Growing up I can remember the smell of black-eyed peas wafting through the kitchen of my great-aunt’s house. Each New Year’s Day my family would make the hour-long drive to visit her and eat black-eyed peas for good luck. There was no getting out of it, even as a moody teenager, desperate to avoid vegetables of any kind.
What I didn’t realize then was the ritual was just as important as eating the actual black-eyed peas. The ritual of gathering together, creating memories, and sharing time together on the first day of a new year. While I didn’t appreciate it as much back then, I treasure those sweet family memories now.
I have also always wondered what started this tradition. I, like you, was looking for answers. So I turned to the internet to help me solve this mystery. In my research I came across five different reasons why people eat black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day. There are a few more, but these five seem to be the most prevalent.
Below I’ll discuss each of the top five reasons for eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day, review how to cook black-eyed peas, and what to do if you forget to eat black-eyed peas. Let’s start with a brief overview of what black-eyed peas are-hint they aren’t peas at all.
What Are Black-Eyed Peas
Before we dive into the traditions surrounding black-eyed peas, it is essential to note that black-eyed peas are not peas. They are beans, technically legumes. Other legumes include lentils, garbanzo beans and edamame. Fun fact-peanuts are technically legumes too.
Legumes are nutrient rich powerhouses. They are packed with iron, protein, fiber, potassium, calcium, zinc and folate to name just a few. Legumes carry lots of antioxidants which are good for preventing cellular damage. Legumes are also good for the heart and have been shown to lower blood pressure and inflammation.
If you’re looking for a meat substitute, legumes such as black-eyed peas are a great option. Legumes have lots of protein and work great in many dishes traditionally served with meats. Just switch out the meat in stew, sauce or casseroles for legumes of your choice and you’ll be well on your way to experiencing some of the healthy legume benefits.
Top 5 Reasons to Eat Black-eyed Peas on New Year’s Day
Black-Eyed Peas for Luck
There are some who eat black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day for a year worth of luck. Part of this tradition includes eating at least 365 pieces of black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day for that to be true. You are right if you guessed one pea for one day of luck.
Black-Eyed Peas With Greens for Money
Apart from eating 365 pieces for good luck, adding greens to your black-eyed peas may mean more “greens” that year. Green is the color of money, hence the addition of greens to black-eyed peas. The peas represent coins while the greens represent paper money. Common greens people use are collards and turnip greens. Others prefer to use cabbage. According to this belief, eating this combination will bring you good luck and money. Sounds good right?
Black-Eyed Peas With Cornbread for Gold
You may have been served black-eyed peas with cornbread before. For this one, cornbread represents gold, and having gold means being rich. The belief here is that somehow you will acquire gold in that year. Most people prefer their black-eyed peas with cornbread for taste.
Black-Eyed Peas for Prosperity
When you add stewed tomatoes to black-eyed peas when cooking, that is a symbol of wealth and health. The wealth in this context is not just about having money; it is also about prospering all year long. When you eat black-eyed peas with stewed tomatoes, greens, and cornbread, you are supposed to get the best of both health and wealth for the year.
Black-Eyed Peas for a Balanced Diet
As mentioned earlier, black-eyed peas are packed with tons of beneficial nutrients. The U.S Department of Agriculture confirms that black-eyed peas do not have cholesterol and are low in fat and sodium. They are also gluten-free and a healthy food for a balanced diet. Eating black-eyed peas for this belief, is supposed to indicate you will eat a balanced and nutritious diet all year. You will not go hungry.
How to Cook Black-Eyed Peas for New Year’s Day
Black-eyed peas can be cooked in a variety of ways using; slow cookers, pressure cookers, stove tops and even microwaves. Whatever you need, there is likely a recipe out there.
However, cooking black-eyed peas, especially dried ones, requires patience. That is because they need to cook longer for softness. No one wants to eat crunchy black-eyed peas right?
You also want to make sure you do not overcook them or they become soggy. It is a very delicate balance and essential you locate a black-eyed pea recipe before beginning to cook. There are lots to choose from including those that are simple to those that are more complex.
Maybe you want something with a moderate flavor or maybe you want to go with a recipe that provides a full flavor experience. No worries, there is something out there for everyone.
Black-eyed peas can also be found in restaurants if you don’t feel like cooking. Your local grocer may provide a pre-cooked option in the deli section too.
What Happens if You Don’t Eat Black-Eyed Peas on New Year’s Day
Nothing happens when you skip this tradition on the first day of the year. However, you may get a call from family and friends asking you about eating your black-eyed peas. At least you will if your family is anything like mine.
Don’t stress too much, you can always eat them on day two, or not at all. It all depends on if you feel the peas are tied to your luck for the year.
Whether that is true or not will depend on your beliefs. Either way, there is no way to confirm if anything terrible happens to you when you don’t eat black-eyed peas for the new year.
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So What Should You Do?
It doesn’t matter if you believe in the black-eyed peas tradition or if you think it brings luck or not. What matters is the family coming together to enjoy a fun tradition on the first day of the year.
Most people that eat black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day believe in the luck it brings. Even if you don’t believe, that shouldn’t stop you from eating them. Consider all the fantastic nutritional benefits attached to eating black-eyed peas. If nothing else, participating in this tradition is a great way to spend time with family and friends.