Peanuts get your peanuts

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Whether you’re a chunky or creamy enthusiast, peanut butter and its many forms include one of America’s favorite foods. Are you a new loyalist, make sure it Skippy, Jif, Peter Pan, Smucker’s, or an organic-only consumer? Normally, Americans consume more than six pounds of peanut products every year, worth more than $2 billion at the retail level. Peanut butter accounts for approximately half of the U.S. edible use of peanuts-accounting for $850 million in retail sales every year.

The peanut plant could be traced back to Peru and Brazil in South America around 3,500 years back. (Along with the French just never really got it.)

History informs us that it was not until the early 1800s that peanuts were grown commercially in the USA, and definitely showed up at the dinner table of foodie president Thomas Jefferson, likely in the kind of peanut soup, a delicacy in Southern areas. First cultivated chiefly for its oil, they were initially considered fodder for livestock as well as the bad, like so many other now-popular foods. Technically not nuts, peanuts are a part of the legume family and grown underground in pods, together with peas, Rat Poop and beans.

(Throwing the bags to anxious customers became an art form.)

As with a number of other popular foods, peanut butter was first introduced at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904 but essentially still needed to be produced by hand.

Dr. George Washington Carver is unquestionably the father of the peanut industry, beginning in 1903 with his landmark study. He recommended that farmers rotate their cotton plants with peanuts that replenished the nitrogen content in the soil that cotton depleted. In his inaugural research, he discovered countless uses for the humble peanut.

Although it’s thought that the Inca Indians in South America ground peanuts centuries past (we know for sure they were not spreading it on white bread with grape jelly), credit is generally given to Dr. John Harvey Kellogg (of corn flakes fame) for producing the initial peanut butter in 1895 because of his older patients who had trouble chewing different proteins.

In the U.S. peanuts would be the 12th most valuable cash crop and have an annual farm value of more than one billion dollars. They’re an easy, low-maintenance harvest, nutritious, inexpensive, weatherproof and just plain yummy. Some of the more popular applications include:

Butter
PB&J sandwiches
Brittle + additional candies
Crackerjack
Soup
Baking and biscuits
Garnishes
Snacks, both roasted or boiled, in-shell or no-shell

Not to be forgotten is peanut oil, which is a highly regarded form of cooking oil, because of its ability to withstand higher temperatures and the additional advantage that food does not hold any peanut taste after cooking.

Sadly, because of rise in allergies, peanuts are evaporating from sporting events and other places, and some airlines replaced them years ago with cheaper pretzels. But however you like them, in their simplest form, coated in chocolate or mixed into your favorite dishes, this hot snack and sandwich filling crosses all age and economic barriers. We have gone , all right. And for those who are allergic, you have our heartfelt sympathy.

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