boiled peanuts

How To Grow Peanuts

These are the gems of the South, sold in stores green and ready for boiling. Wonderful for roasting, making homemade peanut butter, this is the garden crop for kids.

oven-baked "roasted" peanuts

And peanuts are easy to grow. Really, while you’re on summer vacation, these guys will be basking in the sunshine. Peanuts like it warm and are light feeders, however they do like their calcium. Be sure to supplement, say, tossing in a few crumbled eggshells at time of planting. You’re peanuts will be happy. And because they grow underground, be sure your soil is light and fluff–soft beds are always best!

add compost to peanut plants

After the last frost, plant your peanuts in the ground, about 3-4″ deep. Amend the soil with a bit of compost or composted manure, just to give them a good start. Note of caution here, if you live where the crows and critters are prevalent, consider covering your bed of peanuts with a screen material, securing it over them.

peanut debris

This will prevent the marauders from stealing your buried peanuts and sprouts.  They will. I’ve seen them. The evidence is shown above. Once your plants grow to be about 4-6″ you can remove the screen. They’re safe now.

peanut flower blossom

Water heavily until your peanuts set their pegs.  Pegs are the spindly “legs” you’ll see dropping from your peanut plant after the appearance of beautiful yellow flowers. The peg is actually the flower’s stem and peanut embryo. It will bend toward the soil and bury itself. When it does, help out by mulching around the plants with hay/straw.

row of peanuts

To harvest, check for peanuts about two months after the appearance of blooms. Similar to potatoes, you must poke around the soil GENTLY as you search for ripe peanuts. They are delicate at this stage, their outer skin papery and thin. Think about the skin of a newborn baby. VERY soft and delicate until it becomes accustomed to the air and sun. Same thing. If you find your peanuts are of nice size, ease the entire plant from the soil and shake excess dirt.

peanut roots

Lay out in the sun for several days, preferably on a screen or something similar to keep it off the ground. This will toughen the skin. Next up, separate the peanuts from the plants and place in a warm, dry spot for a few weeks. This will cure them and prepare them for storage. If kept in an air-tight container, your peanuts will last for months. These are the same peanuts you can plant next season. Or, better yet, use them right away for boiling. Using fresh green peanuts cuts boiling time, considerably.

boil stove top

If you’ve never had a boiled peanut, try one. They really are worth the exercise, then start a batch of your own using the recipe found here on my blog. Southern Boiled Peanuts are divine!

Problems: Other than the previously mentioned crows and critters, peanuts don’t have a lot of trouble growing. Crickets and grasshoppers seem to prefer other vegetables in my garden over peanuts. Occasionally, your peanuts will get spots on their leaves, maybe a fungus of some kind, but in my experience, the damage is minimal. However, if they suffer extremely moist conditions, they can develop a fungus known as aspergillus which in turn produces a toxin known as aflatoxin. Boiling can eliminate this danger, but it might be best to discard of the fungus-peanuts. Your call.

Good Companions: Beets, carrots, corn, cucumber, squash.

Bad Companions: Kohlrabi, onions.

Health Benefits: Except for those plagued by peanut allergies, peanuts are quite healthy. Not only an excellent source of vitamin E, niacin, biotin and folate, peanuts contain resveratrol, the same ingredient found in red grapes that infamously make red wine healthy for the heart! Studies have also found high concentrations of antioxidant polyphenols, and that roasting actually increases the benefit of this antioxidant. Wunderbar! Just remember, they are high in fat, so consume in moderation.

Football Means Peanuts!

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.

peanuts pulled from the ground

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.”   More

Time to Plant Peanuts

Peanuts are easy and fun.  Not only do they mature through the summer season, they take their time doing so–while YOU go on vacation!  Simply plant these gems Yep, plant in May and check back in August/September to reap your bounty!

Okay, just kidding.  You don’t want to leave anything alone that long–except maybe your laundry chores–because who knows what could pay your garden a visit in the meantime? And I’m not kidding. I planted my peanuts last weekend only to stroll along the beds during the week to discover this.

peanut debris

I did not remove those sprouts from the dirt. Some friendly “visitor” did. Not sure if it’s a squirrel or raccoon, but whoever it was likes peanuts but not the sprouts. I’m leaning toward the “bad boy” squirrel and his pals. Not happy with those varmints.

critter peanut thief

Other than theft, peanuts are easy and trouble-free. Not prone to insects or disease, they are pretty tolerant and gardening with me–plants need to be tough.  I vacation!  I write!  I have other things to do!  (Don’t we all?) More

Planting Peanuts

These delightful little nuts are a joy to grow.  Not only do they mature through the summer season, they take their time doing so–while YOU go on vacation!  Yep, plant these puppies in April/May and check back in July/August to reap your bounty!

peanut roots

Okay, just kidding.  You don’t want to leave anything alone that long–except maybe your bathroom scale–because who knows what could pay your garden a visit in the meantime?  Not that peanuts are prone to insects or disease, they aren’t really.  Pretty tolerant from what I can see and living with me–plants need to be tough.  I vacation!  I write!  I have other things to do!  (Don’t we all?)

That said, optimum practice is to “visit” your garden on a daily basis.  Not “work” or “weed” or “water” but simply visit.  Say it with me:  “Ah…it’s so lovely out here among the beds of lush green fruits and veggies.”  More

Kids Love Peanut Harvest

Better yet, they LOVE eating the peanuts they harvested!  Baked, boiled or roasted–you name it, they liked it.  And it all started with these beauties right here.

