Peanut (Arachis hypogaea), also called groundnut, earthnut, or goober, is a legume grown for its nutritious seeds, rich in protein and healthy fat. Despite its several common names, the peanut is not a true nut.
What are Peanuts?
- Peanuts belong to the plant family, Fabaceae, also known as the legume, pea, or bean family, which includes soybeans, chickpeas, peas, and lentils.
- They are native to South America (Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, and Brazil) and are one of the most important oilseed crops in the world.
- Among the earliest known cultivated plants, Peanuts have been found in archaeological sites dating back about 7,600 years in Peru.
- This legume produces small, usually erect, thin-stemmed plants with pinnate leaves and small, pea-like yellow flowers with reddish veining from mid-to-late summer. The blossoms are self-pollinating.
- Following pollination, a flower stalk called a peg elongates and pushes the ovary or pistil of the flower into the soil, allowing the fruit to develop underground.
- The Peanut pods are 1-3 in long (3-7 cm) and usually contain one to four seeds shrouded in pale brown skins.
- Peanuts have a long growing season, up to 150 days, and are most often grown in warmer climates.
- Peanut plants can range in height from 12 in. (30 cm) to 20 in. (50 cm) and, as annual plants, grow over only one growing season.
- They can grow in the garden or on a deck, patio, or windowsill in a container. A single peanut plant can easily produce a generous harvest of 30-40 delicious nuts.
- Peanuts fix nitrogen and add nutrients that improve the soil, benefitting the plants that are growing beside them. They are valuable in crop rotation.
- Similar in taste and nutritional profile to walnuts and almonds, Peanuts, as a culinary nut, are often served in similar ways in Western cuisines.
Health Benefits of Peanuts
- While Peanuts make a flavorful addition to various dishes, they also provide health benefits.
- They are an excellent source of plant-based protein, fiber, and essential vitamins and minerals.
- Peanuts are rich in calories but are nutrient-rich and low in carbohydrates.
- They are rich in plant-based protein. 100 grams of raw Peanuts provide about 50% of your daily needs. These proteins benefit the immune system and help maintain healthy bones, hairs, organs, and muscles.
- While Peanuts are high in fat, 80% of the fats are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are a healthful type of fat. They can improve blood cholesterol levels and lower the risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Fiber: 100 grams contain 34% of your daily needs. Fiber helps lower harmful cholesterol levels, improves your heart health, and reduces the risk of stroke, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.
- Potassium: 100 grams contain 20% of your daily needs. Potassium plays a role in maintaining normal blood sugar levels and helps protect against free-radical damage.
- Magnesium: 100 grams contain over 40% of your daily needs. Magnesium helps build strong bones and regulates blood sugar, blood pressure, and muscle and nerve functions.
- Iron: 100 grams contain 26% of your daily needs. Iron can help prevent anemia.
- Not all Peanuts are healthy. Raw Peanuts are the most healthful variety – especially if they still have their papery skin. Peanut skins contain antioxidants that help fight harmful free radicals.
- Peanut butter is also a good choice. However, roasted, salted Peanuts should be eaten in moderation due to their high-level sodium content linked with high blood pressure and heart disease.
- Nutrition Facts (per 100 grams): 575 calories, 16.4 grams carbs, 26.1 grams protein, 50 grams fat, 8.6 grams fiber.
Cooking with Peanuts
- Fresh Peanuts can be eaten raw, directly from the shell. They have a mild, buttery flavor with a slightly starchy texture.
- They can be roasted, boiled, or pureed.
- The most popular ways to enjoy fresh Peanuts is by boiling them whole, in the shell, cooling them, and serving them alongside beers.
- Shell and remove the skins before adding Peanuts to salads, soups, or desserts. They make a great addition to Thai dishes.
- Fresh Peanuts can be used in place of chickpeas (garbanzo beans) for hummus.
- They are also perfect for blending and making into peanut butter.
- Store Fresh Peanuts in a cool, dry place for a few days; for longer storage, store them in an airtight container and freeze them for up to a month.
- Boiled Peanuts are considered a delicacy in the peanut-growing areas of the South. Boiled Fresh Peanuts can be stored in the refrigerator or frozen.
