Friday, October 10, 2008

Nuttier than Squirrel Poo

Aidan and I were quite surprised to see that our peanut plants that were not thinned and were planted too close together are actually growing pegs. I'm originally from England so to me "pegs" are what keep your washing on the whirlygig (Translation: clothespins are what keeps your laundry on the rotary clothesline). But in Peanut-speak pegs are the stalks that come down from a flower into the ground and eventually grow a peanut on the end.

I'm not sure how I thought peanuts grew before we decided to grow them. I think I pictured a bush with nuts on them - sort of like a blueberry bush. I know for a fact that I did not think they grew underground like potatoes. And I did not know that peanuts are not nuts, but a member of the pea family.

To grow your own peanuts, you simply go to the grocery store and buy a bag of raw peanuts in the shells. You open up the shell, take out the nut and plant it about 2 inches deep, about 4 to 6 inches apart, in rows about 36 inches apart. And that's pretty much it. We read that you should "hill" the plants when they get bigger, which we did, but some websites say peanut plants don't like to be hilled. The plants grow up and get yellow flowers on them. When the flowers wilt pegs form and gravity pulls them downward until they bury into the ground. The peanut pods grow underground on these pegs.

It can take 9 to 10 weeks for the pods to grow into mature peanuts. This long growing season is why they are usually only commercially grown in the South. I have read that they will not survive a frost. So let's see…it's October now…so we should be able to pull these peanuts out of the ground in the beginning of December (if we don't kill them first.) We should not get a frost until well into January or February so I think cold weather is the least of our concerns. Our big concern is keeping these things alive for another 9 to 10 weeks. Well I'm up for setting a record in the garden.

When you harvest them, you have to let them dry for a few days before being shelled and roasted. This is because raw peanuts (taken straight from the ground) contain a very mild toxin. To eliminate it, peanuts are dried as the final stage of the production process to prepare them for consumption. We'll see if we get to that point. I'm just excited that we've gotten this far. Maybe my peanut-butter making fantasies will come true?


Carol said...

I've never grown peanuts, but I've always wanted to. I'm not sure my season is long enough, though, so I'd have to research varities that grow more quickly.

Very nice blog, and I've added a link to you on my sidebar!

Carol, May Dreams Gardens

Linda 9minnemom) said...

We tried to grow some zone 5 peanuts one year, with little, er, no success. Good thing for us that the project didn't take off, as we now have a child who's allergic to peanuts. :-)

Sinfonian said...

Peanuts huh? Doubt I can in my climate. Never knew that's how peanuts grow. I figured every little root would grow a peanut. This way you get what, 10 peanuts per plant? It's a wonder peanuts cost so little that way! Especially how fast we go through them!

Keep up the good work!

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