Skip to content

Purple Hull Beans – hoppin’ john and greens

October 14, 2010

 I did a little digging and found out some interesting historical information on these pretty pods. Several sites state that cowpeas were transported on slave ships from Africa to Jamaica then to North America and were a staple for slaves both on those ships and on plantations. Because white landowners thinking that beans were fit only for cows the term “cow pea” became the common term. Nutritionally speaking however, these protein packed beauties were superior for the slaves diet than the salt-pork heavy diet of their masters. As a member of Slow Food I was happy to read that the cowpea is listed on Slow Food’s Ark of Taste. A list that aims to rediscover and catalogue forgotten flavors by documenting excellent food products that are in danger of disappearing. It is still so well-loved in Emerson, Arkansas that the Purple Hull Festival is held every June.

I have a tattered copy of Recipes for a Small Planet that I probably bought during my days in Boulder, Colorado. It’s a great guide for protein rich recipes as well as an explanation and chart of how to create complete proteins by combining non-meat sources such as grains and legumes.This memorable recipe well-known to bring good luck if eaten on New Year’s is a variation on the “rice and beans” found in the book. Now, the Small Planet Institute is dedicated to the same principles as found in this old book all based on Frances Moore Lappé’s vision.

These purple pods are called beans but must be shelled to eat the  “peas” inside

Purple Hull Beans  also know as  Cow Peas

Hoppin’ John & Greens

Eat poor that day, eat rich the rest of the year. 
Rice for riches and peas for peace.
– Southern saying on eating a dish of Hoppin’ John on New Year’s Day.

Ingredients for 4-6 servings

1 pound purple hull beans (cow peas) or blackeyed peas

2 small smoked ham hocks

2 Tbsp olive oil 

 2 medium onions, chopped

 3 large cloves garlic, minced

3 ribs celery, chopped

1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced

1 bay leaf

1 cup brown rice

1 large tomato, diced

5 cups chicken broth

Cut as much meat off the ham hocks as possible. In a large Dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot heat oil. Sauté onion, garlic, celery and jalapeno until softened. Add beans, rice, tomato, ham pieces, ham hocks and broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer gently until the beans are tender but not mushy and rice is cooked, about 30 minutes. Remove and discard the ham bones and bay leaf. Prepare greens as described below. Serve together with hoppin’ john.

There are many variations to traditional Hoppin’ John. Some cook the peas and rice in one pot, while others insist on simmering them separately.
Most food historians generally agree that “Hopping John” is an American dish with African/French/Caribbean roots. There are many tales or legends that explain how Hoppin’ John got its name:
It was the custom for children to gather in the dining room as the dish was brought forth and hop around the table before sitting down to eat.
A man named John came “a-hoppin” when his wife took the dish from the stove.
An obscure South Carolina custom was inviting a guest to eat by saying, “Hop in, John”
The dish goes back at least as far as 1841, when, according to tradition, it was hawked in the streets of Charleston, South Carolina by a crippled black man who was know as Hoppin’ John.

 Gorgeous and vibrantly colored chard from a co-workers CSA share

1 pound chard

2 Tbsp olive oil

3 cloves garlic

Wash and dry chard. Cut leaves and stems into 1 inch wide ribbons. Sauté in olive oil with minced garlic for about 5 minutes until tender.

 This is the perfect base for the hoppin’ john and is a hearty and healthful meal in a bowl.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 15, 2010 12:48 am

    This looks wonderfully hearty and I’d “hop in” for a plate for sure.Love the coloured stems of the chard..we only can buy white stemmed chard here.Different variety obviously!

  2. October 15, 2010 6:03 am

    Hi Yvette, The brightly colored stems make it a happier looking dish for sure. These peas have alot of great flavor too. Have you harvested all your grapes yet? Amy

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: