in their pods, causing them to have squarish ends, and cream peas.

In Kannada, it is called Alasande. In Hindi, it is called lobhia. In Gujarati, these are called Chola or Chowla.

In Marathi, these are called Chawali or ChavaliKārāmani or Kārāmani Payir or Thatta Payir Tamil) the beans are called thatta kaai and are an integral part of the cuisine in southern region of India.

In Tamilnadu during the Tamil month of Maasi (February) - Panguni (March) a cake-like dish called Kozhukattai or Adai (steamed sweet dumplings) prepared with cooked and mashed cowpeas mixed with jaggeryghee and other ingredients. 

Thatta payir in sambar and pulikkuzhambu (spicy semisolid gravy in tamarind paste) is a popular dish in Thamizh Nadu.

According to the USDA food database, cowpeas have the highest percentage of calories from protein among vegetarian foods.[4]

No comments: