On September 13 National Peanut Day pays homage to mighty and tasty peanut.
Likely originating in South America around 3,500 years ago, this legume is not a nut. They grow underground like potatoes. Since they are an edible seed that forms in a pod, they belong to the family Leguminosae with peas and beans. When it comes to plants packing protein power, peanuts provide a whopping 8 grams per ounce, more than any other nut according to The Peanut Institute. And remember, it’s not a nut! Nuts grow on trees.
The peanut is also high in antioxidants. Not only are peanuts high in necessary nutrients such as vitamin E, magnesium, niacin, phosphorus, B6, iron, selenium, zinc and many others, but when paired with other nutrient-rich foods, studies have shown this amazing legume helps us absorb nutrients better.
For the longest time, livestock gained the greatest benefit from all these nutrients. Until modern methods came along, planting and harvesting peanuts were a labor intensive and risky endeavors for farmers. Gradually their popularity grew. From Civil War soldiers who found a fondness for them to PT Barnum’s traveling circus. But what made it possible for peanuts to be grown in abundance was an advancement in farm technology. Just like the cotton gin revolutionized the cotton industry, planters and harvesters transformed not only the peanut farm but farming the world over.
The rise in peanut production also brought an increase of investigation into its possible uses. When the boll weevil wreaked havoc on the South’s cotton crop, Dr. George Washington Carver, who had already been researching this amazing groundnut, suggested farmers diversify into peanuts. It was an economic boon to Southern farmers. He published his research “How to Grow the Peanut and 105 Ways of Preparing it for Human Consumption” in 1916. His continued research resulted in more than delicious uses for this goober, groundnut or ground pea. From shaving cream to plastics and cosmetics and even coffee, Dr. Carver’s appetite for the peanut seemed to be unending.
Many of the peanut discoveries Dr. Carver made 100 years ago are still being used today.
- It takes about 540 peanuts to make a 12-ounce jar of peanut butter.
- There are four types of peanuts grown in the USA — Runner, Virginia, Spanish and Valencia.
- The average American consumes more than six pounds of peanuts and peanut butter products each year.
- Peanuts contribute more than $4 billion to the USA economy each year.
- There are enough peanuts in one acre to make 30,000 peanut butter sandwiches.
- Two peanut farmers have been elected president of the USA – Thomas Jefferson and Jimmy Carter.
- Astronaut Allen B. Sheppard brought a peanut with him to the moon.
- Tom Miller pushed a peanut to the top of Pike’s Peak (14,100 feet) using his nose in 4 days, 23 hours, 47 minutes and 3 seconds.
- As early as 1500 B.C., the Incans of Peru used peanuts as sacrificial offerings and entombed them with their mummies to aid in the spirit life.
- Arachibutyrophobia is the fear of getting peanut butter stuck to the roof of your mouth.