This New Years, start your day off right with what some to claim be the luckiest bowl of peas you’ll ever eat! According to food historian Jessica Harris, black-eyed peas were cultivated in the Carolinas before the early 1700s. In a December 29, 2010 article in the New York Times, Jessica said that no one is sure how black-eyed peas became associated with good luck at New Years.
On the other hand, there are those who support a Jewish origin. They say that the Sephardic Jews who began settling in Georgia in the 1730s introduced the practice of eating of black-eyed peas at New Year celebrations. This is plausible because black-eyed peas were part of the Jewish Rosh Hashana New Year tradition since ancient times. Sephardic Jews had ties to the Iberian Peninsula (modern-day Spain and Portugal) and were thus within close proximity to Africa, the homeland of black-eyed peas.
There are also claims that it wasn’t until around the 1860s, during the American Civil War, that non-Jews picked up on the good luck pea tradition. Maybe it was then that ham hock and other porcine seasoning meats were added to pots of black-eyed peas. The result may have obscured the Jewish connection.
Spicy Black-Eyed Peas Salad
Enjoy the salad as a side with basmati rice and a curry. Or scoop it up with chappati or whole wheat tortillas. Add a yogurt raita, if you like.
One (11-ounce) container fresh black-eyed peas (2 cups)
1/4 cup chopped organic red onion
2 medium organic Roma tomatoes, cored and chopped (3/4 cup)
3 tablespoons finely chopped organic cilantro leaves
About 1 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons grated fresh organic ginger
1/2 to 1 green Thai or Serrano chiles, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
About 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon canola oil or coconut oil
1/2 teaspoon black or brown mustard seeds
1. Rinse the peas, then put them into a medium pot. Add water to cover by 1/2 inch and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat to simmer gently for 10 minutes, until tender. Drain and discard the cooking liquid, which is grey due to the color of the black eyes! Transfer to a bowl and set aside to cool completely, or cover and refrigerate overnight. You should have about 2 1/2 cups as the beans expand a bit during cooking.
2. Put the red onion in a strainer and rinse it under water to remove some of its harshness. Drain well before transferring to the bowl of cooked black-eyed peas. Add the tomatoes, cilantro, lime juice, ginger, chiles, cumin, cayenne, and salt. Toss well and taste, adding extra lime juice or salt as needed.
3. To add richness, heat the oil in a small skillet over high heat. Have a lid nearby. When the oil is very hot, drop in a mustard seed and it sizzles and pops immediately – add all the mustard seeds. Cover with the lid and give the skillet a few shakes to prevent the seeds from burning. After the popping subsides, pour the oil and seeds over the peas.
Toss well and set aside for about 30 minutes, or refrigerate overnight, to allow the flavors to develop. Give it a taste and make any flavor adjustments before serving. Enjoy at room temperature.
Note: This salad is enjoyed best when Fresh!