Peanuts -

The plant which produces the fruit generally known as the Peanut in this country, and as the Groundnut in Europe, is one of a class which bury their pods in the earth to ripen, instead of raising them into the air (see Color Page opposite 458). In order to effect this, the flower-stalk, holding the very young pod, gradually curves downward after the flower has passed away and finally forces its point perpendicularly into the soil. When it has penetrated to a sufficient depth, the pod begins to swell, and when ripe becomes the oblong, rugged, pale brown fruit, usually containing two seeds, so well known to consumers.

The peanut is native to Brazil, but is to-day cultivated in all sub-tropical and tropical countries. About 300 million pounds are annually raised in the United States, and a total of nearly 600 million pounds in Africa, Spain, China, Japan, Java, etc.

The American crop is consumed principally in the form of the whole nut, peanut butter and peanut candy. There is also a growing market for peanut oil, peanut meal, etc. A few million pounds of the American product are annually exported, but to offset this is a small but steady importation, principally of the small but especially delicate Spanish type, both whole and shelled.

The 400 or 500 million pounds sent to Europe every year from Africa and Asia are chiefly converted into oils and flour in factories at Marseilles, France - and in lesser quantities at other points on the Continent and in England.

Retailers find it profitable to cater to the increasing demand for the nuts themselves, fresh roasted and salted, and products such as peanut butter, both for regular home consumption and for party and picnic purposes.

The commercial history of the peanut in this country commences with the Civil War. Before that time, only a few garden peanuts were grown in Virginia and the Carolinas for family use - almost as curiosities. During the war, soldiers discovered that they made excellent food, and the result was that in the years succeeding the end of hostilities the acreage assigned to them steadily increased, until to-day when the crop employs nearly 200,000 persons and covers between 300,000 and 400,000 acres. In parts of Virginia and North Carolina, it is of more importance that corn or wheat.

Virginia and North Carolina produce more than half of the present total crop, but every year sees greater attention devoted to it in other States, especially Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, Texas, Arkansas and Mississippi.

The best known types of American peanuts are the Flat or Running, or "Virginia" Flat and Running, the Bunch, "Spanish" and North Carolina or "African." The most widely planted is the Flat or Running type, a large nut excellent for general commercial purposes. The Bunch is similar in nut characteristics, its name referring to its more upright method of growth.

The "Spanish" nut is similar to the imported Spanish variety - small in size but very mild and savory, and the choicest for eating raw or cooked, candy making, etc.

The North Carolina, or "African," is similar to the Flat or Running variety, but the kernels contain a larger percentage of oil.

Tennessee has two varieties, known as the White and the Red. Both somewhat resemble the Flat or Running variety, except that the Red gives kernels covered with dark red skin. The Georgia Red is similar to the Tennessee Red.

As American trade demands a bright-colored shell and the pod assumes the color of the ground in which it grows, the soil most desirable is a light, sandy loam. Lime is an essential ingredient and is added when lacking, and the soil must be kept light and friable or the ovary cannot bury itself and develop into a pod. Planting begins in May or June. The nuts form the seed, and about two bushels are required for an acre. The plants get above the earth and begin to leaf out within a few weeks. The pods mature during September or October, the harvesting season in some localities continuing until November.

White peanuts are harvested by running a furrow on each side of the row with a bull-tongue plow or a pea digger, so as to dislocate the roots. The vines are then gently lifted by hand, the dirt shaken off, and laid on the ground to wilt. Later, they are brought together and stacked. The Red nuts are more easily harvested than the White as they have but few roots and the nuts adhere closely about the stem. In loose land, they may be pulled up without running furrows.

The stacks are usually allowed to stand to dry for about four weeks, the nuts being then picked off, either by hand or machinery, the former generally obtaining higher prices.

The peanuts reach the factory in sacks containing from 90 to 100 pounds each. They are first dumped in hoppers and taken through cleaning machinery, which removes all the vines, sticks and sand, and are then graded in sizes by screens and powerful fans. The cleaning and scouring processes are especially important in preparing the product intended for bag trade, as those with clean glistening pods command from 15% to 20% more than others equally good in kernels but of less attractive appearance.

The screen-grading is followed by hand-sorting, and those which pass the final inspection are carried by a chain apparatus into bags of about 100 pounds each.

The nuts intended for manufacture into peanut butter or for confectionery, etc., are next roasted, generally in the shell, and are then shelled and blanched and again passed through fans which drive out or draw up the hulls, skins, etc., going finally to moving tables where all faulty kernels are picked out by hand. The good sound kernels thus obtained are distributed, by machinery, to the various departments.

Supplementing the principal market forms of the peanut, is an extensive trade in the by-products. The little germs or hearts sifted out of the ground nuts in the manufacture of peanut butter, etc., make excellent poultry food. The roasted hulls ground into meal are an excellent food for stock - analyzing about 11% protein and from 8% to 9% fat. The red skins removed from the shelled nuts are also well up in protein and fats. Even the wilted plants left in the fields form valuable fertilizer when left to rot before plowing under, being prolific in nodules of bacteria.

Arround Peanuts in The Grocer's Encyclopedia

Peanut Roastershome
Pearl Moss

The Grocer's Encyclopedia
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