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Found Peas in my Garden!

Payne, GA

We just moved into an old house... the previous owner apparently had a garden out back with mint, garlic, and we just now noticed some peas. Can someone identify them? I guess I'd namely like to know if they're edible. Thanks!

Thumbnail by MustBeEden Thumbnail by MustBeEden Thumbnail by MustBeEden
Augusta, GA(Zone 8a)

Southern pea/cowpea, quite edible , best as green shellies. Difficult to name variety at this stage.

Payne, GA

Thanks for the response! I'm sorry for my ignorance, but what do you mean by "shellies"? Im guessing that means "out of the pod". Also, do peas become ripe or can you eat them anytime? And what are the little wing-shaped things in the middle picture? I know nothing about gardening!!

Austin, TX

It's not actually a pea, though. It's a bean.

Not sure what you are referring to as wing shaped. I see two flower buds. Is that what you're talking about?

Austin, TX

P.S. I would like to find documentation that backs this up, but beans that are called peas were historically done so to avoid taxes on beans.

Augusta, GA(Zone 8a)

Southern peas/cowpeas are Vigna unguiculata as opposed to bean which are commonly Phaseolus vulgaris. Many different species are called "beans " however including coffee beans. However, to a southerner calling a pea a bean is fighting words. Both got thier common names (beans or peas) from their original shapes.kidney shaped versus round.
Shellies are full sized peas or beans, picked while the pod is still alive. Cowpeas can be used dry, but many of us prefer them in the shellie stage. Same is true for lima beans (Phaseolus lunatus). English peas Pisum sativum is almost alwyas used as a green shellie. http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/adv_search.php?searcher%5Bcommon%5D=cowpea&searcher%5Bfamily%5D=&searcher%5Bgenus%5D=&searcher%5Bspecies%5D=&searcher%5Bcultivar%5D=&searcher%5Bhybridizer%5D=&searcher%5Bgrex%5D=&search_prefs%5Bblank_cultivar%5D=&search_prefs%5Bsort_by%5D=rating&images_prefs=both&Search=Search

As Victor stated, the the wing shaped structures in the second photo are unopen blossoms. They come in several colors depending on variety. There are over 150 named varieties. Several are yellow including Blackeye peas and close relatives.

Austin, TX

I was not calling a pea a bean. I was calling a bean a bean. :)

Pea and lentil are generally more specific words than bean. Bean describes legumes that are not peas or lentils. I could use your same argument in reverse. Peas are Pisium, so cowpeas are not peas. Reclassification has further moved some of these from one genus to another, so restricting the term pea or bean to one genus doesn't work.

If shape is used as a determining factor, I don't see how a cowpea could be a pea since it is kidney shaped.

Austin, TX

Here's a nice article showing many examples of peas, beans, and lentils:


Payne, GA

im thinking they may be crowder peas? The peas are kind of squarish on the ends from being jammed into the pod. I ate one raw out of the pod and they are very sweet and fresh. I hope i can harvest them before the ants do! They seem to like them.

Augusta, GA(Zone 8a)

True. If they are square on the ends, they would be one of the crowder peas.

Austin, TX

Here's another difference between peas and beans that doesn't require fruit. Peas have an even number of leaflets on each leaf with a tendril in the center (end). Beans have an odd number of leaflets with the end being a leaflet rather than a tendril.

I haven't tested this distinction on many plants, by the way.

Since there seems to be some dispute on this subject, I guess I should add a disclaimer that this is just my opinion.

Coushatta, LA

Peas beans they all tast good. I agree with Farmerdill if I called a pinkeye purplehull pea a bean I would be laughed out of town! But a yard long cowpea is called a bean. Go figure.

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