A Southern tradition is to eat blackeye peas and cabbage on New Year’s day or after the clock rings in the new year at midnight. Blackeye peas mean luck and prosperity. Cabbage, reminding a person of green back dollars, means wealth. My very sweet, Cajun/Italian next door neighbor would share her boiled cabbage greens and blackeye peas if I said I wasn’t cooking any on News Years Day. She made sure we were taken care of.
Traditionally these two foods are boiled, but they can be prepared in other ways as well. There’s no excuse not to eat these things on New Years day. And if you’re really not a cook, putting a few dried blackeye peas in your pocket has the same effect, I’m told. Coleslaw is easily found in restaurants, those chicken fast-food chains and easily made from a mix from the supermarket.
Yes, sweet potatoes grow in Louisiana. A bit of trivia, according to the Louisiana Sweet Potato Commission, Louisiana grows more sweet potatoes that any other state except North Carolina. I doubt if sweet potatoes will grow in my garden which consists of hard clay. However, much of the central and western parts of rural Louisiana have sandy, loamy soil. Sweet potatoes need a long growing season making this a good geographical area for farming sweet potatoes.
I purchased a sack of sweet potatoes from a man who brings produce from central Louisiana to sell from his truck by the side of the road. He’s been at this spot for several years, and his produce varies according to the time of the year. These sweet potatoes came from a farm in Bunkie, Louisiana. The variety is Beauregard sweet potatoes, developed for better crop resistance and it is the most common one grown in the state. This variety is softer and sweeter than the variety grown in northern states–which tends to be drier and more mealy.
Some recipes call for sweet potatoes and others for yams. Technically, all are sweet potatoes. When the softer, more orange and sweeter variety was introduced into the South, these were given the name, yams, to differentiate the two types. Yams reminded the slaves of the tubers they remembered from African or, “”nyami”. Yams are grown in Central and South American and can be found in specialty markets.
The sweet potatoes sold by this road-side vendor were moderately small ones; just right for a serving when baked. I plan to make several of my favorite recipes and post them here.