Learn everything you ever wanted to know about peanuts in my Peanut Power Farm Tour Recap:
I often write about how much I LOVE my job! As a dietitian in nutrition communications, I’ve been blessed with many opportunities to experience hands on learning that have come my way. Last week I flew to Richmond, Virginia to meet up with about a dozen RD friends to share in a peanut farm tour sponsored by the National Peanut Board. We were treated to amazing meals, beautiful weather, breathtaking scenery and an all-around great time.
Along the way we learned a ton about peanuts, how they are grown, their versatility, sustainability, and not to mention the numerous ways we were able to enjoy them.
This is a recap of our Peanut Power Farm Tour from soup to nuts (pun intended), I hope you like taking the trip with me. (Disclosure: This was a sponsored trip where my travel expenses were covered. I was not asked to write, nor was I compensated for writing this post. All opinions are my own.)
I’ve been a busy girl lately, taking 4 trips over the last 5 weeks. My kids are starting to wonder who I am. Bless hubby for taking over at home. The less than pleasant part is that I seem to continually have to fly on these itty bitty planes. I almost feel that I should flap my arms to help it along.
Fortunately, after a few hour delay, travel was uneventful. After arriving in Richmond, I jumped into peanut mode immediately with this yummy snack.
Dinner in downtown Richmond was AMAZING! Max’s on Broad served up an incredible meal. I actually tried my first raw oyster- not bad. We were lucky to partake in Restaurant Week which meant a portion of our bill went to support the local food bank. Woo-hoo! Delicious food AND feeding the hungry, it’s a win-win. I ordered a Kale and Quinoa Salad appetizer, Mussels Marinara with Pommes Frites for dinner and the most ridiculously delicious Brioche Bread Pudding with chocolate, cherries, caramel and whipped cream for dessert. That, great friends and some wonderful wine made for a delightful evening.
The next morning we boarded a shuttle bus for the 90 minute ride out to Hope and Harmony farms where we were greeted by owners Jeffrey and Stephanie Pope whose family has been growing peanuts since the late 1800’s! Their home was just gorgeous, a farmhouse built in 1790 which was beautifully updated to emit the most wonderful and welcoming vibe. Their backyard is a jaw droppingly beautiful cotton field. The cotton was ready to harvest- I actually picked a small piece, you can feel the cotton seeds throughout it. Thanks for the cotton gin, Eli Whitney. I can see how that comes in handy.
It turns out farmers often rotate cotton and peanut crops for the health of the soil. We had to head over to a different location about 15 miles away to see the peanuts being harvested. Due to the incredible amounts of rainfall experienced in September this year, some peanuts needed to harvest early. We were all giddy like kids in a candy store as we wandered through the field, picking up freshly dug up peanuts and opening them to find raw, natural peanuts. I’d never had one like that before. They taste almost like a pea pod when they are not cooked, I feel like such a science nerd in those moments, I think we all agreed.
Stephanie and Jeffrey Pope taught us a number of things about farming practices. I picked up a bunch of tidbits:
-Peanuts grow 6-8 inches underground. They are legumes, not tree nuts.
-Farmers use smart technology like GPS for more precise cultivation and drones to see what’s going on in the fields.
-The whole peanut is used, if not for human consumption (the kernel), then for animal feed, landscaping and biodiesel.
-We eat in America, much of what we grow (about 60%) for peanut butter. There are 540 peanuts in a 12 ounce jar of peanut butter and it must be 90% peanuts to be called peanut butter as opposed to a peanut spread.
-Peanuts can yield about 4500 pounds per acre of land, up from about 3500 pounds ten years ago.
-After the harvest, some farmers bail the peanut vines and use them as cattle feed for the protein, others may use it as compost.
-Farmers have to be fantastic business people to survive since margins are so thin. They are adaptable, creative and very savvy.
Snackable Facts from the National Peanut Board:
Peanuts have more protein than any other nut- 7 grams per serving.
Peanuts are a superfood with more than 30 vitamins and nutrients.
Peanuts are America’s preferred nut. Americans ate 200% more peanuts than almonds last year.
