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Origin and History of Peanuts

The peanut plant probably originated in Brazil or Peru, although no fossil records exist to prove this. But for as long as people have been making pottery in South America (3,500 years or so) they have been making jars shaped like peanuts and decorated with peanuts.

European explorers first discovered peanuts in Brazil. The Incas used peanuts in sacrificial offerings and entombed them with mummies to serve the spirit in the afterlife. Tribes in central Brazil also ground peanuts with maize to make an intoxicating beverage for celebrations.

The Portuguese transplanted peanuts to West Africa while the Spaniards introduced them to the Philippines. Peanuts became a staple of the African slaves on their voyages to America . In fact, the African word for peanut, "nguba," soon was transformed into "goober."

Because of its introduction to America by slaves, the peanut was at first relegated to an inferior status as food for the poor and livestock. Ile Civil War introduced peanuts to Northerners, and both Armies subsisted on this nutritious protein source.

By the turn of the century, botanist George Washington Carver arrived at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama farmers were faced with boll weevils decimating their cotton crop-which was their mainstay-Carver promoted crop rotation practices and the cultivation of peanuts. Furthermore, he developed more than 300 uses for peanuts from recipes to new products and even non-food uses.

Soon, mechanized machinery simplified peanut harvesting and processing. Street vendors began selling roasted peanuts from carts, as did vendors at circuses and baseball stadiums.

Peanuts and peanut butter became an integral part of the Armed Forces rations in World Wars I and II. Their popularity grew with the growth of the U.S. population.

Today peanuts contribute over four billion dollars to the U.S. economy each year. Although the U.S. is a major exporter of edible peanuts to various countries around the World, they are grown in countries as far flung as Africa, China, Australia and Argentina.

Last Updated ( Mar 21, 2012 at 04:07 PM )