Botanically speaking, peanuts are not a nut but rather a legume. Legumes include lentils, beans, and soy. However, their taste, nutritional profile, and culinary uses are similar to tree nuts. Perhaps, that’s the reason why they’re classified as nuts. In fact, they also go by a variety of names such as groundnuts, goobers, pindars, monkey nuts, and earthnuts.
Peanuts are native to South America. The oldest remains were found in Peru, where its dry climatic conditions are favorable for the growth of the crop. These pods were discovered to be about 7,600 years old. As time went by, the crop was introduced to many parts of the world. Asia is now the world’s largest producer of peanuts.
Peanuts are often served in Western cuisines. In the United States, peanuts are one of the most important crops that are rarely eaten raw. Rather, they are most often enjoyed roasted or as peanut butter.
Species: A. hypogaea
Binomial Name: Arachis hypogaea L.
- As per the U.S. law, any product labeled “peanut butter” should contain at least 90% peanuts. And, it takes roughly 540 peanuts to make a 12-oz jar of peanut butter.
- Two of our elected presidents are peanut farmers: Thomas Jefferson and Jimmy Carter.
- There are 6 cities in the U.S. that are named Peanut: Peanut, Tennessee; Peanut, California; Peanut West Virginia; Upper Peanut, Pennsylvania; Peanut, Pennsylvania; and Lower Peanut, Pennsylvania.
- Peanut butter can be turned into diamonds in a high-pressure environment.
Peanut Buying Guide
Fortunately, peanuts are available in the market all-year-round. However, since peanuts are grown underground, it’s important to inspect these nuts to ensure safety, freshness, and quality. Below are some tips and tricks that might be helpful when buying peanuts:
- Peanuts can be purchased shelled, unshelled, salted, and sweetened.
- For raw unshelled peanuts, choose the ones that have clean, intact, and unbroken shells that don’t rattle when you shake them. They should also feel heavy when lifted. Also smell them, if possible, to make sure that they don’t have that “off” odor which is an indication that the peanuts have become rancid. Likewise, avoid the ones that show any signs of mold, moisture, or insect contamination.
- Processed nuts, or those that are salted or roasted in oils, are more expensive but they have a lesser shelf life. Thus, if you want to save money, consider seasoning them at home. Plus, you’ll also get the chance to control the amount of salt you put into the nut-based on your taste or dietary restrictions.
- If you’re buying from large supermarkets, you can find peanuts in four locations: the produce section, the baking section, the gourmet section, and the nut section. Thus, if you find them in two or more locations, compare their prices by the ounce. Interestingly, you’ll discover that they have different prices.
- As always, buy from a reputable, trusted, and has a good turnover source to assure the freshness of the product
Meanwhile, peanuts can also be turned into different products. Below is the list of the most popular ones that you may consider as well, depending on where you plan to use them.
- Peanut oil – Commonly used as a cooking oil, peanut oil has a mild flavor and a relatively high smoke point. There are several types of peanut oil that are available in the market: aromatic roasted peanut oil, refined peanut oil, extra virgin or cold-pressed peanut oil, and peanut extract. It’s also good to remember that this product is exempted from allergen labeling laws in the United States.
- Peanut butter – This is made by dry roasting the peanuts and grinding them into a smooth paste or spread. Sweeteners, salt, flavorings, and emulsifiers are commonly added to this product.
- Peanut flour – This is a great gluten-free flour alternative that’s used both in cooking and baking.
- Peanut proteins – These are concentrates and isolates that are made from dehulled kernels that are processed to remove most of the oil components. They’re commonly used in making protein powders.
Peanut Production & Farming in Texas
Peanuts are a warm-weather perennial vegetable crop that requires 120 to 130 frost-free days to reach harvest. Interestingly, Texas is the second-largest producing state in the U.S., with around 200,000 acres of peanuts planted each year. Here, peanuts are usually sowed in the garden around 3 to 4 weeks after the average last frost date in Spring, when the soil is at least 65ºF. Thus, to get a head start on the season, start the peanuts indoors for about 5 to 8 weeks before transplanting the seedlings outdoors.
Moreover, there are 4 basic types of peanuts and all the Texas farmers grow them all. Furthermore, Texas is also the only state that produces all the organic version of these 4 types:
- Runner Peanut – This type of peanuts accounts for 80% of the peanuts grown in the U.S. They feature a uniform, medium-sized seed that grows from a low bush. They are ready to harvest 130 to 150 days from planting. This type makes a good choice for roasting and peanut butter. This is also the type that is often used as beer nuts. Besides Texas, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Oklahoma also grow this type.
- Spanish Peanut – This type of peanuts has small, roundish seeds that are covered with brownish-red skin. They also grow on a low bush but they are ready to harvest around 120 days from planting – shorter than the runner type. It provides a higher oil content and therefore it’s more suitable to be used for oil, peanut butter, salted peanuts, peanut candy, and peanut snacks. Besides Texas, Oklahoma and South Africa also grow this type.
- Virginia Peanut – Also known as “ballpark peanuts,” this type of peanuts has the largest seed among them all. Perhaps, that’s one of the reasons why they’re often used for gourmet snacks. They’re ready for harvest between 130 to 150 days from planting. Although it’s grown in Texas, Virginia and North Carolina grow most of them.
- Valencia Peanut – This type of peanuts has small oval seeds that are crowded into each pod. The seeds feature a bright red skin. Unlike the other types, they are ready for harvest within 95 to 100 days from planting. This type offers a sweet taste that’s why they’re often roasted in-the-shell or boiled fresh. It’s also the best type to be used in confections and cocktails. Although it’s grown in Texas, New Mexico grows most of them.
