By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great local journalism.
Adlen Robinson: Peanuts are a staple of the south
Adlen Robinson

You probably already know that peanuts are the official state crop of Georgia. 

Did you also know our state produces almost half of the peanuts grown in America annually? That is a whole bunch of peanuts! 

Have you ever heard of Sylvester, Georgia? Apparently, Sylvester is known as the Peanut Capitol of the World. 

I was surprised to learn that Americans consume 6 pounds of peanuts per year. Half of that in the form of peanut butter.

Peanuts were cultivated thousands of years ago. Some historians say as many as 7,000 years ago, peanuts were grown in South America. 

Spanish explorers brought peanuts back to Spain in the late 16th century. Peanut plants likely came to America with slaves from Africa. It seems the plants traveled well and adapted well to the hot climate, especially in the south.

Peanuts, despite their name, are not “nuts,” but legumes. They grow beneath the ground on traveling stems attached to the plant part. 

In the early years of peanut farming, growing and harvesting peanuts was extremely labor intensive. 

In the early 1900s, numerous advancements were made with regards to machines to help plant and harvest peanuts. 

In Southern states where cotton was grown, the boll weevil was often a problem. Because of that, many farmers turned to peanut farming instead.

Dr. John H. Kellogg (the inventor of Corn Flakes), patented peanut butter in 1898. Some historians say he invented it as a healthy protein source for people who didn’t have teeth. 

Who doesn’t love peanut butter? Pretty soon even people with teeth were enjoying peanut butter.

Did you know it takes about 540 peanuts to make a 12-ounce jar of peanut butter? 

I also learned it’s a law that if a product is labeled “peanut butter,” it must be at least 90% peanuts. I always say, read your peanut butter label. 

Many, if not most peanut butters contain lots of other things besides peanuts. Sugar and other additives are often added. Look for brands that contain peanuts and maybe salt — nothing else.

What about boiled peanuts? In my informal polling, I found if you grew up or live north of the Mason Dixon line, you probably don’t like boiled peanuts. 

If you grew up south of that infamous line, you probably cut your teeth on them and love them. I am, of course, in that second camp. 

When I was growing up, we used to stop at one of those roadside stands and the owner would scoop up the steaming boiled peanuts, drain them slightly, and then put them in a paper bag. They burned your fingers and you didn’t care as you munched one hot salty peanut after another.

Paul grew up in a tiny town in Northern Maine — far away from the southern Maine waters of Bar Harbor. He said nobody had ever heard of boiled peanuts and neither had he until he was 20 years old, in the military, and visiting a friend in Florida. 

Unlike most of his fellow Yankees, Paul loved boiled peanuts. When we married, we both asked ourselves, “why can’t we make them at home?” 

As it turns out, they are easy to make at home — especially if you let your trusty slow cooker do all of the work. 


South Forsyth resident Adlen Robinson is author of “Home Matters: The Guide to Organizing Your Life and Home.” E-mail her at adlen@adlenshomematters.com.