Blog February 2, 2024

To Pea Or Not To Pea: The Black-Eyed Pea

To Pea Or Not To Pea: The Black-Eyed Pea


The black-eyed pea or black-eyed bean is a legume grown around the world for its medium-sized, edible bean. It is a subspecies of the cowpea, an Old World plant domesticated in Africa, and is sometimes simply called a cowpea.

Black-eyed peas (Vigna unguiculata) are a variety of the cowpea and are part of the family of beans & peas (Leguminosae or Fabaceae in the USA). Although called a pea, it is actually a bean. Both peas and beans are legumes, and both have edible seeds and pods. According to the Penguin Companion to Food, bean is a “term loosely applied to any legume whose seeds or pods are eaten, not classed separately as a pea or lentil.” Beans traditionally were in the genus Phaseolus, but now some of the species, including the black-eyed pea, are in the genus Vigna. Peas are in the genus Pisum.

The common names of beans and peas are not consistent; other legumes popularly called “peas” are the butterfly pea (Clitoria ternatea), the chickpea (Cicer arietinum), pigeon peas (Cajanus cajan), and the winged pea (Lotus tetragonolobus). As legumes they are extremely nourishing vegetables, both to people and to the soil. They are able to fix nitrogen, meaning nitrogen from the air is taken in by the plant and bacteria living in the roots convert it to a useable plant nutrient. Because of this process, nitrogen-fixing plants improve soil quality by adding nutrients back into the soil.

Fun Facts about black-eyed peas:

Cultivated since pre-historic times in China and India, they are related to the mung bean. The ancient Greeks and Romans preferred them to chickpeas.

Brought to the West Indies by enslaved West Africans, by earliest records in 1674.

Originally used as food for livestock, they became a staple of the slaves’ diet. During the Civil War, black-eyed peas (field peas) and corn were thus ignored by Sherman’s troops. Left behind in the fields, they became important food for the Confederate South.

In the American South, eating black-eyed peas and greens (such as collards) on New Year’s Day is considered good luck: the peas symbolize coins and the greens symbolize paper money.

They are a key ingredient in Hoppin’ John (peas, rice and pork) and part of African-American “soul food.”

Originally called mogette (French for nun). The black eye in the center of the bean (where it attaches to the pod) reminded some of a nun’s head attire.


Why we Eat Black Eyed Peas and Collards On New Yaw Day:

The South is a region of long-held superstitions and traditions. However, one of our longest-held traditions is that of eating black-eyed peas and collard greens in some form on New Year’s Day. In fact, this tradition is so pervasive throughout the Southeast that black-eyed peas appear in recipes as varied as Cowboy Caviar in Texas to Hoppin’ John in Alabama to peas with ham up in North Carolina.

According to legendary Southern food researcher John Egerton’s Southern Food: At Home, On the Road, In History, black-eyed peas are associated with a “mystical and mythical power to bring good luck”1 and have been a Southern staple for more than three centuries. As for collard greens, they’re green like money and will ensure you a financially prosperous new year. And isn’t that what we all want anyway?

There’s evidence that Jewish people ate black-eyed peas as a part of the holiday Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, for hundreds of years.2 But the tradition of cooking black-eyed peas with rice is African in origin. It spread throughout the South, especially in the Carolinas, in the form of pilaus or rice dishes simmered for a long time with chicken or shrimp. When black-eyed peas were added to the pilau, it became Hoppin’ John.

What To Serve With Your Black-Eyed Peas

If you serve peas with cornbread, it represents gold, and if they are stewed with tomatoes, it symbolizes wealth and health.3 Although we don’t endorse this practice, some people will even put a penny or a dime inside their pot of peas. Whoever is “lucky” enough to receive the coin will have the most luck for the rest of the year.

Recipes For Black-Eyed Peas And Collard Greens

The classic New Year’s Day pairing isn’t confined to the home either. You’ll find black-eyed peas and collards on restaurant menus and daily specials throughout the South as the New Year approaches. However, if you want practice the tradition yourself, here are a few names of our favorite recipes to try at home.


Classic Hoppin’ John Recipe

Hoppin’ John Soup

Hoppin’ John Stew

Southern-Style Collard Greens

Slow Cooker Collard Greens with Ham Hocks

Collard Greens with Garlic and Sippets

Instant Pot Collard Greens

Tia Mowry’s Braised Collard Greens

Easy Black-Eyed Peas


Hoppin’ John Stew

Smoky sausage plays a starring role in this hearty Hoppin’ John stew which simmers in the slow cooker until you’re ready to enjoy.

By Southern Living Editors  Published on December 17, 2018stant Pot Black-Eyed Pea Soup


4 (15.8-oz.) cans black-eyed peas, undrained

2 (10-oz.) cans diced tomatoes and green chiles, undrained

1 (14-oz.) can beef broth

1 pound smoked sausage, sliced

1 cup water

1 cup finely chopped onion

3/4 cup chopped green bell pepper

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon table salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 family-size package boil-in-bag rice, uncooked (about 1 1/2 cups uncooked)



Combine all ingredients except rice in a 6-qt. slow cooker.

Cover and cook on Low 6 hours. Cut top off boil-in-bag rice; pour rice into slow cooker, and discard bag. Stir.

Cover and cook on High 20 minutes or until rice is tender.



Where did the superstition of eating black-eyed peas come from?

What’s the deal with peas on New Years? – Oliver’s Markets

Today, the tradition of eating black-eyed peas for the New Year has evolved, as many traditions do, into a number of variations – but most hold the theme of luck and prosperity that harkens back to the Civil War days when people felt lucky to have black-eyed peas to eat and help them survive the cold, harsh winter

What is the folklore about black-eyed peas?

Of Southern traditions, black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day ranks right on top. Folklore tells that this tradition dates back to the Civil War when black-eyed peas were called field peas and were considered to be food for animals. (This may be how they acquired the common name ‘cowpeas’ or ‘Southern peas’.)


What religion eats black-eyed peas?

As a result, the tradition of eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s has its roots in the American South, particularly in African-American culture, but black-eyed peas have been enjoyed by people around the world for hundreds of years. In fact, they are also served for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.




Good Luck

According to author and food scholar Adrian Miller, eating black eyed peas on New Years Eve or New Years Day promises good luck, health, and abundance. The bean has taken the form of good fortune and has even adopted a few different aliases along the way.

What is the superstition about collard greens and black-eyed peas?

Black-eyed peas and collard greens are often a go-to dish during New Year’s celebrations because they’re said to bring luck and prosperity. The tradition has a long history; one of the first records is found in the Talmud, a central text of Rabbinic Judaism.


What is the superstition about collard greens and black-eyed peas?

Black-eyed peas and collard greens are often a go-to dish during New Year’s celebrations because they’re said to bring luck and prosperity. The tradition has a long history; one of the first records is found in the Talmud, a central text of Rabbinic Judaism.


Check out my other Blog on Collards