Published: 12/29/2021By Raquel Miller
The Musical Fruit
Let’s be honest. When you hear the words “black-eyed peas,” you probably immediately think of the American musical group. And while Will. I. Am. and Fergie and the rest of the gang might be helpful for awesome tracks on your workout playlist, in this case, we’re talking about the little-known nugget of nutrition: the black-eyed pea legume. Black-eyed peas originally came to the Americas from West Africa on slave ships and spread in popularity after the civil war. It’s also called the cowpea, the California Blackeye, and according to President Thomas Jefferson, the English field pea. And to add even more confusion to the matter, there is also a bean known as the “Ojo de Cabra” (which translates to “eye of the goat” and is native to northern Mexico) which is small, white, and speckled with black, that is often mistakenly confused for it.
What’s in a Name
As if things weren’t complicated enough, here’s yet one more interesting bite of black-eyed pea trivia: did you know that it isn’t even a pea at all? It’s actually (drum roll, please) a bean! More specifically, a member of the cowpea family. Peas, as a matter of fact, are technically fruit. Well actually, to be even more technical, they are the seed of a fruit (the entire pod) which can also technically be considered a vegetable since it is a savory edible plant … but let me stop there because now, much like the only treadmill that turns on in a three-star hotel gym, we’re way off track.
To correct course, let’s do a quick recap of what we’ve learned:
- Black-eyed peas are an actual food, not just an early 2000’s pop group with totally workout-worthy dance hits
- They originated in West Africa, and were brought over to America during the transatlantic slave trade
- Black-eyed peas are commonly confused for the Mexican bean known as “Ojo de Cabra”
- Black-eyed peas are not peas at all, they’re legumes
Let’s Get It Started
Black-eyed peas are considered a symbol of good luck and are traditionally prepared and enjoyed on New Year’s Eve. But beyond that, like other members of their legume family, they are nutritional powerhouses high in protein and fiber that should be incorporated into a healthy diet all year long. However, in the spirit of the New Year, let’s get in the kitchen and cook up a healthy version of the black-eyed pea-centered holiday classic, Hoppin’ John!
LTD’s Healthy Hoppin’ John
Hoppin’ John is a southern dish traditionally made with bacon or ham, black-eyed peas, and white rice, and is often eaten with collard greens and cornbread which symbolize dollar bills and gold. In this version, we’re going to use turkey bacon, and brown rice for a healthier spin. (You can also omit the meat and make a vegetarian version, which follows the “grain, green, and bean” formula made popular by No Meat Athlete. Go, plant power!)
- 2 slices turkey bacon (optional)
- 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 yellow or red pepper, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- ½ cup low sodium chicken broth
- ½ tsp paprika
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- ½ tsp oregano
- 1 14 oz can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 green onion, sliced (optional)
- ¼ cup grated cheddar cheese or nutritional yeast flakes (optional)
- 2 cups or more cooked brown rice for serving
- If using, prepare the turkey bacon by adding 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the turkey bacon and cook for about 7-10 minutes or until crisp, turning occasionally. Remove bacon from the skillet onto a paper towel and set aside. Break into small bits when cool enough to handle, and reserve for topping.
- Add the remaining olive oil to the pan and add the onions. Cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes, just until softened.
- Add the pepper and sauté for another 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for a minute more.
- Stir the black-eyed peas into the onion mixture. Add the chicken broth, paprika, thyme, and oregano. Stir to combine.
- Add the honey and stir to combine. Simmer the mixture for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- To serve, scoop a serving of the Hoppin’ John over a plate of rice and top with green onion, crumbled bacon, and cheese or nooch. Enjoy immediately after serving.
Beans like black-eyed peas are an excellent addition to any diet, due to their high nutritional value and protein content. Be sure to enjoy this and other legume-based recipes to ensure good health all year long. Because when it comes to good health, well, what could be luckier than that.
Are there any healthy ways you will be celebrating the New Year?
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