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Black-Eyed Peas, the Healthy, Affordable and Lucky Legume

Black-eyed peas, which are actually beans, are thought to have originated in West Africa over 5000 years ago. Black-eyed peas are consumed internationally, including India, Eastern Asia, the Middle East, Greece, Turkey, Cypress, Portugal, the Caribbean, South America and the Southern United States. George Washington Carver promoted these legumes because of their high nutritional value and because planting black-eyed peas as a crop adds nitrogen back to the soil.

Black eyed peas | Something New For Dinner

Black-Eyed Peas Are Healthy, Filling and Cheap

This trifecta of good nutrition, satiety and affordability are what makes these legumes so popular worldwide. Black-eyed peas also are a great canvas to soak up local flavors. In the Southern U.S., they are frequently cooked with pork, greens, onions and served with hot sauce or spicy vinegar. In Greece and the surrounding area, they are cooked with garlic, olive oil, vegetables and lemon. In Brazil and Columbia black-eyed peas are mashed and fried. In India they are used to make several different curry dishes. In Vietnam they are cooked with coconut milk and sticky rice to make a dessert called Che Dau Trang.   Black-eyed peas are considered one of the most nutritious legumes. They are a great source of fiber, potassium, plant-based protein, Vitamin B, folate, iron and several essential minerals. They are also low in fat and relatively low in calories at about 200 calories in 1 cup of beans. They are also densely filling, so most people will not be able to consume an entire cup in one sitting, but will leave the table feeling well-satiated for hours.

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Cooking Black-Eyed Peas From Scratch

Cooking black-eyed peas is very simple. You can soak them over night or you can quick-soak them by putting them in a pot and covering them with 2 inches of water. Bring the pot to a boil for 2 minutes and soak for an hour. Drain the peas and rinse to minimize their gassy effect. Then cover with another 2 inches of fresh water, bring to a boil and cook 25 - 45 minutes until al dente -- firm, but cooked.   Note the reason for rinsing the soaked peas is they contain sugars that humans can't digest. Apparently we are missing an enzyme needed to digest beans. When you rinse dried beans after they soak or rinse canned beans you remove some of these indigestible gas-causing sugars. More on managing bean gas below.

Dried Vs. Canned Black-Peas

There are pros and cons to cooking with dried vs. canned beans.

Benefits of Cooking with Dried Black-Eyed Peas

  • More economical
  • More control of salt content
  • No exposure to BpA that is in the lining of canned beans
  • Allows control of doneness of the peas -- ie., al dente vs. mushy

Disadvantages of Cooking with Dried Black-Eyed Peas

  • Takes more planning and time
  • If you don't watch the pot carefully you can overcook the beans

Advantages of Cooking with Canned Black-Eyed Peas

  • Fast, easy and convenient
  • No oven required

Disadvantages of Cooking with Canned Black-Eyed Peas

  • No control of salt content
  • BpA exposure
  • Slightly more expensive
  • No control of doneness

The Good Luck Pea

Black-eyed peas are a traditional New Year's dish in several different countries and communities around the world. They are a traditional New Year's dish in the southern United States, where they are typically cooked with pork and some kind of greens.¬†The Talmud shows eating black-eyed peas was a custom for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New year, going back at least 1500 years.   Likewise in Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago black-eyed peas are prepared on New Year's Eve cooked with rice, meat and coconut milk in a dish called Cook-Up Rice which is said to bring good luck when it is the first dish eaten in the New Year.

Not All Black-Eyed Peas Are Black

I recently opened a can of black eyed peas that showed the traditional beige peas with black eyes in the picture on the can, only to discover the peas inside the can were pink peas with dark pink eyes. I thought "Hey, what's going on here?" Wikipedia to the rescue. Black eyed peas can have black, brown, pink, red and even green eyes.  

Pink canned black eyed peas | Something New For Dinner

Here is a picture of the can of beans showing black and beige peas with the actual beans in the back ground

  See, they are pink! I did not notice any difference in taste, however.  

How to Minimize Gas when Eating Legumes

Beans, beans the magical fruit, the more you eat....We all know the nursery rhyme. It is true, beans can increase flatulence, although it varies by person and by how frequently you eat beans. Beans, including black-eyed peas, contain sugars called oligosaccharides that are indigestible by humans. The reason is humans are missing an enzyme that allows us to digest these sugars. Don't let the fear of farting prevent you from eating these nutritious nuggets. There are some things you can do to decrease gas when eating beans:
  1. Soak -- Soaking helps remove some of the indigestible and flatulence causing sugars.
  2. Rinse -- After you soak your beans, rinse them well. Like soaking, rinsing helps remove some of the sugars that can cause gas. Also rinse your canned beans.
  3. Add spices -- There are several spices that are said to help reduce gas: Ginger, cumin, turmeric, fennel, ajwain (an Indian spice) and epazote (a Mexican spice.)
  4. Chew slowly and thoroughly -- Mindful eating can help. If you gobble your food, you also gobble air which will increase gas no matter what you are eating.
  5. Watch what you pair with beans -- Eating potatoes and beans together, eating multiple proteins and eating dairy with your beans can result in more gas.
  6. Eat fruit -- 2 - 3 hours before or after you eat beans.
  7. Eat vegetables with your beans -- Eating vegetables, and particularly greens such as kale and collard greens with your beans helps reduce gas.
  8. Add a piece of seaweed or kelp to your cooking water -- Seaweed such as kombu and wakame aid in the digestion of beans as well as add additional nutrition.
  9. Take Beano when you eat beans -- Beano provides the missing enzyme needed to break down the sugars in beans.
  10. Eat beans often -- Your body gets used to beans the more you eat them. When you start eating beans regularly you will find your gassiness reduces...or maybe, you just get used to it!

Black-Eyed Peas Greek Salad

I recently returned from a trip to Greece where I discovered these tasty legumes for the first time since my great-grandmother, Granny Moore, used to make them for me when I was a wee thing. She was from Arkansas, so I'm sure she cooked them with bacon or some other pork products. Fast forward to our favorite taverna in Greece, Remetzo on the island of Aegina, and I rediscovered black-eyed peas in a delicious, vegetable dense salad. We returned to Remetzo taverna three times and had these tasty peas every time. I couldn't wait to get home to recreate the recipe.

Black eyed pea Greek salad | Something New For Dinner

Here is my recreation of the black-eyed peas salad we ate at Remetzo taverna

  How do you like to eat black-eyed peas?
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