We tend to not give peanuts much thought these days. They’re a common ballpark snack and, in butter form, the foundation of many a sandwich, but they’re not held in nearly as high regard as they should be. Because the fact of the matter is, peanuts are a pretty magical little bean.
You probably already know that peanuts aren’t, in fact nuts; they’re legumes, in the same family as soybeans and other beans. They grow through a pretty complicated process: After the peanut plant’s flowers wither, its stalk rapidly elongates and heads downward, where the peanuts mature. Peanuts can only grow in light, sandy, loamy soil and require five months of warm weather and a specific amount of water. If any of the many variables aren’t perfect, including the soil’s pH level, the peanuts won’t grow properly.
There are hundreds of applications for peanuts. While peanut butter and dry-roasted peanuts are the most common ones, peanut oil is also very popular in cooking because of its mild flavor, high smoke point, and healthy monounsaturated fats. Peanut flour is popular in gluten-free cooking, and has a higher protein level than wheat flour. And boiled peanuts, which are prepared in briny water, are a popular street-side snack in the South, India, China, and West Africa.
Peanuts are high in fat and calories, but also in B vitamins, vitamin E, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, and dietary fiber. They contain more protein than most tree nuts. Read on for five more things you didn’t know about peanuts.