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National Peanut Day

Peanuts are celebrated and enjoyed today on National Peanut Day! They aren't actually nuts, although they are similar in taste and nutrition to them, but are legumes, in the same family as soybeans, lentils, and chickpeas. Peanuts are eaten plain, after being roasted in or outside of their shells, after being salted or spiced, or as part of mixed nuts. They may also be used in recipes or used to make peanut butter or oil.

High in protein and rich in nutrients, minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants, peanuts are believed to be native to South America. Spaniards discovered them in Brazil and brought them back to Europe, and from there they were taken to Asia and Africa. Africans brought them back to the Americas as slaves and were the first to introduce them to the area that would become the United States. Peanuts were first grown commercially in the United States in the early nineteenth century, where they were used for oil, as a cocoa substitute, and as food—particularly for the poor and for livestock.

As the nineteenth century progressed, more and more peanuts were being produced in the United States. They became a staple for Civil War soldiers, who continued to eat them after they returned home following the war. Hot roasted peanuts became a staple of PT Barnum's circus wagons in the late part of the century. Soon other street vendors were selling them, and they made their way into ballparks too.

By the turn of the twentieth century, better equipment for planting, cultivating, and harvesting peanuts had been invented, as well as for shelling and cleaning the kernels. Demand rose following the inventions, including demand for roasted and salted peanuts, candy made with peanuts, peanut butter, and peanut oil. Peanuts became an even more significant crop after George Washington Carver encouraged the cultivation of peanuts and other crops instead of cotton, at the time when cotton was contending with the pesky boll weevil. Peanuts remain a valuable crop today, with plain peanuts, peanut butter, and peanut candy being particularly loved, especially on National Peanut Day!

How to Observe National Peanut Day

Celebrate the day by eating peanuts in one or many of their forms! Eat them out of a jar or crack them out of their shells. Have them plain, roasted, salted, or with some mixed nuts. Make a dish with them. Have some candy made with them. Enjoy some peanut butter or eat something made with peanut oil. You could find a good use for peanut shells today too!

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