Peanuts – A Southern Survival Crop
If you live in an area where peanuts will grow; you must learn how to plant, raise, harvest, and cure them. Peanuts are an outstanding survival crop that has long been raised in the southern United States, that’s right Virginia, they’re not just a snack or an ingredient of candy bars. They are highly nutritious.
So what’s so great about peanuts? Well for one thing they are loaded with protein. Peanuts have about 6.7 grams of protein per ounce, more than eggs or milk. Peanuts are also loaded with fat. Not such a good thing if you are trying to watch your weight, but remember, in a survival situation fat is one of the hardest food substances to come by, and the human body must have fat.
Peanuts are really not nuts at all. They are a legume like field peas and beans. And like other legumes, peanuts actually improve the soil that they are planted in by adding valuable nitrogen.
The first step in raising a good crop of peanuts is to make sure that you have your soil right. Peanuts like a really light sandy soil, so if you have heavy clay you will need to amend the soil before you plant. In my part of the world you can buy planting peanuts at the feeds stores and many hardware stores.
What you are buying is raw peanuts in the shell. They look just like the ones that you buy at the circus, but they are not roasted. The peanuts that I bought this year were $3.50 US per pound, and a pound of peanuts will plant a pretty good size bed. This year I planted a small bed of about thirty-five plants, so I only used a handful of seed. It yielded about a gallon and a half of peanuts in the shell.
To plant the peanuts all you have to do is shell them out and stick them in the ground.
I plant mine about an inch deep and a foot-and-a-half apart in each direction. No fertilizer is necessary, but peanuts do like heat and a lot of water. Don’t drown them, but do keep the ground moist. In a few days they will break the ground and start growing.
Peanuts will grow about eighteen inches to two feet tall and put on small yellow blooms, and then they will do something really unusual. The stems of the plants will bend over close to the ground and put off small dark tendrils called pegs. These pegs will actually grow down into the ground and a peanut will form underground at the end of each peg.
You want to pull you peanuts when the vines first start to yellow. Pulling the peanuts at the right time is a little tricky. If you pull them too early, the nuts will not have completely formed. If you squeeze the shell and feel that it is not filled out inside, you will know that the peanuts are not ready. If you pull the peanuts too late, some of them will already have sprouted underground. This is easy to see. The problem is that you can not pull the plants at a time when all of the peanuts will be perfectly ripe. It’s like trying to pull a tomato plant when all of the tomatoes are ripe. It just doesn’t happen. So you need to pull the peanuts when most of them are ripe. You may have a few that aren’t filled out, and you may have a few that are over ripe; but that’s OK.
If the ground is too hard, use a fork to loosen it a little; but stay well out from the plant and be careful. Pull the whole plant and don’t remove the peanuts. When you have a bundle of plants about as big around as your arm, use a string to tie them in a bundle (shook).
When you have collected all of your shooks hang them up under cover to dry. You can shake them a little to remove some of the dirt but don’t wash them.
Leave the shook hanging to dry for a week to dry.
When the shooks are dry take them down and remove the peanuts. Again, don’t wash the nuts. If they are dirty just rub off what you can with you fingers.
The vines are very rich in nutrients so you need to either compost them are feed them to your stock. If you use them for feed, go easy as animals can founder on too much at one time.
Spread the picked peanuts out in a dry shady spot and let them cure for another two weeks.
At the end of the two weeks they are ready for use. You can shell them out and eat them raw or you can roast them in the shells for snacks. Be sure to save some for next year’s seed.