That black-eyed pea lore is about more than folk legend and good luck in the coming year. Great fiber and nutrient value are packed into these healthy legumes, and you don't have to be a Southerner to enjoy them.
Several years ago, I started using them for New Year's Day Nachos, and my family has been expecting this dish every year, whether we're watching a ballgame on TV or taking time to enjoy a visit with family or friends.
All that good luck we've been getting may be a result of better health provided by incorporating legumes into our diet.
A nice helping of greens along with those black-eyed peas could add even more healthy nutrients to the mix. Leafy greens such as collards, spinach or kale have the additional legend of prosperity — sounds like the cliche of healthy, wealthy and wise.
The truth is, we could be wise to follow the advice and start the new year by incorporating beans and greens into our meal plan.
For as long as I have a memory of scooping up black-eyed peas on New Year's Day, no one in our family has won the lottery, but we have managed to escape calamity. Even the extended part of the lore — about having ham or roast pork in connection with maintaining a full tummy throughout the year — is a prediction we can attest to.
My mother and grandmothers put it in rhyme, “Eating your black-eyed peas on New Year's Day is sure to bring Lady Luck your way.” After decades of ascribing to this New Year's wisdom, I don't intend to break with tradition. I haven't had catastrophic bad luck over the years — just a few bumps in the road as most of us do.
We love our black-eyed peas year-round, most of the time right from the can of Bush's Black-Eyed Peas with Snaps, with the rare exception frozen peas that were picked in the summertime.
I recount this Southerner's view often to family and friends: The humble black-eyed pea was considered “animal feed” before the Civil War. Slaves brought the seeds with them from Africa, where black-eyed peas were a menu staple. When Gen. William Sherman made his famous March to the sea plundering his way across the South, his troops left the peas behind — considering them animal feed that they wouldn't be needing to satisfy the immediate food needs of the Union Army. Peas in the field were not practical for soldiers, either, as they were marching, plundering, fighting or sleeping. If you've ever shelled peas, you can understand it takes quite a bit of time to get the peas ready to cook. If the peas dry in the pod, they can be more easily separated out, but the dried peas require a little longer to cook.
Even the most reluctant black-eyed pea folks will have a go at our favorite black-eyed pea nachos. They can make a yummy lunch, hearty snack or a sidekick to a bowl of chili. You can use slices of fresh jalapeno or those sweet hot little pickled kind that my daughter brings up from across the Red River. They are a treat all year.
Made with homemade spinach tortillas, these little black-eyed pea versions are far healthier than the usual nachos made with high-sodium, fat-packed chips that lead us to temptation during the holidays. Happy healthy new year!