< Vegetables



Arachis hypogaea

Three types of ground nuts were consumed by Americans prior to the rise of industrial farming. The Peanut, first domesticated in Peru over 7,000 years ago, spread from the West Indies into the farm fields of the North American mainland in the 18th century. Also called the Pindar, it would gradually supplant two other plants, the Goober Pea or African Bambara (Voandzeia subterranea) nd the ‘Ground Nut” or Indian Ground Bean. The Peanut and the Bambra both formed blooms above ground, but ripened their fruit below ground. Botanist H. W. Ravenel described the Goober as “an oval, onesided legume. The seed is hard and requires boiling before it can be eaten, and is not used parched like the Pea nut. It is not as rich nor as palatable as the Pea nut.”[1] He further indicated that it had been in wide cultivation throughout South Carolina in the 1820s and ‘30s, but had been supplanted by the peanut as a field crop in the middle decades of the century. The ground nut (Apios americana), indigenous to eastern North famously supported the early European colonists of America the starving times. A vinelike plant that grew in forested areas, its underground pods formed intermittent tuberous swellings. While frequently harvested and used as a food by Native peoples and frontier settlers, it did not develop as a market crop, lacking the productivity of the peanut or the unctuousness of the peanut and goober pea. By the time of the Civil War the dominance of the peanut had grown so great that the names “goober pea” and “groundnut” had attached to it.

Peanut butter, candied peanuts, salted peanuts—indeed most of the snack usages of the vegetable date from the late 19th or early 20th centuries. While African ground nut stews and boiled goobers did influence early southern cuisine (Sarah Rutledge includes a ground nut soup recipe in The South Carolina House Wife), the most popular ways of eating them in the 1800s was plain roasted. Inevitably, given its 10% oil component, it attracted the interest of agricultural experimentalists attempting to refine culinary oils in the 1850s. At the end of the 19th century, one marketer of agricultural productions observed, “[t]he pure oil is nearly colorless, with a slight odor that is not unpleasant, and a taste resembling that of olive oil. It is largely used in soap making, and can be used for lubricating purposes, also for burning. One bushel of unhulled peanuts yield about a gallon of oil. The residue, after expressing the oil, makes a good oil cake for stock, also a good fertilizer, but it is too valuable for that purpose. Beside the roasted peanut we have the peanut coffee, peanut bread, and peanut hay. Pigs fatten rapidly when turned into a pindar or peanut field..“

A number of forces contributed to the growing popularity of the peanut as a crop during the 19th century. Besides its value as food, and as oil, it proved an easily cultivated stock food, particularly loved by hogs. After fencing made the free-range masting hog a rarity in the cultivated landscape, peanuts supplied the closest approximation of the unique flavor of hog flesh built on windfall nuts and wild roots. The peanut vines were also considered valuable—some judging it equal to clover-hay as stock food. [2]

An 1870 Carolinian noted another benefit; it grew well in cotton fields, and replenished the soil.[3] Before the end of the century chemists had determined that peanuts fix nitrogen in soil, an element greatly depleted by Cotton.

A Georgian supplied a succinct description of the usual method of cultivation on the eve of the Civil War.

“The ground should be rich and well broken up. It ought to be of such a description as might be expected to produce a good crop of corn. It ought to be laid off in ridges about three feet apart. A shallow furrow run with a small plow along the centre of each ridge, prepares the ground for the seed. The pods, which contain from one to three peas each, must be broken, and the peas planted in the drill from one foot to eighteen inches apart, and covered with a hoe about one inch and a half deep. They ought to be plowed and hoed three times during the season to destroy the weeds and keep the ground loose. The pea vine while growing sends up a perpendicular stem about a foot high; about this stem many others shoot out in all directions and run about fifteen inches along the surface of the ground. These runners have joints about an inch and a half apart. At each joint a strong root strikes down into the ground about two inches deep; at the end of this root the pea-pod is formed, and there comes to maturity.” [4]

1. H. W. Ravenel, “Goober and Pindar,” The Gardeners Monthly and Horticulturist 27 (1885), pp. 281-82.
2. William B. Easby, Letter, “Vernon TN Nov 27, 1851,” Report of the Commissioner of Patents (Washington, D.C.: US Patent Office, 1852), p. 152.
3. Zanum Nosnibur, “Peanuts—My System of Cultivation,” The Rural Carolinian 1 (1870), p. 609. 4. Southern Cultivator 19 (1861), p. 119.

