Not too long ago, I was looking at some of my posts about Black-Eyed Peas. A Black-Eyed Pea & Rice Salad (I loooove that salad!) and since the Holidays are approaching and Black-eyed peas are considered a “lucky” dish for New Year’s, I was thinking too, of the dish, Traditional Black Eyed Peas. Since they have been on my mind, I thought now would be a great day to talk about Black-Eyed Peas, their nutrition, how to shop for them and how to store them.
Over the years, I have given shopping hints on almost every post. This year, I’ve decided to move forward with my original vision, and cover an ingredient from some of my posts pretty much from top to bottom, with a goal of eventually having my site be a better resource for you. Today, obs, I am choosing Black-eyed peas.
What to Know About Black-Eyed Peas:
The black-eyed pea, black-eyed bean or goat pea is a legume, a subspecies of the common cowpea. It’s known the world over for its creamy color with a dark spot, hence the name “black-eyed”. The commercial variety is called the California Blackeye; in the South, there are numerous varieties grown, many of them heirloom, and the sizes and color of the eye may be different. Black-eyed peas of all varieties are green when freshly shelled and brown or buff when dried.
According to Wikipedia, the first domestication probably occurred in West Africa, but the black-eyed pea is widely grown in many countries. It was introduced into the Southern United States as early as the 17th century in Virginia. Most of the black-eyed pea cultivation in the region, however, took a firmer hold in Florida and the Carolinas during the 18th century, reaching Virginia in full force following the American Revolution. The crop would also eventually prove popular in Texas.
In the South eating Traditional Black-eyed Peas or Hoppin’ John on New Year’s Day is thought to bring prosperity in the new year. The peas are typically cooked with some type of pork and served with a chili sauce or a vinegar-based pepper sauce. The traditional meal also includes collard, turnip, or mustard greens, and ham.
What to Know About Black Eyed Peas, Shopping:
Black-eyed peas can be purchased dried by the bag (and probably in bulk in some stores), frozen in limited areas as well as canned and you may be able to purchase fresh if you live in an area where they are grown. Package sizes and prices all vary by how the peas are processed, brand, season and location, so a hard and fast comparison is tricky. (See how to compare, below). A serving is considered to be 1/2 cup of cooked black-eyed peas.
Black-Eyed Peas, like most dried beans, are naturally inexpensive and thrifty; even so, there are a few things to think about when buying. Buy dried black-eyed peas or any legume from a store with a high turnover and you will be more likely to get a fresher, better quality bean. Stores in different areas of town (even different stores in the same chain) may have different pricing on basics like legumes. Check “ethnic” markets, too.
- Frozen Black Eyed Peas: the most expensive option, especially the ready to heat and eat options. There are some varieties that come frozen and need to be cooked for about 30 minutes and other packages of frozen that are ready to eat or use after heating through.
- Canned Varieties: are ready to heat and use. Sizes can vary & the larger cans of each brand are less per pound than the smaller. Prices vary wildly across the brands but the standard 15 to 15.8-ounce cans range from about 79 cents for generic & up to $1.99 or more for premium varieties. The best sales are usually late summer to fall; warehouses are full & products priced to move. Canned black-eyed peas can be very high in sodium, which can be reduced by rinsing.
- Dried Varieties: are always the best option price-wise (unless you’re a couponer with mad skills) & come in 1 or 2-pound bags & sometimes larger or in bulk in stores or online. Generally, the larger the package, the cheaper per pound and the pound price ranges from $1.50 for basic up to $4.99 a pound for premium. Bulk pricing (20 lbs) was 79 cents a pound. Around holidays where ham is a featured item: Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter, legumes of all kinds are often on sale, often unadvertised. Stock up for the year when they are at a low.
Always, the products used the most are the ones to watch the prices on; if Black-eyed peas is a “one-off” item, cooked once a year, the pricing isn’t as important as it if you are using them regularly or need them in quantities for a crowd.
Note: The 6 pounds 12 ounce can below, is the same as the old fashioned #10 can.
How to Compare Pricing, Dried and Canned:
The easiest way to compare prices across all the available options is to price each option out by serving (1/2 cup) by dividing the price by the number of servings.
Since that may be hard to visualize and can be meaningless (especially since the per-serving price is small) it is helpful to then turn that into a per-pound price: Multiply the price per serving by 11 (the number of servings in a one-pound bag). That way all options can easily be compared to a one-pound bag of dried peas, the least expensive option.
