Growing up in the Carolinas, it was a given that on New Year’s Day there would be a special meal. Without compromise, it would include collard greens, hoppin’ john (field peas and rice), cornbread, and some sort of meat – often ham. This is a typical southern meal eaten for luck and good fortune in the New Year.
Even at a young age, I understood that the greens symbolized money (or economic fortune) and the peas were for prosperity. However, there was never any mention of the wealth of nutrients found in the greens and peas. Collard greens are full of fiber, calcium, folate and Vitamin A to name a few. Similar to black-eyed peas, field peas are a good source of fiber, magnesium and potassium.
Over the years, I’ve learned to make these dishes myself, minus the traditional salt pork and ham hocks used for seasoning. For a slow-cooked flavor, I cook the peas with fresh thyme and chicken broth. I season the greens with broth made from lean smoked turkey, canola oil and add a little spice with red pepper flakes. My recipes are always evolving, so this year I looked for new ideas and found this Black-Eyed Pea Stew recipe that conveniently puts it all together in one pot.
If the thought of cleaning and cutting a big bunch of fresh collard greens is too daunting, try the ones that have already been cut or even frozen collard or turnip greens. It’s easy to find field or black-eyed peas in the dried beans or frozen foods aisle of the store. With the current recession, saving money is on everyone's mind. These are all cheap and nutritious options for a great meal all year long.
Myth or reality, starting the New Year with greens and peas is a tasty way to good health and good fortune in 2009.