Peanuts are a part of a variety of world cuisines, including West African, Asian and South American.
The average US peanut farm is family owned and about 180 acres.
Peanuts are a naturally sustainable crop. They release nitrogen into the ground to help support soil health.
It takes fewer than 5 gallons of water to produce 1 ounce of peanuts. Almonds require more than 80 gallons per ounce.
According to NationalPeanutBoard.org, there are 4 main varieties of peanuts:
Uniform in kernel size (which allows for even roasting), the runner peanut is most commonly used for making peanut butter. It is typically grown in the states of Georgia, Texas, Alabama, Florida, South Carolina and Oklahoma; and accounts for 80 percent of the peanuts grown in the United States.
The largest of all peanuts, the Virginia peanut is also known as the “ballpark” peanut and is often used in gourmet snacks. Virginia peanuts account for about 15 percent of total U. S. production and are grown mainly in southeastern Virginia, northeastern North Carolina, South Carolina and West Texas. Virginias are a popular peanut used for all-natural peanut butter.
Known for its red skins, the Spanish peanut has smaller sized kernels and is used predominantly for peanut candy, salted peanuts and peanut butter. Its reputation of having the “nuttiest” flavor when roasted is due to its higher oil content. Spanish peanuts are typically grown in the states of Oklahoma and Texas and account for four percent of U.S. production.
Having three or more kernels per shell, the Valencia has a sweet flavor and is commonly used for all-natural peanut butter. Also, they are excellent for use as boiled peanuts. Valencia peanuts are grown mainly in New Mexico and account for less than one percent of U.S. production.
After touring the field, it was time to head back for lunch. I cannot tell you how picturesque this setting was, you had to be there. The table set in this lovely tent was one of the prettiest I’ve ever seen. Flowers, fresh cotton and peanuts lined the middle with personal placecards showing different pictures of the farm. I noticed a gift by each plate- a personalized spoon! Mine was engraved with “Lauren’s Peanut Butter Spoon”. Um, yes, I will definitely use that!
This menu was scrumptious! Each dish incorporated peanuts in some way, and each was fabulous. We even started with a peanut hummus appetizer, how yummy is that? By the time dessert was served, I was already full, but this peanut inspired sampler was not to be missed! Triple-Chocolate Cheesecake with chili peanut dust, Southern Sweet Potato Pie with peanut brittle crust, and Southampton Parfait with cinnamon yogurt, candied peanuts and Maker’s Mark gastrique. Jealous?
As we were finishing up lunch, we took turns touring the small on-site facility where they roast and package the peanuts for sale.
Before we depart, one final group photo for the road:
Other items we discussed throughout the trip included introducing peanuts to infants at risk for developing allergies, the prospect of a hypoallergenic peanut and sustainability. Check out the references below if you are interested in learning more:
- The full LEAP study (about early introduction of peanut to infants at high-risk for developing peanut allergy) is available here via NEJM: http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1414850
The American Academy of Pediatrics statement on Early Peanut Introduction and the Prevention of Peanut Allergy in High-Risk Infants can be found here: https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/pages/AAP-Joins-in-Interim-Guidance-on-Introduction-of-Peanuts-for-High-Risk-Infants.aspx
An infographic and recent blog about peanut sustainability and water usage can be found here: http://nationalpeanutboard.org/farmlife-sustainability/could-peanuts-be-one-solution-to-two-of-the-planets-biggest-issues/
The piece regarding the hypoallergenic peanut can be found here: http://nationalpeanutboard.org/foodallergy/the-peanut-allergy-panacea-is-a-hypoallergenic-peanut-possible/
I hope you’ve enjoyed taking a trip to the farm with me. Remember, peanuts are not just for eating, they make fabulous holiday decorations too! I know what I’m sending for holiday gifts this year…
Check out these great products grown by some amazing people. You can find them on Amazon.com and RoyalOakPeanuts.com.
How do you show your #PeanutPower? What are some of your favorite ways to enjoy peanuts and peanut butter? Share your tips and favorite recipes in the comments below: