The Mississippi Silver Hull bean, also known as the crowder pea, is considered an endangered variety of the cowpea or field pea (Vigna unguiculata), the most common variety of which is the black-eyed pea. Cowpeas originated in West Africa and were brought to America during colonial days.
The Mississippi Silver Hull grows well in hot, humid environments and thrives in the South and mid-Atlantic regions. Pods average six inches in length and are silver-colored, occasionally streaked with rose. The seeds are black or brown-eyed, and somewhat blocky in shape, having angular sides such that they “crowd” one another in the pod. A climbing bush variety, crowders can reach four feet in height and are resistant to fusarium wilt and root knot nematodes. Easy to shell, the Mississippi Silver Hulls have the meaty taste and hearty texture of all field peas, but their thinner skin gives them a cleaner flavor than their earthy counterparts when freshly-cooked.
Production of cowpeas of all varieties has declined in the United States from 750,000 acres to just a few thousand over the past 25 years, with a significant percentage of this crop variety grown intended for livestock feed. While the Mississippi Silver Hull bean is not extinct, it is quite rare, as over 96% field pea acreage is black-eyed pea.