I’ve been eating black-eyed peas, cornbread, and stewed tomatoes on New Year’s Day for as long as I can remember. Everyone told me it would bring good luck and prosperity, but no one told me how or why. It was just something we did. Over the years, I’ve learned that it’s not so much a family tradition, but rather a Southern custom that many families have adopted – mine included.
The custom is to serve black-eyed peas, greens or cabbage, and cornbread for good fortune in the new year. Black-eyed peas are considered lucky. It is thought they symbolize good things to come. When combined with cornbread and collards (or other greens), you will most certainly be rewarded as the greens symbolize money and the cornbread symbolizes gold.
Black-eyed peas, which are actually a type of bean, have a creamy texture and a rich, earthy flavor that intensifies as they simmer. They are an excellent source of protein and fiber with very little fat. Black-eyed peas are affordable, and you can easily buy them dried or canned. You should soak dried peas overnight to make them easier to digest and shorten the cooking time. They are typically stewed in a pot, like other beans, with onions, garlic, and some type of cured meat. My family cooks them in chicken broth with onions, garlic, country ham, and a jar of our own stewed tomatoes. We serve it in a deep bowl with a warm slice of skillet cornbread.
Start this year with some black-eyed peas. Create a recipe to suit your lifestyle and taste. You may find that you’ll want to eat them more than once a year! For more nutrition information and recipes, contact your local Extension office.