I tried growing peanuts this year and I can’t say I was very successful. I planted them where I thought they would most appreciate it, in a raised bed with lovely compost perfect for the job. Sadly this turns out to be the bed with the best tunnelling opportunities for the resident rat. Clearly peanuts growing under ground was way too tempting and they were eaten!
The peanut plant is thought to orginate from South America and then brought to Europe by explorers and eventually into the garden of Ann Mahy who provided these photos of her success at growing them. However you eat them, raw, roasted or spread on bread as peanut butter, they are an excellent source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals; have no cholesterol; and contain more protein than many meats. From the legume family, peanuts are not actually nuts at all and due to the roots containing nitrogen fixing bacteria, they are great to use in crop rotations.
The plant is unique because although its pretty yellow flowers grow above ground, the pods containing the peanuts develop in the soil.
The blossoms are self-pollinating and once fertilised, the flower dies off and the stalks under the flower elongate and are called pegs. These grow down to the soil and the ovary at the top of the stalk then grows underground to form the pods.
How to grow
They are relatively simple to grow given good growing conditions ..and the absence of rats..
They need a place which is in full sun and they can be planted out as soon as the threat of frost has passed. Make sure the peanuts you are planting are raw rather than processed in any way.
These peanuts pictured were started in two ways, one set in a seed tray, one set in damp kitchen roll. They were quick to germinate and then planted out after a few weeks in a trench amended with animal manure and soil.
As the plant matures it will flower and then the pegs will form. As the bush grows you should make sure that the surrounding ground is loose so that the ovary at the end of the pegs can bury themselves. As with potatoes its a good idea to earth up around the peanuts and they can also be mulched with an inch or two of straw to help keep the ground moist.
Once the leaves on the plants start to turn yellow, they will be ready to harvest and in the case of these pictures, it took approximately 130 days. Both Ann and I started our peanuts in the spring to take best advantage of the warm weather. Once the plants are carefully harvested again as in the pictures, they should be hung out to dry for about a month for storage or used in any which way you like, if of course you haven’t eaten them all first. Raw peanuts to plant can be bought from garden centres or animal feed stores around the island.
How to Make Peanut Butter
Apparently it takes about 550 peanuts to make a jar of peanut butter... Here is a suggestion for home made peanut butter:
Roast 400g of fresh peanuts for about 10 minutes and then tip them all into a food processor.
TIP: Keep the processor going until the oils are released from the nuts. It may look clumpy and dry until then, it can take more than 5 minutes for the peanuts to release their oils. Keep the processor going and it will eventually start to look like peanut butter. If you want it crunchier you can always add in some more peanuts at this point and then add some salt to your taste and a drizzle of light olive oil. Whizz up a bit more and you should have lovely creamy peanut butter.
Store in jars in the fridge.