Virginia running peanut    History

most widely known and most popular with the trade, may be taken as the typical American peanut. Its vines are large, with spreading branches, growing flat on the ground and bearing pods over almost their entire length. The pods are large and white, weighing about twenty-two pounds to the bushel.

Virginia bunch peanut    History

grows erect and fruits near the tap-root, but produces pods very closely resembling those above described

Tennessee peanut    History

two varieties-- the white and red, the white closely resembling the Virginia running variety, and the red producing somewhat smaller pods with kernels having a dark red skin. This variety matures earlier than the white, yields fewer pops, or imperfect pods, has a less spreading habit, and on account of this difference in growth is perhaps somewhat more easily cultivated.

North Carolina (or African) variety    History

grown in Wilmington section of the State has much smaller pods than those just described, weighing twenty-eight pounds to the bushel; the kernels contain more oil than those of other varieties.

Spanish variety    History

relatively small, upright vine, forms small pods near the tap-root, and can be planted much closer together than any of the others, thus producing a very heavy crop to the acre.

Georgia red nut    History

like the similar variety in Tennessee, has medium-sized vines growing up from the ground and fruiting principally near the tap root, with three or four kernels to the pod.

Salted Peanuts (Mrs. Owens New Cook Book 1899)    History

Shell and remove skins from nuts. For each cup add 1 tablespoon salad oil or butter. Stir well and let stand 1 hour, then sprinkle with 1 tablespoon salt. Put into baking pan and bake in moderate oven till brown. Or they may be cooked in a frying basket in deep fat. Frances Owens, Mrs. Owens New Cook Book (Chicago: Owens Publishing, 1899), p. 567.

Boiled Peanuts (Unrivalled Cook Book 1886)    History

Choose fresh well-filled peanuts. Carefully selecting them, as nearly as possible, the same size. Boil them in salt water, drain and serve. This is generally served before the soup.Mrs. Washington, The Unrivalled Cook Book and Housekeeper’s Guide (New York: Harper, 1886), p. 4.

Peanut Croquettes (Arthur’s Home Magazine 1884)     History

To make these, remove the shells and bulls from three pounds of roasted nuts; simmer them gently in good broth or gravy until they are soft enough to rub through a sieve with a potato masher. To each pint of this mixture add one ounce of butter and a-palatable seasoning of salt and pepper, and stir these ingredients over the fire until they are scalding hot, then place the saucepan where the contents will keep hot without boiling; stir into them the yolks of six raw eggs, stirring the mixture constantly until the yolks thicken, taking care it does not boil, in which cafe the eggs will curdle. Cool the puree. Now wet the hands slightly with cold water and mold tablespoonfuls of the cold mixture into little pyramids. Boll them in cracker or bread-crumbs, dip them in beaten egg and then a second time in the crumbs, and drop them in boiling lard sufficient to cover them. When brown, take them out of the fat with a skimmer, lay them for a moment on coarse brown paper which will absorb the grease, sprinkle a little salt over them, and serve at once u a folded napkin. “The Peanut as an Article of Food,” Arthur’s Home Magazine 52 (1884), p. 595.

Peanut Butter (Guide for Nut Cookery 1898)    History

The first step is to roast the peanuts to a nice brown, being careful not to over-brown or scorch them, as too much cooking spoils the flavor. They can be roasted in an ordinary oven, but can be better done in a peanut roaster made especially for this purpose. As soon as they are roasted and cool, the skins or bran should be removed by rubbing them in the hands, or what is better, a coarse bag; or take a square piece of cloth and fold the edges together, forming a bag of it. The chaff can then be removed by the use of an ordinary fan, or by pouring from one dish to another where the wind is blowing. The process of removing the skins is called blanching. Next look them over carefully, remove all defective nuts and foreign substances, and they are ready for grinding. If a fine, oily butter is desired, adjust the mill quite closely, and place in the oven to warm. Feed the mill slowly, turn rapidly, and always use freshly roasted nuts; after they have stood a day or two they will not grind well nor make oily butter. If the butter is kept in a cool place in a covered dish, and no moisture allowed to come in contact with it, it will keep several weeks; and if put in sealed jars or cans, will keep indefinitely. Almeda Lambert, Guide for Nut Cookery (Battle Creek, MI: Lambert, 1899), p. 70-71

