In celebration of National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day (March 1st) we did some research on the history and facts of peanut production and made a map showing the top ten peanut producing states in the United States! So when did the world start making peanut butter?
The ancient South American Indians were the first to make and eat peanut butter, however, historical reference claims that peanut butter was invented by a physician in St. Louis around 1890 as a health food for the elderly. The physician’s name is undocumented, but records show that in 1903, Ambrose W. Straub of St. Louis patented a machine to make peanut butter (Whitley’s Peanut Factory). Also during this time period, “Dr. George Washington Carver, a research scientist at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, found over 300 uses for the peanut plant in the early 1900’s. He has been called the “peanut wizard” and the “father of the modern peanut industry”(American Peanut Council).
World peanut production totals approximately 29 million metric tons per year and worldwide peanut exports are approximately 1.25 million metric tons. Peanuts are grown in the warm climates of Asia, Australia, North America and South America. India and China together account for more than half of the world’s peanut production, followed by the United States. U.S. peanut farmers produce around 1.9 million tons of peanuts annually and is one of the world’s leading peanut exporters with average annual exports of between 200,000 and 250,000 metric tons. In the United States, ten states grow 99% of the country’s peanuts: Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Texas, South Carolina, North Carolina, Mississippi, Virginia, Oklahoma, and New Mexico (Soyatech, American Peanut Council, and Whitley’s Peanut Factory).
Peanuts actually are not nuts! Peanuts contain properties of both tree nuts and the bean/lentil and are botanically classified as legumes. According to the American Peanut Council, “The four types of peanuts produced in the U.S. are:
- the most common variety, the Runner type used primarily for the manufacture of peanut butter;
- the large kerneled Virginia type, marketed mainly as snack peanuts and in the shell peanut products;
- the Spanish type, with rounder and smaller kernels, used for snack peanuts, peanut butter and confections
- and the longer podded Valencia type, containing three to five kernels in each shell, marketed mostly in the shell for roasting and boiling
“The major peanut producing states are grouped into three regions. The Georgia-Florida-Alabama-Mississippi region (Southeast) grows mostly the medium-kernel Runner peanuts. The Southwest region (Texas-Oklahoma-New Mexico) grows Spanish, Runner and some Virginia type varieties. The Virginia-Carolinas area grows mostly the large-kernel Virginia type peanut” (Whitley’s Peanut Factory).
About one-half of all peanuts produced in the U.S. are used to make peanut butter and peanut spreads and by law, any product labeled “peanut butter” in the U.S. must contain at least 90% peanuts, and the remaining 10% may be sweeteners, salt and an emulsifier- hardened vegetable oil which prevents the peanut oil from separating and rising to the top (Whitley’s Peanut Factory). Peanut butter is the leading use of peanuts produced in the U.S. (45%), followed by snack nuts and in-shells (30%), and candy and confections (25%) (American Peanut Council).
Written by Kathleen Emerson (3/1/2016)