Table of Contents
- 1 Peanut varieties
- 2 Planting peanuts
- 3 Growing peanuts
- 4 Diseases and pests
- 5 Peanut use
- 6 Peanut allergy
Peanut (lat. Arachis hypogaea) is a plant that belongs to the legume family (lat. Fabaceae), so it's a botanical relative to peas, lentils, tamarind, soybeans, carob, mesquite, lupins, chickpeas, beans, clover and alfalfa. It belongs to the group of nuts along with almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios, chestnuts and walnuts.
The plant originates from South and Central America, where the ancient Incas cultivated peanuts 3,500 years ago. The plant was first introduced in Europe in the 15th century by the Spanish conquerors. Interestingly, North America discovered peanuts much later, in the 18th century, when it was brought from Africa. Today, the largest peanut producer in the world is China with output of 44% of world production, followed by India and the United States. As far as Europe is concerned, it is much less represented in cultivation and it is mostly done in warmer countries, such as Spain, Italy, Greece, Bulgaria and Macedonia.
It is also interesting that peanuts do not grow in the wild in any form, and despite the popular belief, it grows like a pod beneath the ground. Peanut is an annual plant with light brown pod fruit that grows underground containing 2 or 3 peanut grains. Peanut root can grow up to almost 2 m (6.6 ft) deep, while the average is between 30 and 50 cm (11.8 and 19.7 in).
There are 4 most common peanut varieties: Runner, Virginia, Valencia, Spanish peanut.
This is the most common peanut variety, which appeared on the market through the 1970s. The popularity is primarily due to the fact that this variety gives frequent high yields, as well as the fact that the fruits are medium in size and consistent in shape. Peanuts obtained from the Runner variety are great for frying, but are most commonly used to make the popular peanut butter.
A variety that resembles a shrub and grows to between 30 and 60 cm (11.8 and 23.6 in). Its flowers are yellow and are self-fertilizing, so the variety does not depend on insects to produce fruit. The fruits are slightly larger than those given by other peanut varieties, and are most often used as a roasted or cooked snack. Due to their taste, in America they are also called "ballpark" peanuts because they are regularly sold at sporting events.
This variety produces slightly less fruit than other varieties, but ripens much earlier. Namely, it takes 90 to 110 days to ripen, while the Virginia and Runner varieties need at least 130 to 150 days. This variety also carries 3 to 6 sweet-tasting peanuts, so they are most often consumed raw.
The fruits of this variety have a bright red skin color and are slightly smaller in size than the fruits of other varieties, and also contain a higher proportion of fat. The ripening time of the plant is quite short - between 105 to 115 days, so they are suitable for growing in northern areas that have a slightly colder climate. It is advisable to start cultivating it in pots or containers and to transplant it into the open ground after 5 to 8 weeks. Due to the red color of the fruit, it is economically viable because it is mostly used in the confectionery industry.
It is also interesting to note that peanuts do not grow in the wild in any form, and despite the popular belief, it grows like a pod underground. Below are tips for planting peanuts.
Peanuts are favored by light, dry and sandy soils. The soil should have a high proportion of carbon and plants need to be positioned on the sunny side. In addition to the above, it is not advisable to plant peanuts in black or red soils. The reason is that the fruits easily take on the color of the soil which makes their market value lower. To facilitate digging, it is advisable to plant on sloping ground. Soil preparation for planting peanuts begins in the fall months.
First of all, it needs to be plowed to a depth of about 30 cm (11.8 in). Such soil should be once again chopped and leveled in the spring, making it ready for planting in April or May. It's important that the soil is completely free of weeds, because peanuts develop very slowly at the beginning of vegetation and weeds would stifle its development.
In basic soil fertilization, it is necessary to add 50 to 70 kg/ha of phosphorus and 60 kg/ha of calcium, while 25 kg/ha of nitrogen should be added before sowing.
Climatic conditions are very important for the growth of peanuts. Since it needs heat and sun as well as moderate rainfall, it needs to be planted in a greenhouse or in containers indoors. In order to stimulate the germination it is required that the seed is held at a temperature of 21°C (69.8°F).
During the summer months the containers can be moved outdoor, but during the winter months the plant requires a heated space for its growth. The conditions in which the plant grows must be controlled because without the specific heat, and the air humidity, the plant will not grow. It should also be borne in mind that for the growth of peanuts it is important that the frost-free period lasts at least 5 to 6 months a year. Also, it does not respond well to temperature fluctuations.
If you decide to transplant peanuts from a container into the ground outdoors, keep in mind that the yield will not be as high as it is in tropical or warmer areas.
In order for peanut growth to be successful, it needs to be grafted onto substrates of sugar beet, corn, and other vegetables, such as potatoes, tomatoes and cabbage.
Planting from seeds
Peanut seeds should be stored in their shell until before planting so as not to spoil. Sowing should be done only when the danger of any frost has passed, and when the soil is warm enough. The optimum temperature for sowing is 15°C (15.2°F) and should be done at a depth of 10 cm (3.9 in).
The seeds should first be planted individually in peat pots filled with a sandy base and a layer of soil that is a finger thick. To facilitate germination, the containers need to be placed in a heated space and frequently maintain humidity.
If you plant peanuts directly in the ground, pay attention to the fact that the seeds must be at distance of 10 centimeters (3.93 in) in a row, while the rows should have a distance of up to 80 cm (31.5 in). The depth of planting the seed in the ground is 6 to 8 cm (2.4 to 3.1 in). What is very important for achieving germination of peanut seeds is that the soil in which they are planted should not be cooler than 12°C (53.6°F).
