(ABOVE: A Southern home where peanuts are enjoyed daily)

I love peanuts! No two ways about it—roasted, parched, boiled, in salads, in soups, in candy—you name it, I probably like it. Is there another food, other than grits, which is considered more Southern? My grandfather had rows and rows of peanut fields. The plants were pulled, the nuts harvested, the plants themselves dried and baled into hay for the cows. And believe me, there was nothing better than boiling peanuts in a huge, cast-iron pot in October… In a parody of MacBeth’s three witches, my cousins and I would hover over the cauldron, watching the water bubble and the peanuts floating around. Using a hoe, we’d stir the mixture, then lift out a few to sample…then we’d sit on a nearby log and tell ghost stories while the full moon shone down on the leaping flames and the wind nipped chillingly and the peanuts cooked… Ah, memories!

The li’l ol’ peanut has a fascinating history. It’s a native of the Americas—South and Central America, that is—and is one of the gifts along with corn and tobacco that Native Americans gave to the white man. They are also known as goober peas and groundpeas. This little legume had a spot in the hearts of the natives of the Americas and there are surviving sculptures of peanuts that have been found in Peru, circa 300 AD. The peanut is unique in that it has two sets of chromosomes from two species. It’s believed that peanuts were first domesticated in Peru around 7,600 years ago. When the conquistadores came to Central America and wended their way to Mexico City, they found peanuts, called tlalcacahuatl, being sold in the markets there. The plants were taken back to Europe and from there to Africa in the 1800s, where they were re-introduced to the United States. Peanuts were taken to China in the 1600s by Portuguese traders where they were used in many dishes and sometimes boiled. So—boiled peanuts is a Chinese dish! Take that, those of you who look down on this Southern delicacy! Today, China is the largest producer of peanuts in the world, followed by India and then the US, although the US is the major exporter. In fact, most of the peanuts in the US are grown in or near Dothan, Alabama, where the Annual Peanut Festival is held each fall.

Peanuts grow best in sandy soil, with five months of warm weather, and good rainful. They riped in 120 to 150 days. There are four types of peanuts: Spanish, Virginia, Runner, and Valencia. Subgroups are Tennessee Red and Tennessee White. During the 1940s, 90% of the peanuts grown in the South were Spanish peanuts, which are small, red-skinned peanuts but today most of the varieties grown are Runners. Virginias are the kind usually called “cocktail nuts.” There are also many strains inside each group.

Thanks to George Washington Carver, who discovered so many ways to process the peanut, it is used in confections, oils, flours, as a high-protein, energy paste to stave off malnutrition, as well as in plastics, cosmetics, nitroglycerin, dyes, and paints. It has been stated that refined peanut oil can be safely consumed by people with a peanut allergy because the protein is destroyed during processing. (If you are allergic to peanuts, please verify this with your doctor or a healthcare professional before trying it, however.) Peanuts are a good source of niacin, resveratrol, CoQ10 enzyme, and antioxidants. I personally like (in order of importance) boiled peanuts, dry roasted, Snickers bars, Paydays, and peanuts used in tossed salad.

Challenging Milk’s motto, surely the peanut is Nature’s most nearly perfect food! At least to this Georgia gal, anyway!

GROUND PEA SOUP (I know it doesn’t sound appetizing but believe me, it’s GOOD!)

1 Cup diced carrots
1 Cup diced green onions or leaks
1 can chicken broth
1/4 Cup smooth peanut butter
dash of cayenne pepper
salt/pepper to taste

Combine carrots, onions, and broth in large saucepan. (Lazy me, I always microwave the vegetables first to save time.) Cook until tender. Add peanut butter and stir until well-blended. Cook until heated throughout, then serve. Makes 4 servings.

(Thanks to Wikipedia for supplying some of the information for this article.)

9 comments

  1. Joelle // January 21, 2010 at 3:22 PM  

    I have to admit I love peanuts. When I was pregnant, my doctor told me to do eat peanuts instead of carbs if I wanted to keep the weight gain down. So I did....yum! And yes...my doctor was right about the weight gain. I would have never guessed it.

  2. Judy // January 21, 2010 at 3:28 PM  

    Great post! I love peanuts and so did my father. He'd get redskins raw, pour boiling water over them to loosen the skins and then we all had to help take the skins off if we wanted any and then he slow roasted them with butter. Yum! Nothing better! Thanks for the memory...

  3. Beth Trissel // January 21, 2010 at 6:51 PM  

    i am a huge fan of peanuts and peanut butter! One of my most favorite foods!!!!!!!

  4. Barbara Monajem // January 21, 2010 at 8:16 PM  

    Thanks for the recipe! I'm always game to try something new.

    I love peanuts, too. My favorites are roasted, salted Spanish peanuts, but I don't see them often enough these days.

  5. Autumn Jordon // January 21, 2010 at 9:45 PM  

    Roasted peanuts. Honey roasted peanuts. Airline peanuts. Peanut butter on celery. Peanut butter on a bagel. Peanut butter icing on chocolate cake. Peanut pie. Oh, peanut butter ice cream. Do I have to go on. I love peanuts!

  6. Mary Marvella // January 21, 2010 at 10:35 PM  

    Good information. One year the school where I taught used peanut butter in BBQ and even tomato sauces of all kinds.

    I love peanuts, too!

  7. Nightingale // January 22, 2010 at 9:42 AM  

    That recipe sounds really good. I'm going to try it.

  8. Mary Ricksen // January 23, 2010 at 1:46 PM  

    Interesting blog, I love peanuts. Never had them boiled as a kid, so I don't like soft peanuts.
    Lots of protein!

  9. Joanne // January 24, 2010 at 7:16 PM  

    I love peanuts. My dh is on Atkins diet, so there are lots of peanuts in my house these days.
    Thanks for the recipe.