Collards and Black-Eyed Peas – A Southern Tradition

It’s New Year’s Day, and since our Clemson football team isn’t playing football today, my husband is home, and that means one thing: collards and black-eyed peas simmering on the stove. We make homemade collard greens using my husband’s secret process that I’m about to reveal.

First, buy whole collards. Wash them and pinch away the thick stem that no one can eat. Your collards should have none of this in them:


Nasty Collard Stem

Once you have only the leaves, leave them fairly large, as they will cook down very small. Put them in a very large pot and bring to a rolling boil for 4-5 minutes. Then take them off the heat, drain, and rinse them. Draining the first boil helps eliminate some of the bitterness that collards are known for.

Fill the pot with water and add a splash of olive oil, a smidgen of salt, and a smidgen of sugar. Bring it to a boil again and add the collards back. Let them boil for a few minutes, then cut them down to simmer and let them cook for 45 minutes or an hour.

Serve them with white vinegar and a splash of hot sauce. Chopped up onion is also good.

Now, why collards, you may ask? Popeye loved spinach, and the in vogue green is kale. But collard greens have a steeped tradition in the South, where they are traditionally eaten on New Years’ Day.

My family never ate collards. They ate the nasty cousin, the turnip green. But those greens are stringy, and I could never stomach them. My husband first cooked collards for me back in the early 90’s, before we were even dating, when he cooked the greens for a New Year’s Day lunch at a friend’s house. They were actually tasty.

Now, assuming we’re not traveling for a bowl game, we cook collards and black-eyed peas at home. We’ll round out the meal with rice, homemade cornbread, and ham. Traditionally, dining on such fare will bring you luck and prosperity in the new year. The peas bring you additional coin money, and the greens give you additional greenbacks. It’s true. Grandma said so.


Collards Cooking


My husband and I aren’t as traditional as his dad was about it. If we’re traveling, we don’t lose a lot of sleep if we can’t find collards or black-eyed peas. However, once driving back the Gator Bowl, back before we had kids, we stopped at three or four places that served meat and vegetables looking for collards for my husband’s dad. Now he said they tore his stomach up, and he wouldn’t eat much, but he wanted to have at least a bite of collards on New Year’s Day. We finally found a soul food restaurant outside of Savannah that was open New Year’s night, ordered him collards, he ate one bite and was happy. We were tired and wanted to get home, but he was happy he found his collards.

Any New Year’s Traditions in your family? May the new year bring you peace and happiness.