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Southern Cowpeas: Pea Pickin’ Good, Part III

By Wendy Ziegler

Howdy fellow gardeners! It is clearly summertime here in the Ozarks and the cowpeas are perfect for pickin’! Maybe, you just planted a bunch of southern peas just for yer critters and can skip this part. Maybe, you is rethunk the idea ‘bout eating them and is willin’ to do some pickin’ n shellin’ to enjoy a summer’s tasty treats. The first week of July provided our first batch. Already, one fellow gardener, new to cowpeas this season, asks me “What and when is the best way to pick?” Well, as I am just now back to the task of picking and shelling there are a few good things to know about picking and shelling peas in the summer time. A mention about cooking and freezing tips is also due in this last visit about cowpeas. First, I hope you planted your peas with room to pick and room to grow up to the moon on a trellis. If not, your garden ground space will be a bit crowded and although it may be a bit of effort to add a trellis and tenderly train them it will be worth it should you get a second good batch before the first frost. As I venture out each day, whilst watering or weeding, I add the task of training the unwieldy vines up the cattle panels. I also feel the mature pods for a little air pocket adjacent. That little air pocket lets me know my shelling will be easy peasy. You will get the hang of seeing the mature pods and feeling for the air pocket with a little practice. If you pick cowpeas before the air pocket is formed you may have a messier time of shelling and the yield will not be as hefty.

As you reach down to the cowpea pod, very lightly pinch your thumb and forefinger at the very narrowing end adjacent to the stem. If you feel the slightest hollow, the pea is ready to pick. Do not worry if you are a few days late, as once the air pocket forms the peas will be drying on the vine. If you leave a too many for too long to dry on the vine, rather than pick, you discourage the second big harvest in the fall. After picking your cow peas it is essential to store them in a cool space, not stacked thick. Should you not be willing to shell in a day, best to leave them on the vine drying. If the heat and evaporating moisture develop in a basket of cow peas they will mold and be a sad mess for the compost. I know I maybe repeating myself but if you have time whilst pickin’ peas, pull off any skeletonized, yellow or brown leaves and toss them on your garden floor. The dead-leaf-pulling practice allows sunshine to reach the lower parts of the plants, regenerates growth of new leaves near the stem base to increase photosynthesis, retains moisture in your garden soil, and ultimately encourages more blossoms to produce more pods plus the bees have an easier time pollinating the flowers. Cowpeas are self-pollinating. However, it is important to know that bees do frequently visit cowpeas and are handy in cross-pollenating the cowpea family. I have my own mix of cowpeas now after years of bees mixing my planted varieties of pollen. I am not scientific or a purist about the seed harvesting process and just let nature takes its course. My general rule of thumb is to collect the biggest fullest pods dried on the plant for next year’s planting. It is clear over time when I harvest my mix, the genetic traits of purple hull, black-eyed, red zipper, cream zipper and crowder peas appear in my mixture of plants. I am not bothered unless I see really small mature pods that are difficult to shell for small yields. It is interesting how some of the small pod plants produce incredible number of pods, making the picking time quicker and, as long as the shelling goes as quick, I do not mind the high numbers of smaller pods.

Next year will be interesting to see the cross pollination of my cowpeas. I wonder, given this year, I elected to plant pure crop of a cream pea variety, how the volunteers will mix in from all the bees contributions. The bee’s contributions also explain the difficulty in keeping bush varieties pure. I have observed over the years the southern pea’s strong vining characteristics from generation to generations just keep growing stronger in all cowpeas I have yet to be disappointed with my very relaxed seed saving mix. The only other note I may share here is that this year, I did purchase cream peas and planted just cream peas. That said, volunteers of my zigmix are happy to sprout in multiple spots of my garden and I am usually happy to let them vine their way through the compost pile, the asparagus, watermelon, cantaloupe, old strawberries or lettuce. The takeover old corn stalks too. The one area I do not allow the little suckers to vine creep is in my okra, tomatoes or peppers as they just seem too abundantly happy and make those plants way less happy. The benefits from cowpeas spreading nitrogen far exceed the sometimes encumbering vines. If you are just now picking your first batch and do not have enough for a mess to serve at dinner, you have my permission to pull a few less mature pods or even a few snaps. If that doesn’t appeal to you then try mixing that first small batch with some green beans, and/or lima beans, plus jalapeno, garlic, or okra to add some taste and texture. Iffin ya don’t have some jalapeno handy, habanero will really spice them up or your favorite hot sauce. I generally add a generous helping of salt and butter to a batch as well. T’is all a matter of taste that ultimately leads to luscious potlikker fer yer palette at the end of every cooked batch. Don’t fergit the cornbread that sops up the potliquor. It really does make you tongue reach up and slap your brain with tastes. To make a most flavorsome meal, add some cheese and peppers in yer cornbread. So, I hope by the end of summer you have so many cowpeas you are wunderin’ what ya gonna do with them all. Like I mentioned earlier, the seed savin’ is mighty easy, and the dried ones on the vine will happily fall from the pods and comeback next year. Freezing batches also easy peasy. I have tried both blanching and freezing them straight from washing and shelling. I find the best ones come winter are those I do rinse and dry them. Whether you blanch or not, leaving water or air in the bags in a deterrent to the rich taste and longevity in the freezer. The rule is, the blanched ones stay happier in the freezer longer so I blanch 2 minutes when I have time. One old custom is just to dump the extras in a pillow case and put em in the freezer. I do not elect that option as I am not partial to the first in-last out option of freezing then consuming. My drying method is to place a colander full of peas over our air conditioner vent before freezing. It works for us. I also will boil a big batch up for 20 minutes or so with full on flavor additives and freeze them with the pot liquor. We eat what we can and then I freeze the remainder in small batches for a quick add to a dinner. Black eyed peas (or any cow pea) salad is a great addition to a cool summer meal. I generally do not cook them as much as when I serve them hot. It is a watch and wait process as they boil, maybe 10 minutes or so, and then test for al dente. Seasoning before you cook them is fine if you really are going to drink the potliquor or make a soup base from it. Otherwise, if cowpea pea salad is the whole goal then you may wait and season after the boil down. Once cooked, drain peas of pot liquor, cooled then combined, according to your taste and availability, with some peepers, onions, kernel corn, dice cukes or tomatoes tossed with your favorite vinaigrette or Italian dressing is the perfect dish for a summer lunch or dinner. It is so colorful and nutritious! Well, by now, I have bored you folks talkin’ cowpeas. Iffin’ I left questions unanswered just let me know and I’ll be happy to ‘splain more. Happy harvesting!