Maintenance of plantations
Cultivation of peanut plantations is very important, i.e. it is necessary to cultivate the soil three times a year. The first tillage, which is carried out a week after germination, involves soil shredding, and the second and third are carried out during the growing season at intervals of 2 weeks and consist of covering the plant with shredded soil.
Good companions of peanuts are strawberries, carrots, beets and eggplant and it should certainly be noted that there should not be any plants growing in height nearby so as not to create shade over the peanut crops.
Another great companions are radish, spinach, snow peas and lettuce and as for herbs we strongly advise that you choose tandy, savory and rosemary as they draw in pollinating insects.
Avoid planting cultivars from the Allium family, such as onions as they can inhibit peanut formation. Although celery and cabbage are into the same soil and site conditions, they're not good companions as they create shade.
Peanut plantations should be irrigated only during the summer months, i.e. in July and August. Peanut watering should be applied only when you see that the soil around the plant looks dry, and then done 2 to 4 times a week, depending on the weather conditions of your climate. In order not to overdo with watering the plant, keep in mind that peanuts require the same amount of water as the classic plants you find in your garden.
However, peanuts should not be dried too much as this will affect the size and number of fruits, so it is advisable to spray the plant with lukewarm water between watering. You can stop watering the peanuts the moment you notice that the leaves turn yellow because from that moment it is expected that you'll be able to harvest the fruit in 10 days.
Phosphorus and potassium fertilizers are used to fertilize peanuts, and it is possible to use wood ash. The fertilizer itself is applied only to older plants that have a firm root.
Since peanuts grow like potatoes below the ground, they are not harvested but dug up. The process is carried out up to 5 months after planting, and as a rule it should be done during September, i.e. before the onset of fall frosts. The sign that the peanut is ready for harvest, i.e. digging, is that its leaves turn yellow. At that point, the pods become well filled and easily torn off. There is a possibility that not all fruits will be ripe, but most certainly will.
The plant should be dug out of the ground completely and then hung and left to dry in warm, sunny weather without rainfall to prevent fruit rot. As digging peanuts is a long-term process, machines that pull the plant out of the ground and shake it can also be used for digging, but they are not common in some areas since large peanut plantations are rare.
Peanuts are stored in their shells in a cool, dry and dark place. In this way peanuts can be stored for up to 9 months. If they are extracted from the shell, they should be stored in hermetically sealed containers in the freezer because the fruits are prone to spoilage when exposed to light or moisture. Under these conditions, the fruits can will be fresh up to 6 months.
Diseases and pests
The biggest threat to peanuts are rodents, which are extremely attracted to the plant, so it is necessary to secure some sort of protection against them around the plantations. In addition, peanuts are also attractive to worms and butterflies, which can be treated with common pesticides used in gardens.
Diseases that may occur more frequently on peanuts are as follows:
A fungal disease that is recognized by numerous dark spots on the leaves, and at an advanced stage the whole plant or parts may die. Treatment comes down to prevention, i.e. application of fungicides. Macrophomina phaseolina is recognized by watery lesions on the shoots, especially those that are closer to the ground, which become brown over time. Reducing the occurrence of this disease to which no peanut variety is resistant is possible only by rotating peanut plantations with rice plantations.
This disease causes the leaves on the main stem vein, and it is possible that red-brown fungal lumps appear on the shoots. Rotating peanut plantations with plantations such as tobacco or corn reduces the occurrence of disease as well as the application of fungicides.
It is characterized by small spots on the leaves and shoots that multiply and become darker over time. The application of fungicides will help, but always in consultation with agronomists because it can do more harm than good. The most effective method is to pause with peanut cultivation for 2 to 3 years until the soil gets rid of the parasite.
Peanuts are an excellent source of protein, fiber, minerals, iron, zinc and vitamins E and K. The most important part of peanut fruit is that its protein contains two important amino acids, namely thiamine and niacin. It is used in various industries, but it is irreplaceable in making sardines as well as margarine. In addition, it is also used in the beauty industry, so it helps in the production of soaps and creams.
Use in medicine
Peanuts have excellent healing properties, in the sense that they improve memory and hearing, and have a positive effect on sexual potency. Due to the presence of vitamin B, it gives shine to the hair and calms the nerves.
In the form of milk, it is used to relieve the symptoms of gastritis, and as a fried food, if consumed with rice some cultures believe that it relieves a long-lasting dry cough.
Additionally, as an antioxidant, it can be measured with blueberries and strawberries, but only when consumed as a roast.
Use in cooking
When using peanuts in cooking, it should be borne in mind that it is high in calories, i.e. it contains as much as 570 kcal per 100 grams. Because of this, it is used in the diet for malnutrition. The most well-known applications of peanuts are in the form of snacks and in the form of peanut butter. It is additionally used as an addition to cakes.
It is important to emphasize that lately an allergic reaction to peanuts has become more common, and it is estimated that up to 2% of the world's population has this allergy. The reaction can range from mild symptoms in terms of tearing of the eyes, to life-threatening reactions such as anaphylactic shock.
It is possible to have a reaction to very small amounts of peanuts, so we advise you to always check the packaging of the products you consume if you suspect an allergy, since it is common for all foods to have a note on their packaging whether they contain peanuts or not.
Certain research has shown that the possibility of developing allergies is reduced by up to 70% if peanuts are introduced into the diet of a child up to the age of four.
Photo: Praesentator / Pixabay
Source: Chad Z. Allergies in children. Paediatr Child Health. 2001;6(8):555-566. doi:10.1093/pch/6.8.555