Why We Ring In The New Year With Blackeyed Peas and Collard Greens

As many of you know I grew up in Germany. After I married my husband, my wonderful Mother-in-Law made sure I fixed some black-eyed peas and collards on New Year’s Day. She said the peas were for good luck and the greens for prosperity in the new year. I’ve cooked them every January 1st and thought I’d do a little research this year to see where these culinary traditions came from. I’ve come across some interesting stories and while I have no idea how historically accurate they are, I thought I’d share them with y’all today. And yes in case you’re wondering, my black-eyed peas are happily boiling away on the stove and my collards are cooking in the crockpot this year. We’ll have a couple of slices of leftover ham to round out the dinner.

Black Eyed Peas and Collard Greens

Let’ start with blackeyed peas. I’ve gotta tell you… they are not my favorite and I usually make them just once a year. I enjoyed the story behind them though. In my research I’ve come across two different stories. The first one claims that after Sherman’s march through the South, many Southerners were left with only black-eyed peas and salted pork. Even though the peas were usually used as animal feed, people considered themselves lucky to have them to fill their bellies. Thus the idea that black eyed peas were lucky.

The other story I’ve found involves slaves and the Emancipation Proclamation that went into effect January 1st 1863. Blackeyed peas were a common staple in African Americans diet at the time and probably played a big part in celebratory meals that day. From this the tradition of eating them on the 1st of January may have been born.

I didn’t find a great story like that to explain why we eat collard greens. Mostly they are one of the latest crops in the south and still readily available by January 1st. The green color of this yummy veggie is associated with our green dollar bills. According to tradition, each bite of greens you eat is worth $1,000 in the coming year.

I did come across something new though that has me adding to our New Year’s Day Menu this year. I’d thought of making some biscuits to go with the ham, black-eyed peas and collards. It’s going to be switched to corn bread since there is a tradition of eating it to make sure you have plenty of spending or pocket money during the New Year. The gold color of the corn bread represents gold or coins.

I’ve had a lot of fun looking into these traditions. They make me appreciate cooking (and of course eating) this traditional New Year’s Day meal even more.

How about you? Do you have any special New Year’s Traditions? Do you cook something similar? Did you hear a different story about why we eat this stuff? Leave a comment below and let’s chat about why we ring in the New Year with black-eyed peas, collard greens and corn bread.

Slow Cooker Collard Greens

Down here we traditionally eat ham, collard greens and back-eyed peas on New Year’s Day. This year I’m going to make my collard greens in the slow cooker and thought I’d share the recipe with you. Just get them started around lunch time and by dinner they will be delicious and tender. Flavor and texture is the main reason I started cooking my greens in the slow cooker. Because of the large volume of the raw greens, I saute them in my largest pot first to give them a chance to shrink down a bit before adding them to the crockpot.

Crockpot Collards
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Recipe type: Side Dish
Cuisine: Southern
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • leftover ham / ham bone
  • 5 lb collard greens
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • dash of black pepper
  • dash of cayenne pepper (optional)
Instructions
  1. Start by prepping your collard greens. Pull the leaves from the stems. Discard the stems. I like to add them along with any other raw veggie pieces to a freezer bag and use them down the road to make broth. Tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces.
  2. Wash and dry the collard greens.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion has softened. I find it helps to add a dash of salt to the onion mixture.
  4. Increase the heat and add the chicken broth. Bring the mixture to the boil, then start adding your greens. Add as many as will comfortably fit, allow them to wilt down, then add more.
  5. Add the ham bone or leftover ham pieces to the bottom of the slowcooker. Pour the collard mixture on top. Add the vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper and cayenne pepper and stir to combine.
  6. Cover and cook for 4 hours on high or 6 hours on low.

 

Collard greens