Pity the peanut. In recent years, it has been banned by school districts across America because many students are allergic to peanuts and to products containing them, even if the pupils themselves are not eating the not-really-nuts.
Also in recent years, many airline passengers have complained that peanuts served on flights have caused them to suffer an allergic reaction — although they themselves did not eat the “nuts”; nearby passengers did. In fact, American Airlines, one of the world’s major carriers, no longer serves peanuts on flights.
And despite its name, the peanut is not even a nut! A peanut grows in a pod that matures underground. Peanuts are legumes — edible seeds enclosed in pods, like lentils and peas — not true nuts.
Fla. is distant 2nd in production
Of the 15 states where peanuts grow, Georgia is the major producer (about 44 percent, according to the Florida Peanut Producers Association). A distant second is Florida (13 percent); Alabama, at 12.5 percent, is third.
What are five other fun facts about the peanut?
1) Two U.S. presidents have been peanut farmers: Thomas Jefferson, our third president; and Jimmy Carter, No. 39. Before becoming president in 1977, Carter turned over control of his peanut farm in Plains, Ga., to a blind trust — to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.
2) An 18-ounce jar of peanut butter contains about 850 “goobers” (source: Texas Peanut Board).
3) Peanuts and peanut butter are the most popular “nut” choice in America. In the U.S., about 67 percent of all nut consumption consists of peanuts and peanut butter. Almond consumption is rising, however — and at a much faster pace than peanut consumption — according to The Washington Post.
4) In the 1960s TV show Mr. Ed, peanut butter was not put inside the horse’s gums so that he would move his lips and appear to be talking. Alan Young, who played Wilbur, Mr. Ed’s owner, started the rumor himself because he thought kids would be disappointed if they knew how the horse was made to “talk.” Another rumor said that mild electric shocks were used. Neither rumor was true. In reality, at least initially, the trainer put a piece of nylon thread under the horse’s lip, and he’d move his lips to try to get rid of it. Eventually, Bamboo Harvester, the horse’s real name, learned to move his lips on cue.
5) A cataclysmic historical event led to peanuts becoming popular in the U.S. “Peanuts became prominent following the Civil War, when Union soldiers found they liked them and took them home. Both armies subsisted on this food source, high in protein” (source: Florida Peanut Producers Association).
Peanuts are being harvested in Florida right now. Are you interested in planting your own?
“In North and Central Florida, plant peanuts from March through May. To plant, use raw peanuts as seeds and leave them in their shells for fastest germination. Plant them 4 to 6 inches apart and 2 to 4 inches deep, in rows spaced 24 to 36 inches apart. Garden soil should be prepared the same way you would when planting any other vegetable” (source: UF/IFAS).
“From planting to harvesting, the growing cycle of a peanut takes four to five months, depending on the type and variety. Harvest 120 to 160 days after planting” (source: Florida Peanut Producers Association).
NUTRITIONAL HIGHLIGHTS *
Peanuts (roasted, without salt), 1 cup (halves and whole)
- Calories: 874
- Protein: 41g
- Carbohydrates: 22g
- Total fat: 77g
- Dietary fiber: 14g
* For a complete breakdown, visit Food-A-Pedia
BUYING & STORAGE TIPS
Due to the high content of oil in peanuts, proper storage is necessary in order to avoid them becoming rancid. When nuts becomes rancid, they develop an unpleasant, bitter taste. If you notice an odor or see mold development, discard peanuts immediately.
Storage varies, depending on the method used (pantry, refrigeration, freezing) and whether the nut is “green,” boiled, shelled, salted, roasted, etc.
Raw, unshelled peanuts can be kept in a dry, dark, well-ventilated place for up to three months. Dried, shelled peanuts can be stored in a cool, dry place for 10 to 12 months. Shelled peanuts can be sprouted, frozen, used for peanut butter or roasted for snacks (source: Harvest to Table).
Peanuts are celebrated the whole month of March, during National Peanut Month, especially on Sept. 13, which is National Peanut Day.