Black-Eyed Peas for the New Year

Jill Staake

Click the image for a simple, traditional Hoppin' John recipe. Enjoy it with collard greens and cornbread for a true Southern New Year's meal.

There are a lot of food-related traditions for ensuring luck, prosperity, and happiness in the New Year. When I was growing up, my mom wouldn’t let us eat chicken on New Year’s Day, because chickens scratch backward – and you don’t want to move into a new year while looking back. Instead, our traditional New Year’s dishes included pork (pigs root forward) and sauerkraut. When I moved to the south, I learned that traditional New Year food in this region requires the consumption of Hoppin’ John, a dish made with black-eyed peas. The peas are considered to resemble coins, and signify wealth and prosperity in the new year.

After this year’s holidays are ended, why not plan ahead to grow your own black-eyed peas for next year’s Hoppin’ John? You’ll find seeds available in most of those seed catalogs that are just starting to arrive in your mailbox.  Black-eyed peas, sometimes called cowpeas, are easy to grow, provided you have a long enough summer. Like other beans, they need warm days and nights to prosper, and usually reach maturity about 90 days after sowing. Here are a few tips (learn more here):

  • Sow directly in the garden after all danger of frost has passed, about 4 inches apart. If using a vining variety, be sure to provide support.
  • Although they love warm and even hot weather, black-eyed peas actually prefer a little shade, especially from late afternoon sun.
  • Make sure the soil is well-drained, and water only when the soil feels dry. As long as you receive regular rainfall, black-eyed peas shouldn’t require much supplemental watering.
  • Allow the pods and peas to dry on the vine. Once the peas are entirely dry and hard, shell them and store them in an air-tight container for up to a year.

Do you grow your own black-eyed peas for Hoppin’ John? Give us your tips in the comments below.

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