Whether we spread it on thick and crunchy or eat it by the smooth creamy spoonful, peanut butter is the indisputable king of nut spreads that North Americans love to gobble up. We’re so nuts for peanut butter that each American eats three pounds of peanut butter each year. Throw in the peanuts we consume and that figure doubles to six pounds. It’s no wonder March 1st is dedicated as National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day.
Peanut Butter History
Hard to believe, but peanut butter has only been around for just over 100 years. It was first imagined in 1890 when a St. Louis doctor came up with the rather odd notion of using peanut paste for people with bad teeth. Five years later, the Kellogg brothers, whose focus then looked at holistic health and nutrition, patented the process of preparing peanut butter with steamed nuts. Today nuts are roasted which makes peanut butter much more flavorful.
In 1903 Dr. George Washington Carver, the famous botanist and educator, developed more than 300 other uses for peanuts and is now considered the father of the American peanut industry. By 1908, Krema Products Company in Columbus, Ohio began manufacturing peanut butter, making it the oldest company still in operation today.
It would take a few years for peanut butter to become the product we know today. In 1922 Joseph L. Rosefield sold peanut butter in California, churning it to make it smoother. He received the first patent for peanut butter that could stay fresh up to a year. One of the first companies to adopt the process would later be called Peter Pan. Learn more Peanut Butter history.
Peanut Butter Facts:
One acre of peanuts will make 30,000 peanut butter sandwiches.
Two former U.S. Presidents were peanut farmers: Thomas Jefferson and Jimmy Carter.
Runner peanuts are preferred for peanut butter, and are grown primarily in Georgia, Alabama, Florida and Mississippi.
Peanut shells are used to make kitty litter, wallboard, fireplace logs, paper and animal feed, and are sometimes used as fuel for power plants.
It is said Africans ground peanuts into stews as early as the 1400s, the Chinese crushed peanuts into creamy sauces for centuries and Civil War soldiers dined on a concoction called peanut porridge.
The average child will eat 1,500 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches before he or she graduates from high school
It takes about 540 peanuts to make a 12-ounce jar of peanut butter.
To legally label the spread as peanut butter, it must contain a minimum of 90 per cent peanuts with no artificial sweeteners, colors or preservatives. Some brands add natural sweeteners and salt, plus stabilizers for freshness. Learn more Peanut Butter facts.
How Peanuts are Grown:
The peanut plant is unusual because it flowers above the ground, but fruits below the ground. Peanuts are harvested about 120-160 days after planting, usually in September and October. The soil can’t be too wet or too dry or the peanuts will stick in the ground. Farmers use machinery to loosen the plant and cut it free from the root. The plant is lifted off the ground and shaken to remove soil. The plant sits in the sun for two to three days to dry. After drying, machinery picks the peanuts off the vine.
Types of Peanuts:
Virginia Peanuts: Often called cocktail nuts, Virginia peanuts’ size make them great for processing, particularly for salting, confections and in-shell roasting. They are grown primarily in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Texas.
Spanish Peanuts: Grown mostly in Texas and Oklahoma, Spanish peanuts are easily identifiable by the reddish-brown skin that covers them. They are primarily used in peanut candies, snacks and peanut butter, but are also the best choice for extracting oil because of their high oil content compared to other varieties.
Runner Peanuts: Runner peanuts are the most widely consumed variety and are the perfect size for producing peanut butter. Mostly grown in Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Texas and Oklahoma, the Runner thrives in the warm climate and sandy, well-drained soil.