If you have been following my blog posts, you will realize that the food world is not short of some interesting and sometimes confusing facts and myths.
But here is where all the mystery ends. The buck has to stop somewhere, and in this case, it stops here with a simplified scientific explanation.
Let’s dive into the peanut world once again. How much do you know about that crunchy little nut?
Where did peanuts come from? how are they classified? Can dogs eat peanuts? Can peanuts make you gain weight? Are there GMO peanuts in the market? How are they related to dynamite explosives? Why do they cause allergies? Why peanut butter?
for these and more peanut mysteries, stick around as we tore them apart.
Peanuts are Considered Vegetables and Not Fruits
Just like the fruit myths that I highlighted earlier in one of my previous articles, this is one myth that has been making nut lovers go nuts trying to figure it out.
Since this is a food science blog, I will ignore the botanical classification and concentrate on the culinary classification.
This is because a nut that is still on the farm could end up being used anywhere else other than as a food ingredient. I will show you an example later on here.
Botanists thus have the leeway to classify them under fruits since they are seeds from a flowering legume plant.
It gets even more interesting with the botanical classification because if you look at the definition of a seed, you may argue that it fits the peanut kernel perfectly.
That is why I have narrowed this down to post-harvest classification. I am talking about the nuts that you see in supermarkets or grocery shops and not the ones still in the garden.
So, why do we classify peanuts as vegetables and not fruits?
It’s simply because of their taste and usage. Unlike fruits which are known to be used as desserts and have a sweet or tangy taste, peanuts tend to have a mild taste and can be used in stews when cooked or roasted.
Their nutritional profile is almost similar to that of legumes and other true nuts such as hazelnuts and chestnuts.
That is why you will still react to nuts as allergens if you are allergic to real tree nuts.
They, however, possess an uncharacteristic high fat and protein content than fruits, which inclines them more towards vegetables.
Peanuts are Not Nuts; they are Legumes and They Grow Underground
If you didn’t grow up on a farm, it is more likely that at one time, you thought peanuts grow on trees like other fruits.
If you still believe that this is the case, brace yourself for a bubble burst.
Peanuts are actually not true nuts! This is because of the complex and confusing botanical classification I alluded to at the beginning.
Unlike true nuts which are classified as stand-alone fruits and grow on trees, peanuts tend to go against these rules as they grow underground in enclosed pods.
Peanuts grow under a short shrub-like plant with the pods acting like its root extensions in the soil.
They are harvested by pulling the pods out of the soil and breaking them to access the peanuts.
Just like other legumes, they can be used as nitrogen fixers which is an important thing in agriculture.
This underground growing phenomenon is why peanuts are sometimes referred to as groundnuts.
Peanuts were Initially Regarded as Food for The Poor
Peanuts are said to have originated in South America, especially Argentina and Brazil.
Initially, it was a wild plant until it was domesticated by Spanish and Portuguese explorers.
When it got into the U.S, there was resistance from farmers to grow the crop since it was labor-intensive.
This is why only the poor farmers grew it and consumed it.
Improved technology in agriculture and early experiments by enthusiastic peanut farmers such as George Washington Carver exposed peanuts to the world.
After its commercialization in the culinary world, it was no longer viewed as a poor man’s food.
Dogs Can Eat Peanuts, and Yes, they can have Peanut Allergy Too!
Do you check the ingredients in your dog’s food before feeding it?
If yes, you might have seen some with peanuts or peanut flavors.
Just like humans, dogs can eat peanuts too. Unlike other nuts such as walnuts, almonds, pistachios, pecans, and macadamia that are considered toxic to dogs, peanuts can be consumed by dogs.
The only problem is that some dogs can also be allergic to peanuts. It is however a very rare occurrence.
This is why you should check the ingredient list and observe your dog for any allergic reactions if it happens to feed on peanuts.
According to Petmeds, dogs allergic to peanuts will exhibit symptoms such as redness, itchiness, and bald patches.
If you notice these symptoms, consult with your vet.
It is also worth mentioning that some peanut butter with xylitol as a listed ingredient should never be fed to dogs.
This substance is known to be toxic to dogs even in small quantities.
Eating Peanuts or Peanut Butter will not Make You Gain Weight
Despite peanuts being oily foods, studies have shown that having them in your daily diet will not make you add weight.
