by OCMGA Master Gardener Vicki Schilleman
I was on a lovely vacation for the month of February and part of March in Florida. On the drive home to Wisconsin, we went through Georgia and, as always, there were signs and billboards everywhere advertising boiled peanuts. (Tried them years ago and, sorry, they’re not for me.) Despite the fact that I’m not a fan of boiled peanuts, I do love peanut butter and I started thinking about how peanuts are grown. I decided to do a bit of research and learned many things about these delicious legumes.
- Yes, peanuts are legumes — not nuts.
- To grow peanuts in the north, start seeds indoors and plant a variety such as Early Spanish that is ready to harvest in only 100 days. Other cultivars need at least 120 frost-free days.
- There are four major types of peanuts: runner, Virginia, Valencia, and Spanish. Valencias are one of the easiest for home growers. Try Tennessee Red and Georgia Red.
- Two things are required to successfully grow peanuts: full sun and sandy soil.
- The peanut is the seed. Place shelled, raw peanuts on top of the soil, cover with an inch more soil and look for sprouts in about 10 days.
- Peanut plants need only about 1 inch of water per week.
- Reaching up to 18 inches, flowers soon turn downward where they develop the peanuts underground.
- Peanuts hold a lot of moisture — 25 to 50 percent — when harvested, so hang the whole plant to dry for about 2 weeks.
- A single plant produces around 40 pods and each holds one to four peanuts.
While I think this is another of those fun things to try for those of us who live in the north, I don’t think I’ll be churning out any of my own peanut butter any time soon. It takes about 540 peanuts to make a 12-ounce jar of peanut butter. Guess Skippy and Jif will be safe from my efforts!