The peanut

Peanuts without their shell Groundnuts or peanuts (latin: Arachis Hypogaea) are a species in the Fabaceae or legume family, other types of vegetables belonging to this family include peas and beans. According to historical research, the peanut plant was first domesticated and cultivated in the Paraguayan valleys. Peanut plants are annual growing herbaceous plants that can reach a height of 1- 1.6 feet, the leaves are pinnate and grow on opposite sides. The flowers are yellow with red veins. Before pollination, the flower stalk is above the ground but after pollination the stalk elongates which causes it to bend. Eventually it reaches a point where the ovary will touch the ground. As the growth continues, the ovary is pushed into the ground and that is where the fruit matures into a pod. Peanuts are also known as goober peas, earthnuts, pignuts, pygmy nuts. Due to its name many people commonly mistake the peanut to be a nut, which it is not. Peanuts are legumes, not nuts.

History of the peanut

Early domestication of the peanut is believed to have taken place in Paraguayan valleys and regions in and around Boliva. Researchers have found artwork from pre-Columbian cultures that depicts peanuts, this means that the peanut plant was domesticated quite early in time. According to data from archaeologists, the species of the peanut plant is over 7500 years old and was mostly found in the South American country of Peru. The Peruvian Indians used the peanuts for food but they were also used as a status symbol. More surprising is that they even used them as valuta, peanuts were money. The plant then spread across the South American continent to Europe, thereafter spread worldwide by the European traders such as the Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (VOC) from the Netherlands. The peanut plant was mainly a garden crop during the colonial period in North America and was used as animal food for most of the time until the early 1930s; in the twentieth century, most farmers were encouraged to cultivate the peanut plant for cash. George Washington Carver is popular for his participation and promotion of this peanut-plant-for-crash program and developed and helped to develop hundreds of new peanut species.


Groundnuts or peanuts stalk after the flowers have fallen of, a crimson colored part is left. The ovaries are thicker than the stalk and have a white color. A pollinated peanut pod stalks out which grows into the soil and the tip of the shoot will become a peanut after development. The whole plant is removed during harvesting and the fruits removed for peanuts to be extracted. Groundnuts grow best in sandy loam soil and require five months of 500-1000mm of rainfall and warm weather for it to produce optimally. The pods usually ripen after 120-150 days from the day the seeds are planted. Early harvesting often results in unripe pods, harvesting too late may result in digging up sprouted pods.

Peanuts are very susceptible to contamination, especially the process of storage and growth. Poor storage, especially in damp or moist areas, results in the development of aflatoxins, which are very harmful if ingested. In mechanized harvesting, the process is usally split into two stages. First the machine cuts off the main root of the peanut plant, usually just below the level of the peanut pods. Then the bush is inverted, this will cause the peanuts to dry slowly and loosing up to a third of their original moisture, it usually lasts 3-4 days. In traditional culture, the peanut roots were inverted and pulled out by hand. Once the peanuts have dried properly, they are threshed, this will remove the groundnuts from the pods. Peanuts are cultivated in various countries such as China, the United States of America and Spain.

Peanut confectionery: different kinds of products made with peanuts

Uses of peanuts

Peanuts are very nutritious and have a wide range of uses, they can be eaten raw, made into oil or used in recipes, textiles materials, medicine, and peanut butter. Famous confections made from peanuts include candy bars, peanut butter sandwiches, salted peanuts, cookies and peanut brittle. In the United States about half of all peanuts are used to make peanut butter. First the peanuts will be dug up from the ground, they will be dried, roasted, blanched (this is the process of removing the reddish skin from the peanut) and then grinded.

Peanut oil is a very popular product that is mainly used in cooking; it has a high smoke point and mild flavor hence appropriate for high temperature cooking. The oil is consists of mono unsaturated chemicals, making it more healthy than saturated oils. Peanut oil is also used as an ingredient in some shampoos, shaving creams, soaps, cheeses and ice creams.

In most South American countries grinded peanuts are used as sauces for meat dishes, especially rabbit, which is a popular Peruvian dish. On the southwestern region of the Asian continent, crunchy-coated peanuts are a very popular snack. In Israel crunchy coated peanuts are sold under the name Kabukim. In the Netherlands you can find crunchy coated peanuts in a bag of Borrelnootjes and on the streets of busy New York you can buy lovely warm honey covered peanuts.

An image from 1917 depicting peanut nutrition facts

Nutritional value

Peanuts are very rich in various ingredients and have over thirty phyto- and essential nutrients. Peanuts are a good source of protein, vitamin E, phosphorus, magnesium, fiber, iron and are naturally completely free of transfats. Research indicates that peanuts have antioxidants and other chemicals that provide many health benefits. Resveratrol is a chemical that, according to numerous scientists, is capable of reducing the risk of getting cancer and cardiovascular diseases; it is present in high concentration in peanuts. On the right side of this text you can see an image with information about the nutrition facts of the peanut. The image is from 1917. More information regarding the nutritional value of peanuts can be found on the peanut nurition facts page of World's Healthiest Foods


China and India are the largest producers in the world when it comes to peanuts, most of the peanuts produced in these countries are consumed locally in the form of peanut oil and therefore do not have a major impact on the international trade in peanuts. Major world peanut exporters are Argentina, the United States of America, Sudan, Senegal, and Brazil. These five countries account for over 70% of the world export in peanuts, the United States is the leading exporter. The major importers of peanuts are Japan, Canada and the European Union.
Sponsored links