Black Eyed Peas
[Black-eyed Bean, Field Peas; Lobiya, Lobia, Rongi, Chawli (India); family Fabaceae, Vigna unguiculata, subspecies dekindtiana]
Native to Africa, black-eyed peas are now planted worldwide, particularly in India, the U.S. Southern States, the Caribbean and California. They are well known in the U.S. for their use in Southern and Afro-American cooking, having been brought over with the slave trade. They are also very popular in Brazil, which has a strong African influence, also from the slave trade.
The photo shows fresh pods (top) about 7-1/2 inches long, but they can get up to at least 9 inches. The tiny dried beans on the left were from India. They were typically 0.30 inch long and 0.15 inch thick. These beans are called "Chawli", but the name Chawli is also used for the larger Black Eyed Peas. In the center are the dried beans common in North America, typically 0.40 inch long and 0.22 inch thick. To the right are freshly shelled beans, typically 0.58 inch long by 0.29 inch thick.
More on Varieties of Beans.
Buying: Black Eyed Peas are always easily available as dried beans here in North America. Sometimes fresh pods are available here in Los Angeles (and are likely more available in the Southeast). The pods are mature, so aren't good for cooking, but they shell fairly easily if ripe enough. I find they split easier on the concave side. Less mature pods have smaller, greener beans, and can be very difficult to shell.
For uses calling for fresh Black Eyes, frozen are widely available and will do, with just a little less cooking.
For recipes calling for fresh young pods, you can use the related Asian Long Beans, which have much the same flavor and much meatier pods. They are widely available in markets serving Southeast Asian communities, and now even in some supermarkets.
Cooking: Fresh beans should be simmered in salted water for 15 to 20 minutes, frozen a little less. Dried beans should be soaked for at least 8 hours in water with 1/2 Tablespoon salt per cup of beans (yes, salt - see our Soaking / Brining Dried Beans page). Rinse after draining and cook in water to cover until tender. Timing will depend on how old the beans are, and really old beans will never be tender - so make sure your beans are less than 1-1/2 years old.