African slaves in the sixteenth century first brought the cowpea (Vigna unguiculata) to Brazil from western Africa. It became a common plant in the northeast of Brazil, and today it is generally referred to as feijão de corda or feijão caupi. This area remains a center of cowpea biodiversity and the Brazilian agricultural research agency Embrapa has selected 300 varieties. Among these is the Canapu Cowpea, which is grown in a semi-arid region in the south of Piauí. As large as a grain of corn, the Canapu has irregular oval shapes. Like most cowpeas, the Canapu has an ‘eye’, a dark point, against a background color of clear green, pale pink, or bronzy yellow. When it is cooked, the Canapu becomes dark brown with violet markings and is noted for its smoothness, flavor, and notes of freshly mown grass, hay, and walnuts. Canapu is cultivated entirely by hand, from planting to harvest, and no chemical fertilizers or treatment is used. In the same fields where Canapu is grown, farmers plant cassava, corn, rice and cashew trees. The cashews grow alongside the cowpeas, but as their canopy grows, they crowd out shade and after four years the Canapu is no longer planted. The Canapu Cowpea can be eaten fresh or dried, and it is an ingredient in a range of local dishes, including mugunzá, a dish made from corn, pork, and beans that is eaten on feast days. Local recipes highlight the Canapu’s flavor and special consistency. Locals explain that they have refused to substitute this local variety with more productive cowpea strains because of its excellent taste. The most commonly cultivated cowpea in the state of Piauí, the Canapu’s market is almost exclusively local as farmers sell primarily at fairs and markets.
Image: www.dodesign-s.com.brBack to the archive >