Someone asked me where to buy field peas for planting today. Any country hardware store that sells seeds in the South carries them, but for areas where you’d have to order them, here are some suggestions and links:
Slow Food Triangle had a field pea tasting a while back. Here are the results and some recipes: http://slowfoodtriangle.org/community/?p=26
Baker Creek Seeds: http://rareseeds.com/seeds/Cowpeas
Southern Exposure Seed Exchange: http://www.southernexposure.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=CTGY&Category_Code=SOUTHERNPEA
Dixie Lee: I have not ordered from either of these companies; I’m sharing my Google results because Dixie Lees seem to be hard to find online.
I have grown Dixie Lee, the standard in southeastern North Carolina, Purple Pink Eye, which is on its second crop, and Whippoorwill, from Monticello. I’m considering trying Red Ripper next year, but I’m happy with these three varieties.
Most places will be out of stock right now, but field peas (or southern peas or cowpeas or crowder peas or whatever you choose to call them) need heat, so you should definitely wait until next summer to plant, after your last frost date. Once you get a crop, let several pods go dry and you’ll have your seed for the following year. This is true for any bean or pea that I’ve tried.