Did you know that the Peanut is not a nut at all?
It’s in the legume family. Some other familiar names for it are goobers, ground pea, guinea seed, and monkey nut. Peanuts have been around for 3500 years. It’s original home is believed to originate on the slopes of the Andes in Brazil and in Peru. Portuguese traders, explorers and missionaries transported the peanut to Africa and Spain. From Africa they traveled by ship to “The New World”, and were planted throughout the south. Peanuts were an excellent food source aboard ships because they were inexpensive and nutritious.
Virginia’s first commercial crop was grown in Sussex County around mid 1840’s. Popular Grove Plantation in North Carolina had their first peanut crop around 1818. The Civil War helped change the peanut status when both Union and Confederate soldiers used them for food during hard times. The Union soldiers liked them so much they carried them back to their northern homes.
In 1870 P.T. Barnum’s circus introduced “HOT ROASTED PEANUTS”. As his circus wagons traveled from city to city the Roasted Peanut became famous, and began showing up in ballparks and movie theaters. Remember when the cheap theater seats were called “P-Nut Galleries”?
A St. Louis doctor invented Peanut Butter around the 1890’s. More than half of the US Peanuts are used to make this creamy, crunchy treat. Imagine a jelly sandwich without Peanut Butter, and it’s nutty taste!
In 1903 George Washington Carver researched the uses of P-Nuts at Tuskegee Institute. This research led to the development of over 300 uses of the Peanut including soap, shampoo, cheese, mayonnaise, ice cream, medicine, ink, bleach, axle grease, and a wonderful snack.
Today Peanuts contribute over four billion dollars to the US economy and are an important crop in Virginia and North Carolina. Every year Americans consume an average of 12 LBS. of P-Nuts per person. Virginia has 3,000 Peanut farms and produces an average of 350 million LBS. per year.