As Black Mothers, Registered Dietitians and Business Owners, we are at Culina Health are so excited for Juneteenth this year. Juneteenth is an important holiday for us to celebrate our culture, family and food. While Southern food doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to our health, we’ve got some expert-backed tips to help you eat healthy at your Juneteenth party without skipping the foods and flavors you love.
But before we delve deeper, let’s take a closer look at the meaning behind Juneteenth and some of the traditional dishes served to celebrate this monumental day.
Juneteenth — also known as Freedom Day and Black Independence Day — commemorates June 19, 1865. On this day, enslaved African Americans were granted freedom in Texas, the last Confederate state to abolish slavery. Juneteenth is a celebration of freedom and black culture, but it is also an important reminder that decades after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, black people in America fought (and in some cases still fight) for basic human rights.
Southern food is a staple at most Juneteenth parties, and we also honor the African-American fight for freedom by serving red food as part of the Juneteenth menu. Here are a few of our favorite Juneteenth recipes that celebrate black culture, summer and also support our physical health.
Anti-Inflammatory Hibiscus Strawberry Punch
No Juneteenth party is complete without a helping of red punch. This tradition comes from a West African drink called bissap that was brought to the United States by slaves. Bissab gets its vibrant red color from the petals of hibiscus flowers, which are rich in powerful antioxidants, including polyphenols and anthocyanins. This healthier take on bissap is lower in sugar and has some added strawberries for even more antioxidants and natural sweetness. The ginger adds a spicy kick that also helps soothe inflammation.
1 ⅓ cups of filtered water
¼ cup granulated sugar
12 ounces (or about 3 cups) fresh strawberries, halved or quartered
2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
1 bunch of fresh mint
3 bags (35 grams each) hibiscus tea
Sparkling water, to serve with it
Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan over high heat until sugar is dissolved.
Turn off the heat and add the tea bags and grated ginger. Let the mixture steep for 10 minutes and strain it into a glass measuring cup. Let the mixture cool completely.
Meanwhile, crush half of the strawberries and half of the bunch of fresh mint.
To serve, fill a 12 ounce glass with 1 ounce of hibiscus syrup and 1 – 2 tablespoons of the muddled strawberry and mint compote. Add ice and fill the glass with sparkling water.
Stir the mixture, garnish with fresh strawberries and mint and enjoy.
Yield: Makes 2 cups of syrup
Moisturizing Watermelon Cucumber Salad with Feta
Sticking to the theme of eating red-colored foods for Juneteenth, we’re head over heels for this refreshing watermelon feta salad recipe. This savory version of a fruit salad is super hydrating for those long hours of outdoor grilling. Not only does watermelon hydrate, but it’s also a great source of antioxidants, potassium, and vitamins A and C. Adding feta helps balance the watermelon’s sweetness and gives this recipe a little more protein, which can help keep you hydrated. stabilize blood sugar. and makes you feel full for longer.
5 cups diced watermelon
1 cup diced cucumbers
½ cup crumbled feta cheese
⅓ cup chopped fresh basil leaves (or fresh mint leaves)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
For the dressing, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a bowl and whisk.
In a large bowl, combine the watermelon, cucumber, feta cheese, and basil. Drizzle over the dressing as desired and toss gently.
Season with salt and pepper and serve.
Yield: 4 people
Seasonal Succotash with Shrimp
No cookout is complete without a corn recipe! We know corn has a controversial reputation, but we’re here every day for fresh, sweet summer corn from the farmer’s market. In fact, this starchy vegetable also has some pretty impressive stats when it comes to antioxidants, fiber, and vitamin C. Succotash is a Southern staple that can actually be quite healthy because it’s packed with so many nutrient-rich vegetables. Add some beans for fiber and shrimp for protein and you have the perfect summer dish for Juneteenth.
2 ½ cups (about 1.5 cans) salt-free butter beans
1 large yellow onion, chopped
½ large orange or yellow bell pepper, diced
1 pound shrimp (any size), peeled and deveined
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
5 medium ears of corn, kernels trimmed (about 3 1/2 cups)
2 large ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
½ packed cup fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Strain the liquid from the beans from the can and rinse them in a colander.
Heat half the olive oil in a large cast iron skillet or Dutch oven over medium.
Add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic to the pan and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
Add the corn, tomatoes, butter beans and season with salt and pepper. Stir and cover the mixture for about 8 minutes.
In a separate pan, add the remaining olive oil over medium heat, then add the prawns, cook until pink and cooked through.
Stir the shrimp and fresh basil into the succotash. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Turn off the heat and let stand uncovered for about 5 minutes to allow the flavors to meld. Serve hot.
Yield: 8 people
Tamar Samuels and Vanessa Rissetto are Registered Dietitians, Mothers and Co-Founders of the Nutrition Platform Black Business Culina Health† Culina makes nutrition accessible and sustainable for everyone by offering personalized, science-based virtual nutritional advice from registered dieticians who purchase insurance.