March brings on the start of spring, warmer weather and our favorite time of the year – National Peanut Month. As we begin to celebrate National Peanut Month, let’s get back to the basics on where peanuts started and where they are now!
While the origination of the peanut is not proven, it is said that peanuts originated in Brazil or Peru. People in South America made pottery in the shape of peanuts or decorated jars with peanuts as far back as 3,500 years ago. By the time the Spanish made their exploration of the new world. Peanuts were grown as far north as Mexico. Traders were responsible for spreading peanuts to Africa and Asia. Eventually, the peanut ended back in North America by ship in the 1700s. The large spread of the crop was due to the Spanish explorers discovering the wide versatility of the peanut.
"The Father of the Peanut Industry"
According to records, it wasn’t until the early 1800s that peanuts were grown as a commercial crop in the U.S. Around the 1900s, boll weevils struck tragedy on the South’s cotton crop. This led scientist Dr. George Washington Carver to find another commercial crop that could rival the position of cotton in the South. George Washington Carver was an agricultural scientist and inventor. He realized the value of peanut as a cash crop and suggested peanuts be grown as a rotation crop in the South. Dr. Carver spent many years conducting research and educating farmers on peanuts, however one of his most popular accomplishments was developing more than 300 uses for peanuts.
Today in Georgia
As the official state crop of Georgia, peanuts have made an impact across the South, specifically the Southeast. Georgia is the largest producer of peanuts in the U.S. In fact, Georgia peanut farmers provide more than 52% of the peanuts grown in the U.S. in 2021. Peanuts are planted in 76 of the 159 counties in Georgia. Peanuts are a $2 billion industry in the state of Georgia. Learn more here.
The peanut has evolved into a naturally sustainable rotation crop grown in around 11 states. They are nitrogen-fixing plants, which means the peanuts produce enough nitrogen for themselves and the soil, which may have been depleted of nitrogen from other types of rotation crops. Because peanuts are hardy and sustainable, they require less of a need for fertilizer and pesticides. Peanut crops have one of the lowest water footprints. It takes 3.2 gallons of water to produce 1 ounce of peanuts.
Celebrate the perfectly powerful peanut with us all month long!