What it is: Did you know the peanut isn’t a nut at all, even though we all call it that? It’s true – peanuts are legumes and form part of the beans, lentils and soy family. The peanut (Arachis hypogeae) starts out as a flower above ground that bends down to the ground because of its weight. Continuing to grow, it delves deeper into the ground, where the mature fruit eventually develops into a legume pod – the peanut. Pods usually contain about one to four seeds (kernels).
Where it’s from: Some of the oldest varieties were found in Peru in South America and until the 1930s, it was mainly used as garden crop or animal feedstock in North America. It was only during the 19th and early 20th century that peanuts gained more popularity, partly due to the American botanist and inventor, George Washington Carver, who promoted and invented hundreds of uses for peanuts.
Where it’s produced: China and India are the two biggest producers of peanuts. It’s also produced in the United States, Nigeria, Burma, Indonesia and Argentina.
What it tastes and looks like: When opening the veiny brown pod of the peanut, you can find two oval-shaped peanut kernels. These kernels are covered with a soft reddish-brown skin that can be removed to reveal the cream coloured peanut. Peanuts have a nutty, buttery taste.
How to eat/use it: The best known and most popular peanut-based food you’ll find today is peanut butter, though it is also used in other foods such as cakes, cookies and sweets. Peanuts can also be added to a dish to enhance its flavour – from a breakfast smoothie to salads, soups and even desserts. Dry, salted peanuts are enjoyed as snacks, while boiled peanuts are known to be a favourite in some southern parts of the United States. Other peanut products such as peanut oil, is also used in Asian cuisine.
The uses for peanut products are endless! Peanut oil is even used industrially and can be found in products such as paint, varnish, furniture polish and insecticides.
A good source of: The kernels are a great source of vitamin E and it’s also rich in minerals like magnesium, copper, manganese, iron, zinc and calcium.
Benefits: Food for the heart! Yep, peanuts are abundant in nutrients and antioxidants that have been shown to promote heart health. Plus they’re also rich in monounsaturated fats – the kind that helps to lower blood cholesterol levels, thereby reducing the risk of coronary heart disease. Various studies have shown that it also aids in preventing gallstones and can help to maintain a healthy weight, reducing the risk of obesity. Who knew?
Recipe: Peanut Parfait
Try this delicious breakfast recipe courtesy of http://nationalpeanutboard.org.
Clear plastic or glass container
1 cup lemon or vanilla yogurt (non-fat or low fat)
1 cup total of your favourite fruits (e.g. blueberries, strawberries)
4 teaspoons of peanuts, whole or chopped
First wash fruit. If needed, carefully chop or slice into bite-sized pieces. Next, measure ¼ cup of yogurt and place in the bottom of your cup. Place 2 tablespoons of fruit on top of the yogurt. Place 1 teaspoon of peanuts on top of the fruit.
Repeat the steps above, layering yogurt, fruit and peanuts until you reach the top of your cup.