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. Cowpea is an important grain legume throughout the tropics and subtropics, covering Asia, Africa, and Central and South America, as well as parts of southern Europe and the United States. Cowpea, a drought tolerant crop, has the unique ability to fix nitrogen even in very poor soils. It is also shade-tolerant and, therefore compatible as an intercrop with many cereals and root crops. Subsistence farmers in sub-Saharan Africa usually intercrop their cowpea with maize, sorghum, millet, and cassava.
Cowpeas are a common food item in the southern United States, where they are often called field peas. A subcategory of field peas is crowder peas, so called because they are crowded together in their pods, causing them to have squarish ends.
These are an integral part of the cuisine in southern region of India. In TamilNadu during the Tamil month of Maasi (February) – Penguin (March) called Kozhukattai/Adai (steamed sweet cake) prepared with cooked and mashed cowpea bean mixed with jaggery, ghee and other sub ingredients. In Hindi, it is called ‘Lobhia’. According to the USDA food database, cowpeas have the highest percentage of calories from protein among vegetarian foodsCowpea, an important legume in the tropics, has many uses. In fresh form, the young leaves, immature pods and peas are used as vegetables, while several snacks and main meal dishes are prepared from the grain. All parts of the plant that are used for food are nutritious, providing protein, vitamins (notably vitamin B) and minerals. The cowpea haulm is also a great source of livestock feed, and therefore of great value to farmers.