In my area, this week:
1 pound dried is 11 (1/2 cup) servings, 13 cents a serving, for $1.49.
1 can (15 oz) Bush’s) is 3 (1/2 cup) servings, 43 cents a serving for $1.29. The equivalent pricing for the same amount of canned as a one-pound bag of dried is $4.73.
1 bag (1 lb) frozen is 4 (1/2 cup) servings, 50 cents a serving for $1.99. The equivalent pricing for the same amount of frozen as a one-pound bag of dried is $5.50.
What to Know About Black Eyed Peas, Storing:
Dried black-eyed peas should be stored in a cool, dry location off the floor, in heavy plastic or another airtight container. If the wrap is flimsy, transfer to a more appropriate container. They are best if used within the first year or two; as they age they become harder, more difficult to rehydrate and take longer to cook. A little baking soda will aid in softening hard peas.
Although no studies seem to have been done on vitamin degradation on dried black-eyed peas, according to the University of Nebraska (link at bottom of page) it’s likely that if the dried beans follow the pattern of other foodstuffs in that after two to three years, while the peas will still be safe to eat, vitamin loss will occur and after five, it’s likely that many of the vitamins will no longer be present.
Canned Black-eyed peas are generally stamped with a “best” date (picked out by the producer) of two to three years after processing, but stored correctly, under 75 degrees F. with no dents or bulges, according to the Canned Food Alliance will still be safe for years and possibly decades.
Frozen black-eyed peas are best used within 6 months, maybe a bit longer if they are in a deep freeze. Again, the will still be safe to eat if frozen longer but may suffer freezer burn or become dried out.
Cooking Black-eyed Peas for Storage:
While you’ll want to check under the sections below for hints on cooking, if you are interested in cooking specifically for longer storage, consider the following:
- Dried peas can be cooked and then frozen, covered in the cooking liquid. Add 1 teaspoon vinegar or lemon juice per cup to preserve texture; freezing in quantities equal to a can will aid in using in many recipes. Thaw overnight in the fridge, defrost in the microwave or heat slowly in a covered pan with a little water.
- The advantage is that this gives you the pricing of a dried pea and close to the ease of use of canned.
- Any cooked black-eyed pea can be canned, but only with a pressure canner. See National Center for Home Preservation.
- Cooked black-eyed peas can be pickled & canned for preservation. If not canned, they will keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge.
- Fresh peas can be dried and pasteurized or blanched and then frozen or may be cooked and then frozen using the same method as above, for dried peas.
What to Know About Black Eyed Peas, Before Using:
Any fresh or dried beans should be thoroughly examined and sorted through for stones and debris; today’s processing methods usually are pretty thorough but still, stones can be found and that can potentially be an expensive trip to the dentist.
Dried black-eyed peas generally don’t require the amount of soaking as many legumes, but soaking will speed along the actual cooking process. See my post on Soaking & Brining Beans, Traditional or Instant Pot for more info on that process and know that soaking can aid in digestion. See the Downside, below.
In addition to Brining, soak with one of these methods:
- Hot Soak or Quick Soak. “Hot soaking” helps dissolve some of the gas-causing substances in beans and most consistently produces tender beans. In a large pot, add 10 cups of water for each pound (2 cups) of dry beans. Heat to boiling; boil for 2–3 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and soak for at least 1 hour (Quick Soak) or up to 4 hours (Hot Soak). Rinse thoroughly before and after soaking.
- Traditional Overnight Soak. This is the easiest method. Place dry beans in a large container; for each pound (2 cups) beans, add 10 cups of cold water. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight to prevent fermentation. Again, rinse before and after soaking.
In addition to my post of Brining Beans, you might want to take a peek at my post for cooking basic black-eyed peas. I gotcha covered with Black-eyed Peas Stovetop, Slow Cooker & Instant Pot.
What to Know About Black Eyed Peas, Storing Prepared Black-eyed Peas:
To store your cooked black-eyed peas (or any legume) never place a large pot of them in the fridge or freezer or cool to room temperature before refrigerating. Instead, place into shallow containers so they cool quickly and refrigerate or freeze promptly.
As with any prepared food, limit the amount of time (keep the total time under 2 hours) the black-eyed peas are in of the “danger zone” of 40 degrees F. to 140 degrees F. Beans because of their density need to paid particularly close attention to. Discard beans or peas left out longer than two hours.