St John’s Wort Herbal Oil

by Wren Haffner

Herbal medicine is people’s medicine. It is powerful, easy to make and accessible. At home, with a few ingredients you can make medicines to support your healing process. St John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) is a wonderful plant for a multitude of uses! Many know it for a gentle mood supporter for depression/anxiety. In this way in “brings the light in” as it acts as a nervine tonic. This plant is specifically potent in this way because it is a solar medicine through and through. So named after St John the Baptist as his birthday is right around this time. It is when the Summer Solstice happens (June 21st, the longest day of the year) and when the sun makes the biggest presence. I will make a tincture this year to capture this nerve action, but this morning, as the blooms are just opening and the sun is shining on them, I’m collecting them for a powerful herb infused oil. Using olive oil (and a little vitamin e oil to stabilize against rancidity), I pick the flowers into a glass jar and infuse them in the oil. I simply fill the jar, pour oil to the top and set in the sun for 2 weeks. I then take the flowers out and strain it and have a lovely oil! Also known as Hypericum oil, this oil is an ancient potent medicine that had wondrous effects at reducing inflammation, burns, soothing sore muscles, sun burn, sore breasts of lactating women, sciatica and more. Essentially it is a supreme anti inflammatory. And fascinating as it is, the oil turns a beautiful rich red as it infuses in the sun. This oil has been used by humans for a very long time!! Many blessings and thanks to our herbal allies and the humans who have passed on this wisdom through generations!

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Little Creek Store NOW OPEN!!

Mon-Fri 10am-6pm and Sat 10am-2pm, Closed Sun

Oran Mor Community started a produce stand at the beginning of June with the hope that it would take off and we could open the Y Store in Wasola. Well, the Y Store was a little too big for us to start out, but we did so well that we were able to open the small store next to the Y Store in the same lot! We opened the doors July 2nd and our first week was a great success! The neighbors love us, the mailman stops by every day, and word is traveling quickly. We sell local produce grown by Oran Mor, friends in Ozark County, and our Amish neighbors out in Seymour. It's local, it's fresh, and our customers can't get enough! We also sell jam, local honey, herbal remedies, body butter, antiques, and more! All of our items are sourced locally. We are looking for more vendors so please contact us if you would like to sell anything in the shop!! Email: Address: 47 OK Corral Dr. Wasola MO

Submission Deadline is the 10th of the month! Please share your events, photos, classifieds, stories, poems, photos, recipes, etc. Send to 13962 Hwy 181, Tecumseh MO 65760 (417) 261-1104 CREDITS Cover Art: Daniel Roth, Elixir Farm Photos: Hank Dorst - river panoramas, purple coneflower Wren Haffner - artifact, kitties,chickens, sunset Petey Wesley - drying alliums, Eastwind garden Amelia LaMair - solstice goat roast, July harvest Where Would I Be Without My River? Here comes another morning Heats already here again, Glass of iced tea in my hand. The sun shines so brightly, no clouds in the sky. I know some that pray for rain.

Missouri School of Blacksmithing Fall 2018 Courses Blacksmithing 1 - An Introduction Jul26-28, Aug 30- Sept 1, and Oct 25-27, $450 Blacksmithing 2 - An Introduction to Toolmaking (seasoned beginner and up) Sept 27-29, $450 Introduction to Knifemaking with Ken Jansen (seasoned beginner and up) Aug 16-18, $500 Forge - Welding (seasoned beginner) Oct 4-6, $450 Colonial American Hardware with Bernie Tappel (Intermediate) Oct 18-20, $500

Muggy days , muggy nights, Where would I be without my river? Muggy days , muggy nights, Where would I be without my river?

Blacksmithing 4 Forging Blacksmith Tongs (Intermediate) Aug 2-4, $450

More lethargy coming my way, one without A/C. Forcing myself out into the day, The garden always needs tending. In minutes clothes fully soaked, Thank goodness I like to sweat.

Matthew Burnett MO School of Blacksmithing 3100 NW Winchester Rd Cameron, MO 64429 (816) 575-2798

Muggy days , muggy nights, Where would I be without my river? Muggy days , muggy nights, Where would I be without my river? c Kevin Kaiser July 3, 2018 (Sung to tune of "Lonely Days")

Photo: Ken Newton, News Press Now

WANTED: Wages Brewing Company (1382 Bill Virdon Blvd, West Plains, MO; is always interested in good deals on bulk fruit, honey, and just about anything that can be put into beer. We actually prefer frozen fruits, and can take crystallized honey! Especially interested in dried lavender. Also interested in teas for our kombucha projects. I prefer to be contacted by email due to my busy schedule. Let me know what you might have!

The Ozarks Agrarian News July Issue (Updated)  
The Ozarks Agrarian News July Issue (Updated)