How to choose, store, and cook savory black-eyed peas.
by Carol M. Bareuther, R.D.
Nutrition in Black-Eyed Peas
One serving (half a cup) provides just 70 calories, along with a powerful punch of nutrients, like protein, calcium, iron and potassium. And it all comes in a cholesterol-free, virtually fat-free, high-fiber package.
How to Choose Black-Eyed Peas
Look for uniform color. Shelve bags with cracked, broken, faded or dry-looking peas, indicating staleness. Check for insect damage (pin-sized holes) when buying in bulk.
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How to Store Black-Eyed Peas
Store dried black-eyed peas in tightly sealed containers to maintain freshness. Don’t mix new peas with older ones because they won’t all cook evenly. Cooked, refrigerated black-eyed peas will keep fresh for up to three to four days.
Black-Eyed Peas Myths
“Fakelore” is what culinary historian and cookbook author John Martin Taylor calls the common tale about why Southerners eat black-eyed peas on New Year’s. The story goes that during the Civil War, Union soldiers ravaged the South but left the black-eyed peas alone, considering them only animal feed or food slaves ate. Thus, Southerners started eating them on New Year’s Day for good luck.
But in reality, the practice seems to date to before the Civil War, agrees Jennifer J. Harbster, M.L.I.S., a reference specialist with the Library of Congress. “In fact, the literature reveals that the tradition may go back to the 18th/19th century,” she says, citing The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America.
Hoppin' John History and Recipe
Taylor, author of Hoppin’ John’s Lowcountry Cooking, gives the same “fakelore” designation to stories about how the traditional dish hoppin’ John got its name. In any event, he says, it’s “a seasoned rice and peas dish of West African origin that the slaves brought with them to the U.S. Today, it's still a staple in the Southeast.”
Here's a hoppin' John recipe. But you don’t have to cook that to enjoy these meaty treats. Black-eyed peas also make a delicious, hearty side dish by themselves. Just follow the directions to the right.
CAROL M. BAREUTHER, R.D., is a nutritionist with the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.
Photo by Los Angeles director of photography Gary Otte.
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Last updated and/or approved: January 2012. Original article appeared in January/February 2008 former print magazine. Bio current as of that issue. This general health-care information is not meant as individual advice. Please see our disclaimer.