The little black-eyed pea was first used in Asia but now is one of the best-known dishes of the Southern U.S.
One traditional New Year’s Day feast is Hoppin’ John
, a blend of peas
, and sausage. For some, it means a simple pot of simmering peas and onions
, with a ham hock or fatback. Cornbread
is a typical accompaniment. In many states, the cooked peas are referred to as “caviar
.” Black-eyed peas have a unique taste that is described as “earthy.”
Several legends and traditions revolve around the black-eyed pea.
Its consumption on the first day of January is believed to bring good
luck, especially if at least 365 peas are consumed. If eaten with
turnip greens or cabbage, prosperous times lie ahead.
The peas, called congre, may have arrived in America
with slaves. During the Civil War, vast crops were burned with the
exclusion of black-eyed peas, which were used to feed cattle. Many
families of all classes survived thanks to black-eyed peas. After that,
they were no longer considered “poor man’s” food or fodder.
In ancient times, it was thought that eating black-eyed peas demonstrated humility and would bring blessings from the gods.
They’re known as crowder peas, cowpeas, chawli, lobiya, China beans, and black-eye beans. The yellow-eyed cowpea has a lighter-colored eyespot.
Dried, canned, and frozen beans are readily available in many
regions. Fresh peas may be purchased at farmers’ markets. After
shelling, they can be blanched and frozen.
Refrigerated cooked peas up to a week. They freeze well. Dried peas
will keep one year in the pantry. Warmth makes them hard and humidity
can cause mold. Do not mix with fresher packages; older products may
take longer to soften. In fact, old beans should be discarded as some
will never become soft.
• Overcooking will make black-eyed peas mushy.
• For every cup of dried peas, add four cups water.
Drain once in the first thirty minutes of cooking time to reduce
• After simmering, let them cool and use in salads.
• Puree the cooked peas in a blender (like chickpeas) to create a hummus.
• Two cups dried beans equals five cups cooked.
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