They are actually related to peas (black-eyed peas) and they are legumes. You know, like beans. In fact, they are the fruit of the peanut plant (Arachis hypogaea) that grow underground. So, are they seeds or fruit? Or nuts, peas, or beans? Who cares? They are fun to grow, taste great, and they are really good for you. Really, over 25% of the peanut is protein!
Why Grow Peanuts?
The plant itself is actually very attractive and even grows flowers so your garden will be pretty to look at too. Each peanut plant grows bright yellow flowers that have both female and male parts so they can pollinate themselves. Cool, huh? Several flowers can grow on each node about six weeks after planting. Once you decide you want to try growing your own peanuts, you have to decide which ones you want to grow.
Choose a Type of Peanut to Grow
But, what kind of peanuts should you grow? They are not all the same. There are four different types of peanuts most commonly grown, which are Runner, Spanish, Valencia, and Virginia. Runner peanuts are usually grown for peanut butter, Spanish peanuts are the little red-skinned ones you see in cans of mixed nuts, Valencia peanuts are sweet and are used for all-natural peanut butter, and Virginia peanuts are the biggest and are used for roasted peanuts.
The Runner peanut is the most popular because of its taste, size, and amount of pods they grow. The medium sized shells are all about the same size which makes them excellent for roasting and is the most common choice for making peanut butter. I do not really eat peanut butter, but my husband goes through a large jar every couple of weeks. These are one of the best-tasting peanuts and there are quite a few varieties.
Spanish peanuts are the small white ones you find in peanut candy or cans of mixed nuts. They have a red skin and a nice mild nutty flavor. They also popular for making peanut oil because they have more oil in them than the others.
I do not know if I have ever had a Valencia peanut, but after doing some research, I have decided to try and find some because they sound really good. They are supposed to have a sweeter taste and each shell has at least three kernels. Sounds like a great deal to me! These are used most often as roasted peanuts in the shell or boiled and used in natural peanut butter.
Virginia peanuts have the largest kernels and they are also great for roasting in the shell. Some call them cocktail nuts and eat them as salted confections like gourmet chocolate or candy covered nuts. These peanuts account for 15% of all peanuts grown for production in the United States.
Once you decide what kind of peanut you want to grow, you need to get down to business. If you cannot choose, just grow them all. See which ones you like and then next year you can choose which ones you want to grow again.
How to Plant
Well, you could just take a raw peanut and stick it in the ground, but that usually does not work and, if it does, it takes a lot longer. It is best to get some peanuts specially produced for growing. You can plant them in the shell or take them out of the shell, although I think taking them out of the shell makes more sense. Plant them eight inches apart and approximately one to two inches deep. Then you need to top them with about one inch of soil and a little bit of mulch.
Because they take so long to grow (100 to 150 days depending on which type you choose), there is a lot of maintenance to take care of. You have to make sure your plants do not dry out, so keep them covered in mulch once they reach about six inches tall. The mulch will help hold in the moisture. After about two weeks, the flowers will start blooming. When the flowers start to fade, they will start growing into the ground, where they will sprout into peanuts. When the plants start yellowing, it is time to harvest the peanuts.
When they are ready, pull one or two of the pegs out of the ground and check the peanuts. If they are good, dig the plant out carefully and let it dry in the sun for several days. If you prefer, you can bring them inside and let them dry out for about two weeks. Once the plants are dried out, you can remove the pods easily. Spread them out to dry somewhere safe from insects or other peanut thieves. This drying process 4can take up to a month.
After the peanuts are dry, you can roast them, boil them, or do whatever you wish with them. Enjoy your bounty and let me know how they turn out by leaving a message in the comments section below. Now that I have sat here and written all this, I am hungry for some peanuts and I do not have any so I am headed to the store. Happy planting!