April 13, 2024

Chow Line: Healthy red food options for Juneteenth 

We’re having a cookout as part of our Juneteenth celebration. Do you have any ideas about what foods to serve?

First, it’s important to understand what Juneteenth is.

Juneteenth is a holiday that began in Texas, signifying the date of June 19, 1865, when Union Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger told the slaves in Galveston, Texas, that the Civil War was over and that slavery had been abolished—two years after President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed the slaves. The freed slaves began celebrating when they realized they were free, and thus the celebration became an annual tradition. As a result, the celebration of June 19 was coined “Juneteenth” and later became an official holiday in Texas in 1980.

Yesterday, Juneteenth National Independence Day became an official federal holiday, after the U.S. Congress passed the Juneteenth Act and President Joe Biden signed it into law.

And like many holidays, food is a big part of the celebrations.

Juneteenth celebrations typically include picnics, barbeques, or cookouts, customarily celebrated with foods red in color. The color red is used to signify resilience and ingenuity in bondage, and it’s also a nod to drinks traditional to West Africa that were made with hibiscus flowers and red kola nuts, according to historian Adrian Miller.

Hibiscus flowers are brewed into a reddish-purple bissap tea, while white or red kola nuts are traditionally served as snacks, as a water purifier, and steeped for tea, according to historians.

Some red produce options for your Juneteenth celebration can include:

  • strawberries, which are rich in vitamin C, fiber, antioxidants, manganese, and potassium. They can be served whole or made into pies, or they can be added to freshly squeezed lemonade.
  • red cabbage, which is rich in vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin, folate, calcium, iron, and magnesium. You could make a nice, crunchy red cabbage slaw with a red wine vinaigrette.
  • raspberries, which are rich in vitamin K and magnesium, and a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin C and manganese. They, too, can be served whole or made into pies or added to freshly squeezed lemonade.
  • watermelon, which is rich in vitamins A, B6, and C, with lots of lycopene, antioxidants, and amino acids.
  • beets, which are rich in vitamin C, iron, and magnesium.
  • red beans, which are rich in protein, folate, iron, phosphorus, copper, and manganese. They can be made into red beans and rice.

Red coloring in most fruits and vegetables contains antioxidants, which can reduce the risk of developing high cholesterol, hypertension and atherosclerosis, said Jenny Lobb, a family and consumer sciences educator for Ohio State University Extension. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).

“Red fruits and vegetables can also lower the risk of developing different types of cancer, such as prostate cancer, and protect against heart diseases and improve brain function,” she said.

Other traditional foods served at Juneteenth celebrations include collard greens; black-eyed peas; sweet potatoes; corn bread; red velvet cake; strawberry soda; fried fish; spicy hot links; and smoked, sauce-covered, barbecued meats.

Whichever foods you choose to add to your Juneteenth celebration, I hope that you enjoy your holiday!

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, OSU Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line writer Tracy Turner364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or [email protected].