Bo (Black-Eyed Pea Leaves)
Bo is a black-eyed pea (also known as a field pea or cowpea) grown in parts of Kenya primarily for its leaves and sometimes for its tender young pods. Its tender dark green foliage is rich with iron, vitamin E, vitamin K, and lots of protein. When cut, the vigorous vines produce more leaves, which also help to protect the soil from the intense heat of the sun.
This crop is protected by the Ark of Taste in Kenya, which explains that the leaves make a rich stew that is often consumed by lactating mothers. It is grown primarily in home gardens and small scale farms.
We received the seeds from our dear friend and apprentice Akoth Ambugo, who now grows this crop in New Jersey and at our farm and has this to say about her beloved Bo:
"My father lived in Sukuma land in Tanzania during his teenage years. This region experienced short but heavy rains and an extended dry season. They planted Bo, from kept seeds, and harvested them when their leaves were still tender. After harvest, Bo would be blanched, dried and stored. This vegetable would sustain the community during the dry season. I imagine that the advantage that Bo has is its rapid growth. As someone who has eaten only the fresh leaves, I was amazed to hear this fact. As a diasporan, we often save Bo in a similar dried fashion when we go home and bring it back to the states. This is helpful for those who do not have space to grow. I know of friends who grow store bought cowpeas in containers. There are many varieties of peas that produce the same edible leaf and personally I have no favourite, but I have noticed that the red pea (this variety) produces broader leaves. The seeds I grew originally come from western Kenya. I have grown peach and black peas all for the same edible leaf and I love them all."
Hear our Seeds and Their People interview with Akoth here.
Also known as kunde, alot bo, likhubi, mathoroko, and egesare.
Days to maturity: 60
Seeds per pack: 30
Germination rate: 92% on 02/02/2023
Planting / harvesting notes
Direct sow southern peas safely after frost, any time between late May and mid-July. Full sun, plenty of room and airflow. Thin to 2-4" in row, but give at least 12" between rows. Harvest leaves for cooking when still young and tender! More leaves will follow.
Seed keeping notes
Southern peas are self-pollinating, though it is best to isolate different varieties of V. unguiculata (including black-eyed peas, southern peas, cowpeas, and long beans) at least 20 feet, if not much farther to avoid unwanted cross-pollination. At our farm, we give them a hundred feet of isolation between different varieties. Allow pods to dry fully into a brown crispy state. This is when they are ready to harvest for seed. If necessary, lay them out to dry a little longer in their pods.