Did you know that Americans eat some 104 metric tonnes of peanuts per year, compared to only 58 tonnes across the whole of the EU?
But these figures pale into insignificance compared to the world’s largest peanut produce and consumer – China. The Chinese eat a whopping 3381 tonnes of peanuts are eaten every year, often boiling them and adding them to sweet and savoury dishes.
DID YOU KNOW? Peanuts are not nuts! They are actually a member of the bean family. A nut is defined as a fruit made up of a hard shell and a seed.
Peanuts were first grown in valleys of Paraguay, and were spread across the world by Spanish conquistadors and European traders. But peanut plants can easily be grown in Britain. They will thrive in the ground or happily grow in containers. The plant is annual and herbaceous, and very fast-growing, reaching 30 to 50cm tall. It’s also a very nice looking plant, with dark green divided leaves and lovely yellow, pea-like flowers with orange lines running through them.
How to grow peanuts
Peanut plants need regular watering, around 500mm to 1000mm of annual rainfall, or the equivalent water supply from irrigation. But they don’t like to sit in water, so plant them in well-drained soil or a multi-purpose compost.
Start them off in 5cm pots during May. You should start to see bright shoots after a week.
Then you can put them on a windowsill, but not in direct sunlight, or in a container on the patio. You can also plant them directly in the ground once any cold weather has passed.
The plants are self-pollinating, which means that the stalks bend over in the summer and force the developing nuts into the soil, where they develop. That’s why some people call them ‘ground nuts’.
The pods ripen approximately 120 days after the seeds are planted. To harvest the peanuts, pull the entire plant out of the ground to expose the pods. Leave it to dry out for three to four days, until the peanut pods lose around a third of their moisture.
TIP: The pods won’t dry if they are touching the soil, so bring the plant inside.
Once they are dry, separate the pods from the plant by threshing – just bash the plant against a hard surface like a sideboard or a step until the pods come off.
One word of warning – peanuts need four to five months of warm weather to develop the pods, so if you think it will be too cold, stick the plant in the greenhouse for a bumper crop.
DID YOU KNOW? It takes around 540 peanuts to make a standard 12oz (340ml) jar of peanut butter. The average American consumes more than 6lbs (5.4kg) of peanuts and peanut butter products in a year.
Original article and pictures take http://www.daviddomoney.com/2014/03/11/national-peanut-month-grow-your-own/ site