Use cooked black-eyed peas within 4 to 5 days.
What To Know About Black Eyed Peas, Nutrition And Health Benefits:
The current US American Dietary Guidelines recommend eating at least 3 cups of beans a week. Black-eyed peas share a lot of the same nutrients and benefits of their other legume relatives. They’re low in fat and sodium but high in fiber, folic acid, and protein. (They contain all essential amino acids, except methionine, so to get the most usable protein, serve black-eyed peas with a grain like corn, rice or wheat, or a meat.) Cooked, black-eyed peas are also a good source of iron. And black-eyed peas are also a good source of Vitamin A and Manganese.
As with all legumes, black-eyed peas are especially good sources of soluble fiber, which helps prevent type 2 diabetes by keeping blood sugar balanced after you eat. Soluble fiber also binds to cholesterol and carries it out of the body. The folate and iron can aid in producing enough red blood cells to avoid developing anemia. Manganese is an antioxidant with a very important function: It protects mitochondria, the structures inside cells that produce energy and it also helps metabolize fats, carbs, and protein. Vitamin A is needed for a properly functioning immune system and helps to protect vision.
I just realized that the charts from My Fitness Pal, below, for canned Black-eyed peas and homemade, made from dried, don’t show all the nutritional information. In the meantime, I’ll look for some more complete charts.
What To Know About Black Eyed Peas, The Downside:
Canned black-eyed peas contain quite a bit of sodium; a half-cup serving can contain up to four to five hundred milligrams of salt while the recommended daily intake for an adult is less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day, equal to about one teaspoon of salt. A person with hypertension may be told to eat even less: 1,500 mg per day. Rinsing the canned black-eyed peas will help to reduce the amount of sodium.
Legumes of all types are notorious for causing bloating and gas, often rated second only to milk. While some blame the fiber, that’s just part of the story. Very Well Health explains the process well. Beans contain a sugar called oligosaccharide that the human body can not break down and absorb in the same way that it breaks down other sugars by the normal digestive process that takes place in the small intestine. This is because the human body actually does not produce the enzyme that breaks down oligosaccharides.
The Oligosaccharides in beans make it all the way to the large intestine undigested. It is the bacteria in the intestine that finally breaks down these sugars. Doing so causes fermentation and the production of gas that we release as flatulence. Rinsing your black-eyed peas (before and after soaking) and soaking them as well as cooking thoroughly can help eliminate potential issues. Soaking beans allows the dried beans to absorb water, which begins to dissolve the starches that cause intestinal discomfort.
There is an enzyme that breaks down oligosaccharides, called alpha-galactosidase. This enzyme, which the human body does not make, is derived from the fungus Aspergillus niger and is available in pill form under the brand name Beano and others. Those with diabetes should be aware that this enzyme can cause a rise in blood sugar, and they should not be taken by those with fungus allergies or with the genetic disease galactosemia.
And while it’s true that for some people, fiber can cause issues, for the rest of us it is simply a matter of indoctrinating ourselves to increased intake. Start small, eating a few tablespoons of beans at a time and eat them more often and it’s likely that you’ll have little to no problem adjusting naturally.
There are certain folk remedies for reducing the potential for gas while cooking. In Mexico the herb Epazote is often used in bean dishes; the herb is very robust and easy to grow and you may recognize it as a common weed in many areas. The other herb said to help eliminate issues when cooked with beans is Ajwain.
Favorite Black Eyed Peas Recipes:
Here are the few black eyed peas recipes on my site along with that Chili Sauce mentioned above and my post on Soaking and Brining Beans. I hope you’ll love some of these recipes or that I’ve inspired you to use black-eyed peas in some of your favorites!
I hope you’ve enjoyed “What To Know About Black-eyed Peas.” I know I’ve only scratched the surface, but additional resources are listed below! If What To Know About Black-eyed Peas has you hungry for more, click on the tag, “black-eyed peas” at the bottom of the page to see all recipes that reference this wonderful legume.
- Black Eyed Peas, General Information and cultivation: Wikipedia, Black Eyed Peas
- General Information on Dried Beans: Utah State University Extension
- Cooking & Soaking Beans: University of Nebraska, Agriculture
- Storage Tips for Cooked Black Eyed Peas: Still Tasty
- Nutritional Information: Healthy Eating