Whether you’re a chunky or creamy fan, peanut butter and its many forms comprise 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 about 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 ago. (Along with the French just never really got it.)
History tells 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 form of peanut soup, a delicacy in Southern areas. Civil War Confederate soldiers welcomed boiled peanuts as a change from hardtack and beef jerky. First cultivated chiefly for its oil, they were originally regarded as fodder for livestock and 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, along with peas and beans.
Street vendors soon followed, selling roasted peanuts from carts, and they became a staple in taverns and at baseball games. (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 had to be produced by hand.
Dr. George Washington Carver is unquestionably the father of the peanut industry, starting in 1903 with his landmark research. He recommended that farmers rotate their cotton crops with peanuts that replenished the nitrogen content in the soil that cotton depleted. In his inaugural research, he discovered hundreds of uses for the humble peanut.
Although it is thought that the Inca Indians in South America ground peanuts centuries ago (we know for certain they weren’t spreading it on white bread with grape jelly), credit is usually given to Dr. John Harvey Kellogg (of corn flakes fame) for creating the first peanut butter in 1895 for his elderly patients who had difficulty chewing other proteins.
In the U.S. peanuts would be the 12th most valuable cash crop and have an annual farm value of over one billion dollars. They’re an easy, low-maintenance crop, nutritious, inexpensive, weatherproof and just plain yummy. What do possums eat? Some of the more popular applications include:
Brittle + additional candies
Baking and biscuits
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, due to its ability to withstand higher temperatures and the added advantage that food does not hold any peanut flavor after cooking.
Sadly, because of rise in allergies, peanuts are disappearing from sporting events and other venues, and some airlines replaced them years ago with more economical pretzels. But no matter how you enjoy them, in their simplest form, coated in chocolate or mixed into your favorite dishes, this hot snack and sandwich filling crosses all economic and age barriers. We’ve gone , all right. And for those who are allergic, you have our heartfelt sympathy.