French: Arachide, cacahouète
Other names: Goober, monkey nut, ground nut, earthnut
"Peanut" because of its size and shape; "groundnut" etc. because it grows underground; "goober" from "nguba" (West African Kikongo language)
Did the peanut have two origins?
The peanut was, in fact, present all along the cordillera of the Andes and was even discovered in Incan tombs, but fossilized peanuts have also been found in China that date back 100,000 years, along with evidence that the Chinese grew this nut on a large scale. Furthermore, we need only look at Asian cook books to understand that the use of peanuts in Asian cuisine is as old as their earliest traditions.
Discovered by the Spanish and the Portuguese, the peanut followed them as they expanded their trade ventures to Africa and the Philippines.
By a trick of colonial fate, after having conquered Africa, the peanut completed the loop by returning with the slaves to American shores. It even became the symbol of the state of Georgia, once governed by peanut farmer Jimmy Carter who went on to be President of the US.
When we think of the southern states we think of fields of cotton, but credit is due to George Washington Carver for diversifying the south's agriculture in the 19th century. His achievements constituted a double revolution, in fact, because this promoter of the new peanut crop was an African American born into slavery during the civil war, who went on to show whites a new path to profitability by introducing the concept of crop rotation and developing new uses for peanuts and peanut products.
Flowers that flee the eyes of man
Family: properly speaking, peanuts are not nuts, but members of the legume family
Climate: Tropical, subtropical and temperate (with no major frosts)
At the beginning of summer, fields of climbing or bushy plants cover the countryside. After being pollinated, the plant has the curious tendency to lay its flowering stems down on the ground. The flowers then go underground, as if trying to hide themselves far from human eyes under 6 cm of soil in order to transform themselves into peanuts.
The peanut has ridged pods about 6 cm long that look like cylinders with a pinched centre, containing creamy white or yellowish oily seeds covered by a thin edible skin.
At the end of September, machines pass through the fields and uproot all the plants, turning them over to expose the dusty peanuts to the sun. Three days later, the whole plants are pulled up and the peanuts harvested. When the peanut pods or shells are dry, they break easily, with a simple pressure of the thumb on the rounded end of the shell.
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