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New Year’s Fonio Peas & Greens

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January 5, 2021 by Amethyst Ganaway

Cowpeas were one of the first plants cultivated and domesticated in Africa, thousands of years ago, just like the ancient grain fonio. Also like fonio, cowpeas tolerate low rainfall and poor, sandy soil, making them incredibly important in arid regions like the Sahel. While the majority of cowpeas are still farmed and eaten in Africa, they have spread across the world and become key to specialty dishes in many cultures and countries. Black eyed peas are one of the more popular varieties of the cowpea, and are loved in West Africa, Brazil, and the US.

Hoppin’ John is a popular black eyed pea-based dish eaten in the US. It’s traditionally made to celebrate the New Year, and eaten alongside greens, cornbread, and ham for good luck and prosperity in the coming year. This recipe uses a different type of cowpea – the field pea – which is still used today in certain parts of the Southeastern US, like it was in some of the first historical cookbooks that mention Hoppin’ John and other pea dishes. Specifically, this recipe uses Sea Island Red Peas from Anson Mills – an heirloom pea thought to have died out but revitalized by the company to help preserve old food ways.

These same food ways connect our not so long ago pasts with the present and future, ensuring that we stay connected to our roots by eating these traditional meals and passing them along for years to come. If you can’t find field peas in your area, don’t fret! They are hard to come by outside of certain locations, but Camellia Beans has delicious field peas, and Anson Mills ships their wonderful Sea Island Red Peas, or, you can use black eyed peas, like so many across the diaspora. Enjoy this meal with fonio for a prosperous New Year, or whenever you want a filling, healthy meal!


Serves 2-4 people
    • cups water
    • ½  cup rinsed, soaked, and picked field peas or black eyed peas
    • chicken bouillon cube
    • bay leaf
    • tablespoons cooking oil of your choice
    • ½  cup diced white or yellow onion
    • cup chopped frozen collard greens*, thawed and drained
    • teaspoon garlic powder
    • ½  teaspoon onion powder
    • ½  teaspoon kosher salt
    • ¼  teaspoon chili flakes
    • ½  cup dry Yolélé fonio
    • *Feel free to use fresh or canned collard greens (or other greens like mustard, turnip, kale, or sweet potato greens) – just make sure they are cooked down and drained well before using!


        • 01 .  

          In a small pot, combine the water, soaked peas, bay leaf, and bouillon and bring to a boil for five minutes. Reduce to a low simmer over low heat, stir so that the cube is dissolved, cover and let cook for 30 minutes, or until peas are tender. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid, and set aside. Drain the remaining peas – removing the bay leaf as well. Add the cooked peas back into the pot and set aside.

        • 02 .  

          In a small frying pan, heat the cooking oil over medium-low heat for about 2 minutes and add chopped onion to the pan. Sauté onions until they are just beginning to soften, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Add sautéed onions and chopped collard greens to the pot with the peas and cook until greens are tender. Season with salt, garlic and onion powder, and chili flakes to taste and stir well.

        • 03 .  

          In a separate small saucepan, cook fonio with the cup of reserved liquid from the peas according to the packaging directions. When the fonio is finished, fluff with a fork and add to the greens and peas. Stir well and enjoy.