Of all the nuts Americans eat, 67% of those nuts are peanuts. And before you trot out the old “peanuts aren’t nuts, they’re legumes” line, know that here we’re using the USDA Dietary Guidelines’ definition of peanuts, which classifies them in the nuts and seeds category.
If you’re one of the 90% of American homes where peanuts are consumed, you might be curious whether you could get some peanut seeds for planting, and what might happen if you did. What are some peanut benefits, and can you only get peanuts from peanut farms? Peanuts are actually a great and easy addition to the home garden. They don’t require a lot of water (five gallons per ounce as opposed to 80 gallons to raise an ounce of almonds!) and if you grow peanuts you’ll be rewarded with a relatively high-yield crop for your efforts. Here’s what you need to make your new crop a success:
- When you select peanut seeds for planting, bear in the mind the four different types and what you want. There are four common types you’re likely to see offered in seed form: Runner, Spanish, Valencia, and Virginia peanuts. Runner peanuts are the most common type and make up 75% of American’s peanut crop. There’s a reason for that: they produce a uniform size that’s great for making peanut butter. The Spanish peanuts are high in oil content and are the smallest. Usually they’re put into nut mixes. Valencia peanuts are the sweetest and have a red skin. Virginia peanuts are the largest seeds and are most popular roasted in their shells.
- You’ll need a pretty long growing season and gentle weeding. Peanuts need 120-140 days without any frost before they’ll be ready to harvest. If you can’t get that long without frost where you are, a greenhouse will work too. You’ll see growth about 10 days after you plant the seeds, and you’ll want to make sure you keep them well-watered and weed them gently. It’s easy to damage the plant if you get too vigorous about it.
- When you harvest, keep the peanuts dry. Don’t harvest when the ground is too wet, and don’t leave the peanuts in the ground too long once they’re ready. Make sure you let the peanuts dry out for a few days before separating them from their vines. When they come out, they’ll have a moisture content of 20-25%. You want to get that down to 10% so mold can’t grow easily.
- Separate the peanuts from the vine and put the vines back into the ground. The peanuts should be left to dry out further for another few weeks, and if you leave them in their shells they’ll be fresh for a long time. The vines can be buried back in the ground, where they’ll break down and give nutrients to the soil.
That’s all there is to it! Peanuts are a really a pretty easy crop, and once you’ve harvested you can boil them, roast them, grind them into peanut butter, or do many other things. So get yourself some peanut seeds for planting and try it out in your own backyard!