Football season has kicked off and that means boiled peanuts! South of the Mason-Dixon line, anyway. Down here you can’t go to a football game or tailgate party without your Styrofoam cup of steaming peanuts. Just isn’t done.
Now as nature would have it, your peanuts are ready to be pulled from the ground right about now. A few eager beavers might have already done so, but for the bulk of us—now’s the time. Your blooms have gone, your pegs have dropped and your leaves have yellowed.
To harvest, you’ll want to lightly dig down around one of your plants to check their progress. Using a fork, gently lift the pegs from the dirt. A ripe peanut will feel firm, its outer shell somewhat dry and “papery.”
Once ready, pull entire plant from the soil—be gentle!—and shake off the excess dirt. If you don’t intend to boil your peanuts right away, lay the plant on a screen in the sun for 2-3 days before shelling to cure. This aids in storage. But remember: if you’re boiling your peanuts, you want them green. For those unaccustomed to the peanut business, do NOT attempt to boil roasted peanuts. They’ve already been cooked!
However, if your peanuts have already dried out and you get a craving for boiled peanuts, you’re in luck! By soaking dried nuts for 24 hours you can “re-hydrate” them prior to the boiling process. Check my recipe section for details.
On another note, do NOT eat your peanuts straight from the ground. Aflatoxin is listed as a concern with raw peanuts, mostly when there’s too much moisture. Most sources I read suggest this risk is reduced by drying and more so by roasting. Boiling may eliminate this problem altogether!
Maybe that’s why they started boiling peanuts in the first place? Also, believe it or not, peanuts are healthier when cooked—something about the heating process releases their nutrients for easier absorption.
Either way, peanuts are an awesome crop. Not only are they easy to grow, easy to harvest, they make for a great fall season snack—roasted, boiled or even eaten raw (with caution, of course). And they’re pretty while growing with their yellow blooms. What’s not to love?