Pesticides, Additives, and Chemicals:
While you can find a lot of pure peanuts without any additives or chemicals, some seasoned ones do have. Hence, here are the following additives that we found:
- Sodium – Although sodium is a natural food that balances our body fluids, it can cause harm when consumed past its RDA which is 2,300 mg per day.
- Xanthan Gum – This additive is a polysaccharide that acts as a thickener and stabilizer in foods. As an emulsifier, it also keeps the ingredients from separating. Common side effects include bloatedness and flatulence when consumed past its RDA, which is 15g.
- Vegetable Oil – Some nuts are roasted with vegetable oil. These include cottonseed, soybean, sunflower, or a mixture of these three.
- Modified Food Starch – This additive is usually made with wheat, potato, corn, or tapioca. It acts as a binding agent, thickener, stabilizer, and preservative. This additive offers empty calories – they provide no nutritional value, yet it adds a considerable amount of carbohydrates which can promote weight gain. This ingredient should also be avoided by someone who is gluten intolerant.
- Dextrose and Maltodextrin – It is a type of sugar that acts as an artificial sweetener, food neutralizer, and a preservative. Too much consumption of this ingredient can lead to body fluid build-up and high blood sugar.
- Natural Flavorings – Likewise, these are additives that are used to intensify the flavors of the product. For peanuts, some natural flavorings include: salt, sugar, and honey.
As of 2018, China is the world’s largest producer of peanuts, accounting for 41% of the global production. That same year, India produced about 14% of the global production. The United States just grew a little over 5%, with Georgia being the largest producer, followed by Alabama. Interestingly, the state of Virginia grew the first peanuts in the United States.
Peanuts are available shelled, unshelled, salted, and sweetened. They usually come in airtight packs and bulk bins. But, you may also see them in either resealable or non-resealable bags, plastic jars, mason jars, and foil-lined cans.
Peanuts boast a nutty yet pleasantly sweet taste. Roasting intensifies this flavor while augmenting the antioxidant levels and removing the toxic aflatoxin.
Interestingly, Americans consume around 600 million pounds of peanuts and 700 million pounds of peanut butter every year. Indeed, we eat a lot of peanuts! And even though peanut butter is the most popular way to enjoy peanuts, there are also many other ways to add them to your diet. Peanut kernels can also be enjoyed boiled, salted, roasted, or sweetened. To open them, simply crack them with firm pressure between fingers or using clippers or a nutcracker. They can then be eaten alone or sprinkled over salads and desserts, especially those made with dairy-based preparations like ice creams.
One popular way to consume peanuts is through chutney or paste. Peanut chutney is made from peanuts, garlic, chilis, salt, coriander leaves, and mustard leaves that are blended together to produce a paste-like dip. It’s common in South Indian and Sri Lankan regions, but it’s also popular in Texas.
Another popular way to enjoy this nut is through bumbu kacang. It’s an Indonesian peanut sauce that’s made with fried peanuts, shallots, galangal, garlic, tamarind, lemongrass, lemon juice, salt, chili, pepper, sweet soy sauce, and palm sugar that are ground together and mixed with water.
Just like other nuts, peanuts are also delicate and highly perishable and therefore should be eaten as soon as possible. To ensure freshness, raw and unshelled peanuts must be kept in an airtight container and should then be stored in a cool and dry place, where they can last for several months. Once the shell has been removed, transfer them into a refrigerator or the freezer, where they can last for up to 6 months.
Boiled peanuts are considered a delicacy in most regions. It’s done by boiling freshly harvested peanuts in a brine until they reach a soft, bean-like texture. But, you can also flavor the brine with some herbs, spices, and other seasonings for a more pleasurable taste. Or, you can simply roast raw peanuts with honey and sugar for a salad or dessert topping.
Either way, roasting or boiling peanuts enhances their antioxidant bioavailability. Research states that boiling peanuts have a two to four-fold increase in isoflavone antioxidants biochanin-A and genistein content, respectively.
Peanuts are made with 48% fat, 25% protein, and 21% carbohydrates. They’re an excellent source of healthy fats, protein, and fiber, which are great for the muscles, organs, bones, and skin. In fact, peanuts contain more protein than any other nut. They’re cholesterol-free and they’re low in saturated fats too! But the best part is, Texas peanuts are packed with high oleic monounsaturated fats, a.k.a “good” fats, which you can find in olive and avocado oil. Along with that, they also provide 29 essential vitamins including high levels of vitamin E and B-complex; minerals such as copper, manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and selenium; phytonutrients; and antioxidants, especially the polyphenolic antioxidants such as p-coumaric acid and resveratrol. P-coumaric acid has been linked to reducing the risk of stomach cancer while resveratrol has been found to have a protective function against cancer, stroke, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, degenerative nerve disease, and even viral or fungal infections. On top of that, peanuts also reduce the risk of obesity and diabetes.
When Are Peanuts in Season in Texas?
To find out when Peanuts are in season in Texas, please check the seasonal chart below. Why is this important? We are rarely encouraged to think about the physical lengths our food travels before arriving on the market shelves. And all of this travel comes with a hefty environmental cost that is concealed from the consumer’s eye. One of the most salient benefits to eating seasonally is that you are effectively reducing your carbon footprint and supporting a more geographically sustainable food economy. Check other fruit and veg that’s in season in Texas now.