Peanuts or peanut butter and weight gain is thus another food myth.
According to the Peanut Institute, eating peanuts may even help you with your weight loss journey when incorporated into a balanced diet.
This is because their fats are monounsaturated (good fats) and they also contain antioxidants that help the body to burn calories.
The antioxidants are mostly concentrated in the peanut skin, which I discussed the importance of not removing them in one of my previous articles here.
Another factor that makes peanuts good for weight loss is the fact that approximately 18 percent of calories consumed in them are not absorbed in the body.
There is even more.
Studies have shown that eating peanuts helps to increase the number of calories you burn while at rest. How awesome!
Peanut Allergy is One of the Most Common and is a Major Cause of Allergen Deaths
You might be wondering how many people actually die each year from peanut allergies.
According to Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), more than 6 million people in the U.S are allergic to peanuts.
Out of these, almost 200 deaths are reported annually as a result of peanut allergies.
This could be due to the fact that most people are exposed to peanuts more than the other allergens. More than 90% of U.S homes use peanuts on a regular basis.
The bad news is that peanut allergies are currently on the rise and there is still no treatment available.
The good news is that most cases are not fatal and there are advancements in medicine to help people get over these allergies.
Peanut Butter was Initially Made for People with no Teeth
There is a fascinating bit in the history of peanut butter in the U.S.
The first inventor of peanut butter, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg (not George Washington Carver) made it as a protein supplement for people with chewing difficulties.
After it became popular, the inventors found other ways to use it, including its current popular use as a spread.
Good to see how these great people didn’t want anyone to miss out on this delicious treat.
Currently, peanut butter is one of the most famous spreads in the U.S with an annual consumption of more than 1 billion pounds.
To put this into perspective, it is claimed that all the peanut butter consumed in American households each year can fully coat the floor of the Grand Canyon. Wow!
There are currently no GMO Peanuts in the Market
We have all heard about the GMO craze and most people believe that there is a GMO version of every food crop available.
You will be surprised that most foods, peanuts included, are yet to be genetically engineered.
People just misuse the word GMO to mean the opposite of organic foods.
To understand more about the GMO topic and the foods listed in that category, check out this article here.
Organic peanuts, on the other hand, are definitely available in the market and are highly recommended.
One other thing you need to know is that there is a law that protects you as a peanut consumer.
Manufacturers are required to only declare a product as peanut butter when peanuts make 90% of the ingredients used to make it.
Peanut Oil Was One of the Ingredients Used in Making Dynamite
Well, this must sound completely outrageous but it is actually true that peanuts can be used as an ingredient in making dynamite explosives.
Not the whole peanut but peanut oil.
It was confirmed that glycerol from peanut oil can be converted into an explosive liquid called nitroglycerine.
Nitroglycerine is known to be one key ingredient in dynamites.
It is however not a common practice to use peanut oil in making dynamites in the current technological era where so many other alternatives are available for making nitroglycerine.
Literally, peanuts are the bomb!
Now you can see what I said earlier on here.
You may never guess what else a peanut can be used for other than what we know them for.
Other Useless Peanut Facts
Unlike the 9 peanut facts we have seen above, these useless facts are just that. Useless.
You may use a few of them on some rare occasions, but most of them are just there to be marveled at.
But you might need them when you run out of words in that coffee date as a conversation starter; Lol.
Here we go:
- Peanut butter oil can be used to remove stuck gum or stickers on surfaces and containers. Just smear a little peanut butter on the stuck surface and wipe it off after a few minutes and watch the peanut magic happen.
- Some peanut lovers have confessed to using peanut butter as an emergency substitute to shaving cream. I have no idea if it works simply because I don’t have shaveable beards.
- Apparently, there is an entry in the Guinness World Record for the furthest distance a peanut was thrown. If you think this is something you can break, know that the record stands at 124.4 feet (37.92 meters) and is held by a Welshman called Colin Jackson.
- There are fewer peanut allergies in places where peanuts very popular.
- There are peanut holidays. In the U.S, for instance, March is usually considered a national peanut month.
- Jimmy Carter and Thomas Jefferson are the two U.S presidents who had interests in peanut farming and were peanut farmers themselves.
- American astronaut Alan B. Shepard took a peanut to the moon during one of the Apollo space missions. Why? Because he loved nuts to the moon and back!