Raw Peanut Butter (Guide for Nut Cookery 1898)    History

Heat the peanuts just sufficiently to remove the skins, but do not allow them to get brown; prepare them as described in a former recipe, and grind in a nut mill. Although the raw peanut butter is not as palatable as the roasted butter, it is considered more healthful and easier of digestion. It is also preferable to use in making soups and puddings, in cooking grains, and in seasoning vegetables. Food seasoned with this butter does not have that objectionable taste that the roasted peanut butter imparts; and if it is properly used, the peanut taste is almost entirely eliminated. Almeda Lambert, Guide for Nut Cookery (Battle Creek, MI: Lambert, 1899),P. 71.

Ground-Nut Soup (Carolina House-Wife 1847)    History

To a half pint of shelled ground-nuts, well beaten up, add two spoonsful of flour, and mix well. Put to them a pint of oysters, and a pint and a half of water. While boiling, throw on a seed-pepper or two, if small. P. 45.

Peanut Coffee (Guide to Nut Cookery 1898)    History

Look over the peanuts, rejecting all the poor ones and foreign substances, and roast in the roaster or oven until they are a dark brown, about the color of Java coffee when roasted. Remove the skins, as they will make it bitter; grind, but not too fine. Use the same as any coffee. Almeda Lambert, Guide for Nut Cookery (Battle Creek, MI: Lambert, 1899),P. 382.

Ground Nut Maccaroons (Miss Leslie’s Lady’s New Receipt-Book 1850)    History

Take a sufficiency of ground-nuts, that have been roasted in an iron pot, over the fire ; remove the shells ; and weigh a pound of the nuts. Put them into a pan of cold water, and wash off the skins. Have ready some beaten white of egg. Pound the ground-nuts, (two or three at a time,) in a marble mortar, adding, frequently, a little cold water, to prevent their oiling. They must be pounded to a smooth, light paste ; and, as you proceed, remove the paste to a saucer or a plate. Beat, to a stiff froth, the whites of four eggs, and then beat into it, gradually, a pound of powdered loaf-sugar, and a large tea-spoonful of powdered mace and nutmeg mixed. Then stir in, by degrees, the pounded ground-nuts, till the mixture becomes very thick. Flour your hands, and roll, between them, portions of the mixture, forming each portion into a little ball. Lay sheets of white paper on flat bakingtins, and place on them the maccaroons, at equal distances, flattening them all a little, so as to press down the balls into cakes. Then sift powdered sugar over each. Place them in a brisk oven, with more heat at the top than in the bottom. Bake them about ten minutes. Eliza Lesile, Miss Leslie’s Lady’s New Receipt-Book (Philadelphia: Cary, 1850), p. 209.

Groundnut Cakes (The Practical Cook Book 1850)    History

Beat to a stiff froth the whites of five eggs, to which add one pint of sugar, and one pound of parched and pounded .peanuts; mix all well together, drop the mixture upon buttered paper, and bake to a light brown. Mrs. Bliss, The Practical Cook Book (Philadelphia: Lippencott, Grambo, & Co., 1850), p. 179.

To Make Ground Pea Candy (Mrs. Hill’s Southern Practical Cookery 1872)    History

Parch, shell, and beat the peas. To three tumblers of good brown sugar, add one tumbler and a half of cold water, one tablespoon of good vinegar, and a large teaspoonful of butter. Stir while boiling. When poured out, mix in the peas. Mrs. A. P. Hill, Mrs. Hill’s New Cook Book (New York: Carleston, 1872), p. 330.