I grew up on a farm, two miles from a town that we rarely visited except to go to school and church, and on Friday nights during basketball season. (This is Indiana, after all and high school basketball was almost a religious experience.) Holidays were not given a lot of attention, other than Christmas. New Year’s Day was just another day of doing chores, at least until we got a television, and then watching the Rose Parade became a welcome tradition. So as an adult when I moved to a city and met Cherie, a true southern lady who was aghast that I didn’t eat blackeye peas on New Year’s Day to ensure good luck in the coming year, it was a revelation. She was so adamant that I was instantly converted to believer. Decades and decades later, that tradition is still followed in my home.
Cherie grew up with a traditional blackeye pea dish in which the peas are simmered all day with ham hocks or pork belly until tender. Collard greens were also part of the mix. To me, blackeye peas are confusing, because they actually resemble beans much, much more than they resemble peas. Cherie’s dish was not especially to my northern taste bud’s liking, so early on I developed this blackeye pea salsa that is our New Year’s tradition, and many years later published it in my first book, “Herbal Beginnings.” If you have the book, it’s listed as “New Year’s Day Salsa.” To Cherie’s horror, I use canned peas. Here’s the recipe: Drain 1 can blackeye peas and place in a mixing bowl with 4 Roma tomatoes, diced; 1/2 c. chopped red onion; 1/2 a large green pepper, diced; 1/4-1/2 c. chopped fresh cilantro; 1 (or more to your liking) fresh jalapeno pepper, finely diced; juice of a lime, salt and pepper to taste. Allow salsa to rest a few minutes for flavors to develop. I generally serve it with grilled tilapia, a healthier choice than chips. Nothing flasy, but it seems to work. I feel I’ve had very good luck in the years since I’ve eaten them on New Year’s Day. As I surveyed the seed catalogs this week, I found that a Hoosier seed store actually carries blackeye peas. The varieties they offer are “California Blackeye #46,” “Pink Eye Purple Hull,” and “Queen Anne Blackeye.” I’ll have to do some research to see which type I’ll grow, because I suspect if an anonymous can of blackeye peas can bring good luck then blackeye peas that have been lovingly planted, carefully tended in my organic potager, harvested and stored at precisely the right time should be even luckier. Don’t you agree? Besides, it’s always fun to try something new, and I’ve never grown them before. I wonder if the flavor difference between homegrown and canned will be as pronounced as it is for green beans. It will be fun to find out!
On this final post of 2017, I wish you all the best of good luck in the coming New Year, and hope 2018 will be filled with Herbal Blessings and fun galore! Carolee