Blackeyed Peas And The Civil War

Dated: 07/12/2019

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By Ellen PeffleyPosted Dec 31, 2013 at 6:27 PM

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’.)

When Sherman’s troops overtook and raided the food supplies of the Confederate South, Union soldiers regarded as them as animal feed and left them behind in the fields. The Confederates, however, survived by eating this crop and considered themselves lucky to have had them and, so, the peas became symbolic of luck. Good luck to be gained by eating black-eyed peas with greens (such as collards) comes from the symbols of peas as coins and greens as paper money.

The name “black-eyed pea” is actually a marketing term; botanically, the vegetable black-eyed pea is actually a bean. Peas and beans are members of the legume family, Fabaceae (previously Leguminosae) and both have edible seeds and pods.

Botanically, a bean is any legume whose seeds or pods are eaten; most are in the genera Phaseolus or Vigna, while peas are in the genus Pisum; since the scientific name for black-eyed pea is Vigna unguiculata, it is classified as a bean.

The vegetable gets its name from the black “eye” in the center of the bean, where the bean was attached to the pod; originally they were called mogette (French for nun) because the black eye reminded some of a nun’s head attire.

Beans can be eaten at three stages of maturity: immature, while in pods as snaps or green beans; mature, removed from the pod and eaten when fully formed but still soft; and as mature dry edibles, which are soaked before cooking. Black-eyed peas are usually eaten shelled but can be eaten as snaps. Mature dry beans are sown as seed for the next year’s crop.

To grow your own black-eyed peas for next New Year’s Day, plant dry beans when soil temperatures are consistently higher than 65 degrees. In Lubbock, this will be mid-May to early June - more on that this summer.

Black-eyed peas are an excellent source of vitamins A, C, and K; dietary fiber; potassium; folate; and iron. Snaps are a good source of magnesium, thiamin, riboflavin, copper, calcium, phosphorus, protein, omega-3 fatty acids and niacin. So even if the folklore of eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day doesn’t bring you good luck, they may bring you good health! Happy New Year!

(Some information from Publications International, Ltd. and the Library of Congress, www.loc.gov.)

ELLEN PEFFLEY TAUGHT HORTICULTURE AT THE COLLEGE LEVEL FOR 28 YEARS, 25 OF THOSE AT TEXAS TECH, DURING WHICH TIME SHE DEVELOPED TWO ONION VARIETIES. SHE IS NOW THE SOLE PROPRIETOR OF FROM THE GARDEN, A MARKET GARDEN FARMETTE. YOU CAN EMAIL HER AT GARDENS@SUDDENLINK.NET.

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Wayne Gaddy

Experienced Top Producing Real Estate Broker/REALTOR® specializing in the Purchase and Sale of Residential Homes, Condos, Vacation Homes, New Homes and Investment Property. A Realtor® who has a prov....

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