Black-eyed peas are not actually peas, they are a variety of beans known as southern peas. Black-eyed peas are a warm weather crop and thrive during summer months. The most common form is the shelled variety, but home gardeners can also harvest the pods while they are still young and eat the beans in the shell. Gardeners can also leave the beans on the plant until they dry.
Fresh Black-Eyed Peas
Wait until the pods are 2 to 3 inches long. The beans within the pods will just begin to cause bulges in the shape of the pods, and the pods themselves will still be flexible and tender. This is usually 60 to 70 days after planting. Remove the pods from the plant by pulling them gently.
Refrigerate the pods for up to two weeks. You can use the black-eyed peas in their pods as a substitute for snap beans in any recipe.
Shell the black-eyed peas by pulling the pods open. Use your thumb to push the peas out of the pod and into a bowl. Cook the shelled peas the same day, or store them in the refrigerator or freezer.
Dried Black-Eyed Peas
Wait 90 days after planting for the beans to dry on the plant. The pods will be brittle to the touch and brown or yellow. Do not wait so long that the pods split open or you will lose some peas.
Pull the dried bean pods off the plant by pulling them gently free.
Open the pod with your fingers and push the dried beans into a bowl. Store the dried beans in an airtight container for up to one year.