Are peanuts in the nut family
Although similar in usage to tree nuts, the peanut is not a nut. It belongs to the botanical family Leguminosae, which is commonly known as the pea or bean family. It is classified as a grain legume. They are an annual herbaceous plant, which means they live their complete life cycle in one year. Like other legumes, they have “sleep” movements. This simply means that the leaves of the plants close up at night.
Peanuts grow best in light, sandy loam soil. They require a considerable amount of water to grow. Typically, they need 1 to 2 inches of water per week. When grown in a warm, potentially dry area, an irrigation system is needed to assure that the plants receive a sufficient water supply. The four major cultivar groups are Spanish, Virginia, Runner and Valencia. Each group has distinctive characteristics such as shape, size flavor and oil content.
While peanuts were once harvested by hand, the increase in their production and the development of a mechanical means of harvesting has eliminated the hand harvesting of commercially grown peanuts. The harvest process involves removing the entire plant from the ground. This mandates that the timing of the harvest be carefully assessed so as to have the largest harvest possible. Harvest time occurs 90 to 130 days after planting. When the time is right, a machine is used to cut off the main root of the plant. The machine then lifts the plant from the ground, shakes it and leaves it upside down on the ground. The plant is allowed to remain there for several days so that it can dry. Following the 3 to 4 days drying period, a process known as threshing occurs. This process removes the peanut from the bush.
Interesting facts about peanuts
- What began as National Peanut Week in March of 1941 was expanded to a month long celebration in 1974.
- Peanuts account for two-thirds of all snack nuts consumed in the USA.
- One acre of peanuts yields about 2, 860 pounds of peanuts
- Peanuts have more protein, niacin, folate and phytosterols than any nut.
- The first peanuts grown in the US were grown in Virginia
- Peanuts rank as the #1 snack in the US
- Peanuts contain over 30 nutrients that are essential for maintaining optimum health.
- Of the 50 states in the U.S., Georgia, Florida and Alabama grow the most peanuts.
Peanuts and heart health
Peanuts are more affordable than many of the other “nuts” recommended as part of a heart-healthy diet, especially if you buy bulk peanuts. Their affordability enables you to enjoy them as a snack and incorporate them into a variety of recipes without denting your food budget. Studies show that eating them twice a week can reduce the risk of death due to heart disease by 24%, These tasty nuts are nearly sodium free. They can help lower bad cholesterol levels (LDL) and help maintain good cholesterol levels (HDL). Research shows that these nuts can play a significant role in decreasing diastolic blood pressure. It’s important to note that even when they are roasted and salted, their sodium content remains within the guideline of what the American Heart Association considers heart-healthy. These nuts contain many nutrients that are known to be beneficial in maintaining heart health.