Farm to Table: Peanuts
More information and great recipes can be found at www.peanutbureau.ca
I recently had the opportunity to travel to the state of Georgia, USA to learn all about peanuts. We travelled right to the farm to hear farmers speak about how peanuts are grown and harvested. Then we toured the shelling plants where peanuts are shelled, blanched, stored and transported. The farmer pictured below is Glen Chase who spoke to us about his family farm (It was evident he loves what he does as it’s his 65th peanut harvest!).
Did you know?
- More than 85% of the peanuts consumed in Canada are grown in the United States.
- Peanuts are not actually a nut but a legume.
- Peanuts contain more protein than any nut.
- Peanuts do not grow on the root of the plant but on an alien looking “peg’ that penetrates the ground (see Planting & Growing image below)
- Peanuts are a sustainable crop because of their nitrogen-fixing properties that benefit the soil and other crops.
- No part of the peanut plant goes to waste.
- To enhance peanut yields, farmers rotate their crops with corn and/or cotton.
- The peanut is also called an earthnut, groundnut or goober pea.
Planting & Growing:
Peanuts are planted in May and take 4-5 months to mature. Peanuts require at least 120 days without frost and during kernel development they need 1.5-2 inches of water per week.
Digging: A digger loosens the soil and cuts the tap root under the ground. The plant is gently shaken to remove dirt and then inverted and placed back down for the peanuts to dry (2 or more days).
Combining: The combine separates the peanuts from the plant. The vines are placed back in the field to improve the soil and the peanuts are taken to buying points or shelling plants for further drying and inspection.
Shelling and Shipping: After drying, the peanuts are inspected and graded for quality and value. The peanuts are either cleaned for sale or shelled for further processing. If the peanuts are shelled, they are cleaned, de-hulled, sized and sorted. It was fascinating to see the high-speed technology used to sort and eliminate the defective kernels.
Shippers then store the peanuts in cold storage where they carefully control the temperature and humidity to ensure that the product stays fresh. (I enjoyed touring the cold storage after being outside in the heat!)
If you eat peanut butter it is likely that you are eating “Runners”. “Runners” are the most common variety of peanut grown in the US. Most “Runners” are used for peanut butter. These were the variety that we saw grown in Georgia. I found that they have a softer, creamier texture. If you eat peanuts in a shell or from a can there’s a good chance you are eating “Virginias”. This variety has a crunchier texture. “Virginias are a common variety for most roasted in-shell peanuts or peanuts sold in cans/jars.