“…Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd.
Buy me some peanuts and cracker jack,
I don’t care if I never get back,
Let me root, root, root for the home team,
If they don’t win it’s a shame.
For it’s one, two, three strikes, you’re out,
At the old ball game…”
Jack Norworth, 1908
“Peanuts! Get your fresh Roasted Peanuts here!” Whether you are at the circus or a ball game that is the infamous cry. Mr. Peanut graces bottles of peanuts on the grocer’s shelf. Peanuts have been an integral part of American culture for decades, maybe centuries. In China, where they were first introduced by Portuguese traders somewhere in the 17th century, they became very popular also. They are often included in Chinese dishes. By 2006 China was the leading producer in the world!
The groundnut or goober peas were first cultivated in the valleys of Peru. Today the most frequently found wild strains are in Paraguay and Bolivia. When I was a kid I was told a story of where they came from that has seemed to be proven a myth. The story said that the peanut came to North America with the African people brought here for slavery. It relates that the peanut was seen as an inferior food, so that the slaves could grow it freely. Now this story may be false, or they may have come over with these unfortunate people since the peanut was imported into Africa in post-Columbian times.
The peanut is not really a nut, but is really a legume which grows below ground on the root system. The peanut has become a popular ingredient in Peruvian, Chinese, Israeli, and American cooking. They can be roasted, blended with other ingredients to make a sauce; they can be ground into a paste and added to rice, meat and vegetable dishes. They can also be roasted first, and then ground into one of America’s most popular sandwich makings…peanut butter! PB & J sandwiches may be the most popular sandwich in school lunches! Peanuts can be included in candies, cakes, cookies, and other sweets. In the American South a very popular way to eat peanuts is to boil them for several hours until they are soft and moist…different flavorings can be added. The best flavored boiled peanut I have ever eaten was a Cajun spice peanut.
Peanut oil has been used in herbal medicine in China to treat gonorrhea, rheumatism, insomnia. In Zimbabwe one of the folk remedies uses the peanut in a treatment for plantar warts. The seeds have been used as a demulcent, pectoral, and peptic.
In magic the peanut is believed to attract money. When eaten, while visualizing the end result, the peanut dish just may increase prosperity. Oh, and it can be eaten anyway you like to eat it, anyway at all will work, including the infamous PB & J!