The Story of the Peanut
Believe it or not, records indicate the good ole peanut has been around for 3500 years or so. Its original home is thought to be on the lower eastern slopes of the Andes in what is now Brazil. Peanuts were seen to grow as far north as Mexico when the Spanish explored the western Americas. The peanut traveled with Portuguese traders from Brazil to Europe and Africa. From Africa they traveled by ship to the Americas where slaves planted them throughout the south.
The first major use for peanuts was as food for pigs. The first commercial growth of peanuts is generally attributed to the Poplar Grove Plantation at Scotts Hill located north of Wilmington, North Carolina. The first notable use of peanuts as food for humans came during the Civil War, when both Northern and Southern troops used the peanut as a food source during hard times.
Dr. George Washington Carver is known as the father of the commercial peanut. In 1903 he began research at the Tuskeegee Institute, which eventually yielded over 300 uses for the peanut including cheese, mayonnaise, chili sauce, shampoo, bleach, axle grease, linoleum and ice cream.
In 1870 P.T. Barnum began using roasted peanuts in his circus as a snack food. Soon after, they began showing up at ball parks and movie theaters. In fact, the cheap seats in theaters became known as peanut galleries.
How the Peanut Grows
The peanut, which has also been known as a goober, guinea seed, ground pea, pinda, ground nut and monkey nut, is not a nut at all, but is actually a legume. This fabulous impostor of a nut contributes over $4 billion to the U.S. economy each year.