Types of Peanuts
Although peanuts come in many varieties, they are classified into four basic types based on their size, flavor, and nutritional composition.
- Runner Peanuts
Runners have become the dominant type of Peanuts due to their attractive, uniform kernel size, good flavor, better roasting characteristics, and higher yields. They represent 80% of the peanuts grown in the U.S. and are mainly used to make peanut butter and confections.
They take about 130 to 150 days to mature.
- Virginia Peanuts
Virginias have the largest kernels and account for most of the peanuts roasted and processed in the shell. When shelled, many of the larger kernels are sold as gourmet snack peanuts.
They take about 130 to 150 days to mature.
- Spanish Peanuts
They produce smaller kernels with red skins and a nutty flavor. They have a higher oil content than the other types of Peanuts. They are used predominantly in peanut candies, with significant quantities used for snack nuts and peanut butter.
They take about 90-120 days to mature.
- Valencia Peanuts
Valencias usually have three or more small kernels in a pod and are covered in bright-red skin. They are very sweet peanuts, usually roasted and sold in the shell. They are the best-flavored and preferred type for boiled peanuts.
They take about 90-110 days to mature.
How to Grow Peanut Plants
- Peanut plants grow up to 12-20 in. tall and wide (30-55 cm), depending on the variety.
- They perform best in fertile, loose, sandy loam, slightly acidic to neutral (pH ranging from 6.0 to 6.5), and well-drained soils in full sun (at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day).
- Peanuts are not frost-hardy and are best grown in areas with long warm summers.
- They grow best between 86-93°F (30-34°C), although they will tolerate a range between 15-45°C (59–113°F). Temperatures above 34°F (93°C) may lead to flower damage.
- Peanuts are resistant to drought and can withstand long periods without water, however, expect a reduction in yield.
- However, a minimum of 20-24 inches (50-60 cm) of rainfall during the growing season is required for Peanut production. Do not allow soils to dry out.
- Peanuts can be planted outdoors a few weeks after the average last frost date in spring – after the soil has warmed. They can also be started indoors.
- Break open a raw peanut shell to expose the seeds.
- Sow seed indoors: 1 in deep (2.5 cm) in a pot that is full of moist potting soil.
- Make sure your container is at least 18-20 inches across (45-50 cm) and 18 inches deep (45 cm).
- Sow seed outdoors: 1-2 inches deep (2-5 cm) and 8 inches apart (20 cm).
- When your Peanut plants produce a yellow flower (30-40 days), mound the soil around the base of the plant so the peanut pegs can push into the ground.
- Once pegs develop, keep the soil consistently moist.
- Peanuts are leguminous and fix their own nitrogen with the aid of micro-organisms.
- However, they require calcium in the soil. Calcium deficiency may result in empty or poorly filled pods. Add calcium as needed to the top 3-4 in of soil (7-10 cm).
- Peanut is not very competitive with weeds, so weed control before planting and early in the growing season is critical.
- Peanuts can be grown as a sole crop or intercropped with other crops such as corn (maize), cassava, or soybean.
- Practice crop rotation: Do not plant Peanuts in the same space where you have grown other legumes (beans or peas) in previous years.
- Peanuts are susceptible to a few pests. Keep an eye out for Armyworms, Thrips, Velvetbean Caterpillars, Root-knot nematode, and Two-spotted spider mites.
- They are susceptible to diseases such as Botrytis blight, Charcoal rot, Cylindrocladium black rot, Leaf spot, Sclerotinia blight, and Verticillium wilt.
Harvesting and Storing
- Peanuts take between 100-150 days to harvest after sowing. They are harvested when the foliage begins to turn yellow.
- Stop watering about two weeks before harvesting peanuts. When you harvest the Peanuts, the soil must be dry.
- Pull out the entire plant and gently shake the soil from the peanut pods.
- Hang the entire plant to dry with the peanuts on it for about a week.
- Remove the peanut pods from the plant and spread them in a single layer in a cool, dry place to cure for two to three weeks.
- The rest of the plant can be returned to the garden to improve soil fertility and organic matter.
While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.