Before I begin with the history of peanuts you should probably know that the peanut is not a nut.
The "pea"nut is actually more closely related to the pea. It is a member of the legumes family. Also, peanuts do not grow in trees like nuts do. They grow on the ground. They start out as flowers, and eventually wind up burrowing underground. Under ground is where they become a delicious peanut.
OK - so where did these little guys come from you ask? Well, they are thought to have originated in South America...possibly Brazil or Peru. When the Portuguese began to explore "The New World," they took peanuts back home with them. Portuguese traders took them as far as Asia and Africa.
In the United States, peanuts became popular during the Civil War. Then around the 1900's many mechanical devices were invented to help with the processing of peanuts. As a result their popularity increased even more. Speaking of inventions...George Washington Carver invented over 300 uses for the peanut, including; medicine, ink, soap, shampoo, ice-cream, and axle grease.
Americans consume 700 million pounds or 3.3 pounds per person, of peanut butter per year....that's enough to coat the floor of the Grand Canyon.
To enhance the flavor of a cola drink, Southerners put peanuts into the bottle.
There are approximately 810 peanuts in an 18 oz. jar of peanut butter.
The peanut is unusual because it flowers above the ground, but fruits below the ground.
Peanut oil has a very high smoking point. This allows peanut oil to be heated to a higher temperature than most oils, making it an excellent choice for frying.
Since peanuts are a legume, they reduce the need for additional fertilizers as they return nitrogen to the soil as they grow.
Peanuts are packed full of healthy stuff, including; antioxidants, niacin, Vitamin E, monounsaturated fat, bioflavnoids, protein, and they have more resveratrol than grapes (which lowers LDL - aka "bad cholesterol")
That's not all...Some medical researchers say that they lower the risk of heart disease and provide protection from some types of Cancer (colon, prostate, and breast).
Well, as you can see there are some great reasons to eat peanuts...as if the fact that they are delicious isn't enough.
THE DARK SIDE
Peanut proteins can act as powerful allergens, even in tiny amounts. That is why Peanut allergies are the most common cause of death by food in the United States. Some people can have a ruthless reaction just for inhaling the scent of a peanut. People can die from very small amounts.
So, if your allergic to peanuts...or think you could be...don't risk even going near them. You can substitute almonds or any nut for any of the recipes below. For the cookies...you'll have to make your own 'nut butter.
CREAMY PEANUT BUTTER
Put 2 cups of peanuts in a blender and blend until smooth.
For added texture and/or flavoring add one or more of the following:
2 Tblsp honey
4 tsp sugar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract - or any other extract you like.
1/4 c mini chocolate chips
1/4 c rice cereal
THE POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS...USE YOUR IMAGINATION!
CRUNCHY PEANUT BUTTER
3 c. salted peanuts
2 Tblsp. butter
Measure 1/2 peanuts and put aside. Empty remaining peanuts into blender container. Cover and blend on low speed until the peanuts are chopped. Add butter, cover and blend on low speed 15 seconds. Turn off the blender and scrape down sides with rubber spatula. Cover and blend on low speed 5 seconds.
Repeat this process 3 or 4 times until the peanut butter starts to get smooth. Cover and blend on highest speed 1 minute. Add the 1/2 cup peanuts, cover and blend on medium speed for 3 - 5 seconds. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving.
MAMA'S PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES
1/2 c. peanut butter
1/2 c. butter, softened
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. light brown sugar
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
Mix peanut butter and butter in large mixing bowl until smooth. Then gradually add all other ingredients. Blend until smooth.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spoon batter onto greased cookie sheet. Flatten cookies with a criss cross fork print. Bake for 10 minutes, or until golden.