Mon. Aug 8th, 2022

In the world of elementary school kids, lunch time is the best part of the school day. Kids love to “one up” each other by seeing which mom packed the best lunch, and some tend to share. A common lunch staple among children is the classic peanut butter sandwich.The peanut butter sandwich can be made with different things. There is the peanut butter and jelly sandwich, with either strawberry or grape jelly, the peanut butter and marshmallow fluff combination, a plain peanut butter sandwich or, Elvis’ favorite, a peanut butter and banana sandwich. And of course, before making the sandwich, the eater has to decide whether s/he wants crunchy or smooth peanut butter.

With all of these possibilities, it is no wonder that this legume, who gave people all of these choices, has its own recognized month.

According to peanutbutterlovers.com, the month of March is recognized as National Peanut Month, which originally started out as National Peanut week in 1941. It became a month-long observance in 1974.

The peanut plant is believed to be originated in Brazil or Peru about 3,500 years ago. Peanuts were found growing in the Mexico area around the time the Spanish started their exploration of the new world, according to aboutpeanuts.com. The peanuts went back to Spain and began to be traded with Asia and Africa. Supposedly, the peanut was regarded by Africans as one of several plants “possessing a soul.”

When Africans were forced to come to the United States as slaves, they brought peanuts with them. The peanuts were planted in the southern part of the country and were studied by different scientists, who said that they were a great food source for pigs.

While peanuts had a rocky beginning with harvesting being difficult and people regarding it as “poor people food,” there was the start of the steady increase around the time of the Civil War. The soldiers started eating peanuts. At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, peanuts started being consumed as freshly-roasted snacks at circuses and baseball games.

Because the peanuts were harvested by hand, it became harder to keep up with the cleaning, quality and conformity of the peanuts. Machines started coming into production to help with the “planting, cultivating, harvesting and picking of peanuts,” according to aboutpeanuts.com, and peanuts were demanded for snacks and peanut butter.

George Washington Carver started to research about peanuts in 1903 at the Tuskegee Institute. With this research, he discovered improvements in horticulture and about 300 different uses for peanuts, which included shoe polish and shaving cream. Because of his work with peanuts, he is considered the father of the peanut industry.

Today, Americans consume about 2.4 million pounds of peanuts a year, according to the University of California, Kern County’s Web site. Nine states grow around 10 percent of the world’s peanut crop, including Georgia, Texas and New Mexico. Also, the population eats approximately three pounds of peanut butter per person per year, which is enough to coat the entire floor of the Grand Canyon.

Peanuts are a good source of protein, Vitamin E, niacin, folate, phosphorous and magnesium. They are cholesterol-free and low in saturated fat. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are the main fats found in peanuts, but they help lower “bad cholesterol.”

Take the time in March to appreciate peanuts, in all different shapes and forms. While eating a peanut butter sandwich, whatever style you prefer, with a colleague, wow them with your peanut knowledge, and also drop a few new little known facts about peanuts. Did you know that two peanut farmers were elected president, Thomas Jefferson and Jimmy Carter? Or, tell your colleague that one acre of peanuts will make about 30,000 peanut butter sandwiches.

Whether you eat peanuts on a regular basis or have only eaten peanuts in spread form in elementary school, they surround us in everyday life. Find out more about peanuts and their various usages at aboutpeanuts.com or peanutbutterlovers.com.

Amanda Tingle is a third-year student majoring in secondary English education with a minor in journalism. She can be reached at AT610629@wcupa.edu.

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