Once we pulled them from the ground, we allowed them to dry as part of the “curing” process.  This is where you set them in the sun for a few days, then pull the peanuts from the plant, toss it into the compost pile and place them in a warm dry location where they can continue to cure.  We do this to reduce the moisture content of the peanuts, especially important if you intend to store them long-term. 

If you like boiled peanuts like we do here in the South, you can dig them up, clean them off and toss them into the kettle!  Okay, that’s old-fashioned lingo for big pot.  But you do need to wash them because these babies have been sitting underground for months and if the bugs we discovered during harvest are any indication of what may be lurking there with them–we suggest a thorough cleaning before you eat them.

Boiling peanuts is simply a matter of covering them in salted water stove top, boiling them down until they’re soft.  Time will depend on your peanuts and the temperature of your stove, but plan for about 2-3 hours minimum.  And don’t be shy with the salt.  If you want to minimize your salt use, allow them to soak in some salted water overnight before boiling. 

Home roasting is a simple matter of placing your peanuts on a baking sheet in a single layer and cooking them at 350* for 20-30 minutes.  Again, this depends on your oven.  Some of mine were a tad burned and I’m going to fully blame the school oven.  I’m sure this wouldn’t have happened at home. 🙂

For our tasting today, each child received a few roasted and a few boiled and devoured their share within minutes.  Verdict?

I’d have to say the boiled peanuts won, hands down!  Probably because they were softer (and not burned).  But you receive an A for effort, Mrs. Venetta!

Peanuts in Bloom

It’s that time again when the peanut blossoms take center stage.  Gorgeous and delicate, these sweet yellow beauties are the sign of good things to come.  Below the bright green leaves the spindly legs–better known as “pegs”–bend down in search of soft dirt whereby they bury themselves for the process of forming their peanuts. Like carrots, they prefer loose soil (makes it easier to reach down and form nice full shells).  At this point, you can mulch around their base, much like you do for your potatoes.

Hmmm….   Memories from last year’s crop drift into the forefront of my mind.  I love peanuts.  Not only because they’re easy to grow–low maintenance, partial to Florida’s heat and practically pest resistant–but because they remind me of my childhood.

My mother is a southern lady through and through (not to mention a diehard football fan) and every season she’d treat us to the smell of peanuts boiling stove top, immersed in a broth of ham hock and salt.  Yes, she’d ADD salt, despite my suggestion to the contrary.  Her mother was from south Georgia and I don’t believe these folks ever met a dish with too much salt.  Me?  Don’t care for the stuff.  Makes me retain water, a problem I’ve come to realize, that only worsens with age.

But I do enjoy growing them, boiling them and serving them up for the family during a Sunday afternoon ball game–or gobbling up the fruits of someone else’s labors during scalloping season! 🙂 

If you’ve never grown peanuts for yourself, you should.  Kids love peanut butter and it’s a recipe they’ll enjoy making at home, not to mention hubby may appreciate the boiled or roasted version–they mesh quite well with a frosty mug of sudsy beer.  When planting your peanuts, be sure to include rich organic compost and/or composted manure.  And throw in a hand-full of crushed eggshells.  These nuts really like the calcium kick!  These are Valencia peanuts which grow well here in Florida and are perfect for boiling.

About two months after bloom, lightly dig down around one of your plants to check their progress–you can use a fork to lift the pegs from the dirt.  A ripe peanut will feel firm, its outer shell somewhat dry and “papery.”  Once ready, gently pull entire plant from the soil, shake off the excess dirt and lay on a screen in the sun for 2-3 days before shelling.  to cure.  This is for the purpose of longer storage.  If you’re boiling your peanuts, you want them green.  Do not attempt to boil roasted peanuts.  They’ve already been cooked!

If you do plan to store your freshly harvested peanuts, place them in a warm dry location for about 2-3 weeks.  If you’re 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.

Peanuts! Peanuts! Get Your Peanuts!

It’s peanut time!  Which also means it’s football time — more specifically, time to make the boiled peanuts for consumption during the football game!  In my house, anyway.  But beware:  in order to make boiled peanuts you need salt and lots of it.   Ick.

But peanuts are enjoyed lots of ways!  Roast them, eat them natural.  Make peanut butter.  Though if you try that last one, be prepared to have a good blender.  Haven’t tried it myself.  Mine get boiled.  With salt.

The kids and I harvested peanuts and boy do we have wagon-loads.  Literally.  We dug these out and it’s only a third of our two rows.  Yum!

We grew Valencia which take about 3 – 4 months to grow.  After they blossom, pegs will start to form and dip into the ground, where the peanuts will develop.  Once your leaves begin to yellow, dig up a “test” peanut and check to see if its ready.  Should be firm with a dry papery skin.   Gingerly pull the entire plant from the ground, else you leave a few peanuts behind, and shake the dirt free. 

You’ll need to dry them out for a day or two in the sun, then remove peanuts from the plant and continue drying in a warm dry area.  We set ours out on the screen patio.  Times vary for drying times, but we went with a week or so. 

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 moreso by roasting.  Boiling may eliminate this problem altogether! 

Hey…   Maybe that’s why it started?

Either way, peanuts are a great crop.  They’re easy to grow, easy to harvest and make for a great fall season snack — roasted, boiled or even eaten raw (with caution, of course).