Search for other topics in Food-Skills-for-Self-Sufficiency.com:
Have you ever considered growing peanuts in your garden?
Home grown and roasted peanuts are a tasty treat and lets you grow some your own snack foods instead of having to buy them.
Peanuts are fairly easy to grow. If you have ever grown potatoes, chances are you will be able to grow peanuts.
Give it a try, add some variety to your gardening experience, and in the process you can learn a new and useful skill that can increase your level of self sufficiency.
Growing peanuts requires a fairly long growing season - 120 to 150 days depending on the variety - so you need to live in at least zone 5 to consider peanuts as a viable crop. I'm in zone 5b and have had pretty good success. If you live further north, you could try starting peanuts in peat pots indoors as much as 30 days before the last frost.
It's not necessary to buy special seeds stock from a garden shop or seed catalog for planting peanuts. Instead, you can buy raw (uncooked) peanuts and plant them. DO NOT buy roasted peanuts - they won't grow. The advantage to buying seed peanuts from a nursery or garden shop is in knowing which variety you're planting.
Peanuts grow best in loose, sandy, well drained soil. They need lots of water, but won't germinate or will die after germination if they stand in water too long.
Plant peanuts after the danger of frost in the spring when soil temperature reaches about 60°-65°F. Plant peanuts about 1 1/2 inches deep and about 6 inches apart in a raised row (hill). Germination will usually happen within 7-10 days, but a cool snap can delay it for longer.
If you have a dry spell during the growing season, you may have to water your peanut plants to assure good nut development.
Peanut blooms are bright yellow, and resemble pea or bean blossoms in shape.
The first blooms will appear about 4-6 weeks after germination. Once a bloom has been pollinated, it sends down a shoot (called a peg) towards the ground, which eventually grows into the ground and forms the peanut pod.
The peg is actually the ovary part of the blossom, and the peanut embryo is in the tip of the peg.
Peanut plants grow in a fairly low spreading bush shape. This allows the pegs to reach the soil easier and quicker. This also means that the pods form all around under the plant - unlike potatoes that grow from the central root stock. Keep this in mind when harvesting time comes.
When the leaves of your peanut plants turn yellow and dry up in the fall, it's time to dig. If the first frost comes before the leaves start to turn, dig immediately following the first frost.
Harvesting peanuts is fairly simple. Dig them using a potato fork, shake off loose soil, and turn the plants upside down in in the row.
Leave the upturned plants right in the field for about a week,
then collect the pods by hand. Be patient though. If you have a heavy crop, you're going to get a lot of peanuts.
If you're going to grow only a few peanut plants for a trial, it's better to collect the plants right after digging them and either hang them up by twine or lay them out upside down on a concrete floor to dry for a week or so.
Birds and small critters (squirrels, rabbits, mice, chipmunks, etc) can do a lot of harm to a small peanut crop left in a garden to dry.
After the peanuts have had a chance to dry for a couple of weeks, the pods can be removed from the plants by hand and prepared for roasting. I usually put the peanuts in a bucket or washtub and stir them around by hand so that they rub against each other for a few minutes to shake off most of the remaining soil.
Roasting peanuts is a pretty simple thing. Place them on a cookie sheet and place in a preheated oven at 350° for 20-25 minutes. Stir them at least once, maybe twice during this process. Your peanuts will continue to cook for a few minutes after removing them from the oven. If you try to eat a peanut fresh (still hot) from the oven, they will still taste "green" and won't be crunchy - as if they haven't been fully roasted. Wait a while for them to cool down, and they will be right.
the first time, I recommend removing them on the early side, since
everyone's oven isn't exactly the same. If they are under done, you can
always put them back in and roast them a few minutes more. If they are
overdone, you can't do much to salvage them. Once you get dialed in,
you can get them done in one round.
If you really want to get daring - you can try making peanut butter from your own home grown peanuts. Put about 2 cups of roasted peanuts and 1 1/2 to 2 tsp vegetable oil (peanut oil is best) in a food processor. Chop on high speed for 3-4 minutes. You may have to scrape the sides of the food processor down during this process.
More oil makes a smoother butter, less makes it drier and stiffer. Add salt and sweetener to taste. You can even add some chopped peanuts at the end to make "chunky" peanut butter.
Growing peanuts in your garden can be a rewarding and tasty experience. Learning to grow your own nuts in addition to fruit and vegetables, can really help lower your families grocery bills, improve variety and nutrition in your diet, and increase your overall level of self sufficiency.
OTHER SUMMER GARDEN VEGETABLES:
Did You Know...
Peanuts aren't really nuts? They are actually a member of the legume family and are more closely related to peas and beans. Other close cousins are alfalfa, clover and vetches.
Legumes are a desirable plant to grow in your garden for reasons beyond the fact that they are tasty to eat. Legumes have a symbiotic relationship with a type of bacteria that lives in the roots of these plants.
These bacteria have the ability to take atmospheric nitrogen and convert it into a "fixed" form which is released into the soil. This fixed nitrogen is then available to other plants as a nutrient.
It's one of the reasons that farmers will rotate their crops between soy beans and field corn. Corn is a heavy consumer of nitrogen, so growing beans in rotation prevents the soil from getting nitrogen poor.
If you grow peanuts in your garden, try planting sweet corn (or popcorn) in the same spot the following year. You'll likely be pleased with the results.