The peanut is native to South America. By the evidence of fossil remains, paleobotanists have determined that the peanut’s domestication must have taken place 8,000 years ago in Argentina or Bolivia or Peru, where the wildest strains of peanuts grow today. Most pre-Columbian cultures depicted peanuts in their art. When the bullying conquistadores of Spain invaded Mesoamerica they found the Aztecs growing peanuts, called in Nahuatl, the Aztec language, tlal-cacahuatl and that’s why the Spanish word for peanut is cacahuate and the French word is cacahuète. The peanut had a circuitous path to the American snack table. First, around 1800 C.E., Portuguese merchants took the plant from Brazil to Africa where it became very popular and widely grown in tropical climates. Later the peanut entered the then English colonies of North America as a favorite food of African slaves. Peanuts are a staple food in many tropical zones and are widely exported to temperate area of the world. The seeds have a delicious nutty flavor and can be eaten on their own either raw or roasted.
The seeds are commonly ground up and used as peanut butter in sandwiches etc. They can also be cooked in a variety of dishes and are also ground into a powder when they can be used with cereals to greatly improve the protein content of breads, cakes etc. The seed is very rich in protein and oil, it is also a good source of minerals and vitamins, especially the B complex. A nutritional analysis is available. A non-drying edible oil is obtained from the seed. This is one of the most commonly used edible oils is the world. It is similar in composition to olive oil and is often used in cooking, making margarines, salad oils etc. The oilseed cake is said to be a good source of arginine and glutamic acid, used in treating mental deficiencies. The roasted seed makes an excellent coffee substitute. Young pods may be consumed as a vegetable. Young leaves and tips are suitable as a cooked green vegetable. Javanese use the tips for lablab, and germinating seeds to make toge. Species in the genus Arachis have an interesting reproductive biology because the seed-containing pods mature underground instead of aerially as in most legumes. How does this happen?
The flowers don’t usually open, and are self-pollinated. After pollination, there is cell division below the young pod sending it down on a stalk and pushing it into the ground where it matures. Once mature, the two halves of the pod, each containing a seed, are pushed apart, so that the seeds grow separately in the soil. Burying the pod in this way is apparently an adaptation for promoting seed survival in dry periods. Seeds yield a non-drying, edible oil, used in cooking, margarines, salads, canning, for deep-frying, for shortening in pastry and bread, and for pharmaceuticals, soaps, cold creams, pomades and lubricants, emulsions for insect control, and fuel for diesel engines. The oil cake, a high-protein livestock feed, may be used for human consumption. Arachis hypogaea flowers are a typical peaflower in shape, 2 to 4 cm (0.8 to 1.6 in) (¾ to 1½ in) across, yellow with reddish veining. Hypogaea means “under the earth”, after pollination, the flower stalk elongates causing it to bend until the ovary touches the ground.
Continued stalk growth then pushes the ovary underground where the mature fruit develops into a legume pod, the peanut – a classical example of geocarpy. Pods are 3 to 7 cm (1.2 to 2.8 in) long, containing 1 to 4 seeds. Although flowering may commence in 30 days, 80–150 days or more are required for fruit maturation. In hand-harvest plants are pulled up and turned over on the ground or stacked or placed on racks to cure. Pods are picked and allowed to complete drying in depths of 5 cm or less on trays, or spread in the sun in the dry season tropics. In case of fully mechanized harvesting a single operation pulls up, inverts and windrows the plants where they remain a few days for preliminary drying. The pods are removed by combine machines and elevated into baskets attached to the combine or blown directly into trailing “drying wagons” which when full may be towed to a drying station where warm or ambient air is forced through the load of peanuts. In Argentina the combines pick and shell the pods in one operation so that the crop is marketed as dried seeds instead of dried pods.
The earliest archaeological records of peanuts show that prior to 2000 BC they were being cultivated in Peru, outside their wild range. By the time of the Spanish and Portuguese conquests of America, peanuts were being grown widely in the West Indies and South America but not in Central and North America. By the 1560’s, peanuts had been introduced to West Africa probably via slave ships. By the 1600’s they were being widely grown in this region. Peanuts became a particularly popular crop in Africa, Southeast Asia and China.
“Dr. George Washington Carver researched and developed more than 300 uses for peanuts in the early 1900s. Dr. Carver is considered The Father of the Peanut Industry because of his extensive research and selfless dedication to promoting peanut production and products.”
Source: biodiversityexplorer.org – hort.purdue.edu – billcasselman.com
1 tbsp canola oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 pinch ground cloves
3 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 (1 1/2 lb. total) sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
5 cups water
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup dry-roasted, unsalted peanuts
2 tbsp peanut butter
1 can (14 oz.) chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
Chopped fresh cilantro, for garnishing
Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. A chopped medium onion and cook, stirring frequently, until the edges of the onion starts to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in garlic, ginger, cumin, ground coriander, cinnamon stick, and a pinch of ground cloves. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and carrot to the onion mixture and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in water and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 30-40 minutes or until the sweet potatoes and carrots are tender.
Remove the soup from the heat and let cool for about 10 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick. Using a blender (hand-immersion or regular) or food processor, blend the soup until almost a puree. It may be necessary to do this in a couple of batches. Return the soup to the pot and stir in a pinch of cayenne pepper, 1/4 cup dry-roasted, unsalted peanuts, and 2 tablespoons peanut butter. Whisk until the peanut butter is completely combined into the soup. Stir chickpeas into the soup. Reheat the soup. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls and garnish with chopped fresh cilantro.