Arachis hypogaea: Peanut, Ground Nut, Goober pea, Pistache, Arachide
Basics: Gently tear bottom and sides of coco fiber pot and plant with root ball intact and plant in rows spaced 12-18″ apart in full sun, after danger of frost has passed, in well drained sandy loam. Tap root is very sensitive to disturbance. Do not give extra nitrogen; benefits from calcium, or lime amendment. Water evenly, keep on the dry side. Flowers form after 30 days, self-fertilizing. Pegs develop soon after and will reach towards the soil, then form peanut pods under the soil. Keep surrounding soil loose without disturbing roots. Can cover tips of pegs once they reach the soil to help development. Harvest when tops are yellow, or after first frost, before cold rains. Row covers help keep pods dry and give extra time to develop. After pulling whole plant from ground, hang in dry, dark place for 2-3 weeks. Peanuts will be dry and ready for roasting or cooking.
Peanuts! In our Oregon trials in 2014, we found that the Valencia varieties, Tennessee Red and Schronce’s Deep Black, performed well enough to include in our Grow Haiti collection. With some good stubborn gardener coaxing, you could produce more than a modest harvest from these plants. No matter your skills, you will be able to grow your own peanut treats, and enjoy the beauty and benefits of these amazing little legumes without fuss.
Peanuts form a long taproot and need loose, sandy loam in order to be able to form the pods beneath the surface of the soil. When transplanting, do not disturb the roots- plants started in coco fiber or coir pots won’t need to be removed, which will help make sure your peanut plant settles in, a double bonus after its head start in greenhouse conditions. Plant after danger of frost has passed in an area that will be in full sun all season long.
Nitrogen-rich soil will give you more foliage on your peanut plants, but less pod production. Calcium is a helpful additive; otherwise, you won’t need to feed or fuss with your plant once it is established. Water when dry- the tap root will eventually seek out moisture deeper in the soil, and like other legumes, the roots of a peanut plant will fix nitrogen from the air.
After 30 days or so, bright little yellow pea flowers bloom. They are self fertilizing, and last about a day. From the fertilized flower, a stem will begin to grow out from the main stem, called a “peg.” It will make its way towards the surface of the soil, and then into the soil, where the tip of the peg, called a gynophore, will develop into the groundnuts! At this point, over-watering the soil will cause the peanuts to rot. You will need to watch the weather and the rain to give your peanuts as long as possible in the soil to fully develop- harvest right before or the day after the first frost. At this point, the leaves will have yellowed or died altogether.
Harvesting peanuts: in the deep South and in regions where late summer and early autumn are dry, peanuts plants are pulled from the ground and turned upside down in the field to dry and cure. In the Northwest, we can hang the plants in a dry shelter for 2-3 weeks. After that, pick the peanut pods that have dried, and save for the delightful Haitian recipes posted below!
Caution: if you allow the pods to mold, throw out the whole thing, as some peanuts can host an aflatoxin fungus that can be very harmful if consumed. Be especially cautious in the case of peanut allergies.
Here is another good reason to grow Scotch Bonnet peppers– Haitian peanut butter! Mamba can be bought in jars, and you can make it yourself. If the thought of roasting and grinding your own peanuts is overwhelming, use a jar of unsalted, plain, crunchy peanut butter to get a head start on your own mamba recipe, which will need a Scotch Bonnet pepper, all those peanuts, a little salt, and a little sugar.
Here is an excellent essay on Uncommon Caribbean about Mamba peanut butter, which really speaks to Haitian self determination and the importance of supporting Haitian farmers and agricultural initiatives. (Please see the Links page for info on where to find Haitian goods!)
Interested in just the basics of home-roasting peanuts? Try these easy instructions.
Or, try this version of a very old recipe, a rich and flavorful West African groundnut stew, from the Congo Cookbook. Bambara groundnuts are native to Africa, but since peanuts are easier to grow and harvest, they have supplanted bambara even in Africa. Peanuts were adopted by enslaved Africans very early in their arrival to the Caribbean, and became elemental to Southern African American cooking.
Here is a nice run-down of the peanut’s cousins, heirloom African groundnuts, by food historian William Woys Weaver: Heirloom Groundnut Varieties.
Historian Andrew W. Smith discusses the introduction of the peanut into the American mainstream in his definitive history of peanuts, describing in excellent detail how peanuts became so integral to African American and Caribbean diets. Peanuts, the Illustrious History of the Goober Pea:
While there is no question that slaves ate peanuts, little evidence has been uncovered indicating how they consumed them. All that is known for sure is that African Americans ate them raw, roasted, and boiled. Peanuts were probably eaten as a snack or were added to traditional African dishes, such as stews and soups. Peanuts were likely ground, mixed with water, and consumed as a beverage, a recipe that was common in the Caribbean and later emerged in the American South. As African Americans did the cooking on southern plantations as well as in many urban homes, they introduced peanuts into local cookery, African Americans were the first peanut vendors. In Wilmington, North Carolina, African Americans sold peanuts on Market Street well before the Civil War…
On the eve of the nineteenth century, peanuts were grown in gardens in Philadelphia. These were most likely introduced by French Creole refugees, who had settled there after escaping the 1791 slave insurrection in Haiti. One Philadelphian recalled that these families “brought slaves with them as nurses or attendants,” who prepared peanuts in a variety of ways. These slaves also introduced peanut cookery to Philadelphia. Wearing bright madras turbans, they sat on low stools on Philadelphia market corners and sold peanut cakes. As recipes for these later appeared in cookbooks in the North, it is extremely likely that Haitian slaves were also responsible for the use of peanuts in American cookery.
Jamaican Peanut cake recipe.
TABLET PISTACH (Peanut Brittle)
from A Taste of Haiti, by Mirta Yurnet-Thomas
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup roasted peanuts
1 teaspoon grated ginger
2 cinnamon sticks
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
Combine sugar, vanilla extract, 1/4 cup of water, peanuts, ginger, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg. Let boil for 10 minutes or until a thick syrup is created. Take off heat and stir until all the liquid has fully evaporated. Spread thinly on parchment paper or a wet cutting board. When cool, break into pieces and put into a cookie jar to preserve.
Peanut Punch! Simple how-to for a simple, energizing beverage. You can experiment with other ingredients according to your tastes.