Peanut is one of the most common food material in the world. It is widely produced in tropical and subtropical regions of the world. The legume contains essential nutrients which are good for our body. In a 100 grams serving, peanuts provide up to 570 calories and become sources of several B Vitamins, Vitamin E and several minerals such as manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, and fibers. These essentials of peanuts were discovered through 150 years of development since the first time it was cultivated. To find about how peanut turned into one of the most most favorite food in the modern world, let’s take a look back into the history of peanut cultivation.
Carver, Father of the Peanut
The first person to develop and cultivate peanuts was born into a slave family in the United States. Dr. George Washington Carver was born in Missouri in January 1864, and went on to become one of the most prominent scientists and inventors of his time, as well as a teacher at the Tuskegee Institute.
Carver, who grew up on a farm in post-slavery America, was one of many USDA researchers who encouraged cotton and corn farmers in the South to grow peanuts as an alternative crop, because one of peanut’s properties as a legume is to put nitrogen back into the soil (a process known as nitrogen fixation), whereas cotton and corn had depleted much of the nitrogen from the soil in the region.
He is often credited for his invention of many different uses for peanuts, including dyes, plastics and gasoline. He also discovered a number of medical uses for the crop, including as a patent medicine for respiratory diseases such as tuberculosis, and an antiseptic made from the skin and the seed.
Thanks to Carver, the peanut is known today as the plant with a thousand uses. The nut itself has become one of the world’s favourite food, being used in numerous dishes every day across Asia, Europe and America. They also make regular appearances in sauces, porridge, and seasoning blends, and are eaten boiled, fried, roasted or raw all around the world.
Peanuts are easily one of the world’s most versatile foods, ready for consumption from the moment they’re pulled from the ground. And in their processed forms they are equally popular.
Several famous peanut products are peanut butter, peanut oil and peanut flour. However, peanut can also be used for other uses like biodiesel that can actually solve the energy crisis problem in the future.
The ancient Aztec civilization discovered over nine hundred years ago that peanuts can be soaked then roasted and ground up into a paste to make what we know as the familiar sandwich spread beloved by children everywhere. Peanut butter is also a staple in bakeries to flavour breads and pastries, and is the basis of many South-East Asian dishes like satay, gado-gado and pad thai.
Peanut oil is often used in cooking. It is because peanut oil has a mild flavor, high smoke point, and it is also considered healthier than saturated oils. The several types of peanut oil including: aromatic peanut oil, refined peanut oil, cold-pressed peanut oil and peanut extract.
Many restaurants use peanut oil to cook with because its subtle flavour does not overpower the food being fried, which also makes it the perfect oil for basting grilled foods and enhancing flavour in salad dressings.
Peanut flour is perfect to create crunchy body for several cuisines. Remove the fat from roasted peanuts and you are left with a high protein flour that is perfect for thickening soups, coating chicken, meat or fish, seasoning, bread, pastries and cereal bars.
These days peanut oil is not only for cooking: with a little more processing, the humble peanut can be transformed into biodiesel ready to go straight into your car.
With their high oil content of up to 52 percent, peanuts are the most effective leguminous plant to process into biodiesel, producing between 120 and 150 gallons of biodiesel per hectare. It is more efficient compared to soybeans, which produce 46 gallons of oil per hectare, or 104 gallons per hectare from corn. (Source: University of Florida)