The cowpea is an annual herbaceous legume from the genus Vigna. They were domesticated in Africa and are one of the oldest crops to be farmed. Cowpea farming is common in Southeast Asia (mainly India). On the African continent, they are grown in Kenya, Nigeria and Niger, with the latter two accounting for 66% of world production.
Cowpeas can be erect, semi-erect (trailing) or climbing. Out of the those recognized species, black-eyed pea, southern pea, yardlong bean, catjang, and crowder pea are the only ones cultivated
Growth habit ranges from indeterminate to fairly determinate with the non-vining types tending to be more determinate. Cowpea generally is strongly tap rooted. The crop is mainly grown for its seeds, which are extremely high in protein although the leaves and immature seed pods can also be consumed. Unlike most legumes, cowpea requires less maintenance throughout its growing period. It is drought resistant and can thrive in poor soils.