31 Jul 2012 6 Comments
It’s that time again when 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 are spindly legs—better known as “pegs”—bend down in search of soft dirt. Once found, they bury themselves for the process of forming peanuts. Like carrots, they prefer loose soil (makes it easier to reach down and form nice full shells). At this point, you may want to mulch around their base, much like you do for your potatoes.
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—what, we’re growing peanuts?—partial toFlorida’s heat and practically pest resistant, but because they remind me of my childhood.
Football season is right around the corner and my mom used to treat us to pots full of boiled peanuts. 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) and let him soak stove top for hours. Me? I like a bit of Cajun spice in mine. Salt only makes me retain water and that I can do without!
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—as they mix 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! Here in Florida, we grow Valencia peanuts which take about 3-4 months until harvest.
If you remember, we simply cracked open the shell and buried the peanut. About two months after bloom, when your leaves begin to yellow, you’ll want to lightly dig down around one of your plants to check their progress—easy to 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!
But don’t worry—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.
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!
Hey… Maybe that’s why it started? Peanuts are also healthier when cooked—something about the heating process releases their nutrients for easier absorption. 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).