Goobers. Goober peas.

by Jeff Minnich
November 2012

Peas, peas, peas, peas

Eating goober peas

Goodness, how delicious,

Eating goober peas.

A. E. Blackmar, New Orleans, 1866


Like cotton, peanuts are wrapped around our Southern culture in song, in our fields, and in our food.

When cotton was king in the South, no one knew that the big cash crop was taking away as much as it was giving. Cotton was killing the soil.

Enter the peanut. Peanuts were grown first in South America and spread around the world by European traders. Slaves brought the peanut with them to America from West Africa and planted them throughout the South. They called the peanut nguba; here in the South, the name morphed into goober.

Around 1900, Dr. George Washington Carver began studying peanuts at the Tuskegee Institute, in Tuskegee, Alabama, then known as Tuskegee Normal and Industrial School. At the time, the boll weevil was severely infesting fields growing cotton year after year. He introduced the idea of using peanuts as a rotation crop with cotton rotating the cultivation of cotton one year, with peanuts the next.

By doing so, the infestation cycle was broken and the fertility of the soil replenished at the same time.

Carver saw the benefits of growing the peanut for its versatility. He developed more than 300 uses for the peanut during his research, including food sources, cosmetics and industrial products. He is known as the father of the peanut industry and his research and innovations helped save the Souths economy.

Not actually a nut, the peanut (Arachis hypogaea) is in the bean, pea or legume family, Leguminosae. Like all legumes, it has the wonderful property of utilizing nitrogen in the atmosphere. The nitrogen is pulled into the soil and converted into other forms, which can be utilized by growing plants, thus enriching the soil.

Peanuts grow in a very curious way. The plants mature at about 18 inches to two feet high. The yellow flowers are pollinated. Then the branch on which the flowers are borne takes a turn and heads downward toward the soil. The branch, with its maturing fruit or peg, penetrates the soil. The peanut develops underground. It takes about 120 days for a peanut crop to mature.

Harvesting is a two-step process. First, the plants are lifted by a peanut digger that shakes then inverts the peanuts and on the ground where they dry for two or three days. A combine separates nuts from vines in the second step. From there, they go on to further curing, and then they are sorted, graded and packaged or processed for other uses.

Prior to the Civil War, peanuts were considered poor mans food or feed for ­animals. Peanuts were difficult to grow and harvest. When food became scarce during the Civil War, soldiers and others turned to the peanut for food. After the war, the soldiers took peanuts home with them and peanut consumption spread.

Locally, peanuts were grown at plantations like Poplar Grove said to be the first place where peanuts were grown in America in 1800. The sandy soil is conducive to peanut growth.

Peanuts were grown here for their oil, explains Caryl Finn, docent at Poplar Grove. They were bagged and shipped to Wilmington to make oil for lubrication [and] lamps.

As a food source, peanuts are high in protein, vitamins and minerals. They are naturally cholesterol-free. The fat in peanuts is about 85-percent unsaturated the good kind. They contain dietary fiber. Peanuts have a low glycemic index, so they are a good food for diabetics.

There are four varieties of peanuts grown today for processing: the Virginia, which has the largest fruit and is the primary peanut grown in Virginia and the Carolinas, the runner, Spanish, and Valencia.

Popularity and production increased after the World Wars. These days, peanuts have become a big business. In southeastern North Carolina, peanuts are grown primarily in Bladen and Duplin counties. Farther north, there are many growers from Edenton into southern Virginia. Peanuts are also grown in Horry County, South Carolina.

About 60 percent of all the peanuts grown in the U.S. are utilized for peanut butter, says Niles Brisson, president of Houstons Peanuts in Dublin, North Carolina. The rest are pretty evenly divided into other categories in-shell, candies, cocktail nuts and other peanut products.


Poplar Grove Plantation

Poplar Grove docents educate adult visitors and children about the local history of peanut growing. A Livermon picker and other equipment are on display, as well as chronological display boards.

Poplar Grove has a popular farmers market every Wednesday morning from April into November, says Jeanne Walker, public relations director for Poplar Grove. Hampstead Peanuts has a booth, and they sell boiled and roasted peanuts, as well as homemade peanutbutter.

Each month, tour guides highlight a special subject related to Poplar Groves history. June is the month the guides talk about peanuts, Walker says.


FUN FACTS

Two peanut growers, Thomas Jefferson and Jimmy Carter, became U.S. presidents.

Astronaut Alan Shepard took a peanut to the moon.

Elvis loved peanut butter and banana sandwiches.

And the beloved, popular comic strip, Peanuts, has become part of our culture.

Peanut butter was introduced in 1904. It takes 540 peanuts to make a 12-ounce jar of peanut butter. Peanut butter is made by grounding dry roasted peanuts and making a paste. Women and kids prefer the creamy; men prefer the crunchy, as a rule.

Peanut oil is used in cooking, particularly in frying because of its high smoke point and mild flavor. Its also one of the healthiest cookingoils.

Dry roasted peanuts are a great snack food, salted or unsalted.

Peanut soup recipes have been around for 400 years.

Peanut brittle is a candy made by heating sugar and water, adding nuts, pouring onto a flat surface for cooling, and breaking into pieces when cool. Boiled peanuts are raw, or green, peanuts boiled in salty water until soft. They have been popular in the South for more than a century. Boiled peanuts are high in antioxidants.


Dublin Peanut Festival

Each year in mid-September, Dublin, North Carolina, celebrates everything peanut. The Dublin Peanut Festival celebrated its 20th anniversary this year. The town needed the money for a school gymnasium, and since Dublin is the Peanut Capital of North Carolina, organizers started the Peanut Festival. The festival now includes a parade, barbeque plate sale, festival queens, cake auction, cornhole tournament, fireman competition, kids and womens tractor pull, car show, recipe contest, venders, live music and, of course, peanuts.


2012 Winning Recipes

Peanut, Caramel & Chocolate Bars Ashley Earl, 1st place, Youth Candy

No-stick cooking spray

3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided

3/4 cup butter, divided

1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups all purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup heavy cream, divided

1 1/2 cups marshmallow cream

1 cup creamy peanut butter, divided

1 1/2 cups salted peanuts, finely chopped

1 (14 ounce) package caramels,unwrapped

1/4 cup butterscotch chips

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Coat 13-inch by 9-inch baking pan lightly with no-stick cooking spray.

Melt 2 cups chocolate chips and 1/2 cup butter in medium saucepan over low heat, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat. Add sweetened condensed milk and vanilla. Stir in flour. Spread in prepared pan. Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until set. Cool.

Melt 1/4 cup butter in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in sugar and 1/4 cup cream. Boil 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in marshmallow cream, 1/4 cup peanut butter and peanuts. Spread evenly over baked layer. Cool.

Cook caramels and 1/4 cup cream in small saucepan over low heat, stirring until caramels are melted. Spread over marshmallow layer. Cool until set.

Combine 1 cup chocolate chips, butterscotch chips and 3/4 cup peanut butter in small saucepan. Cook and stir over low heat until melted. Spread over caramel layer. Chill 30 minutes or until set.

Garnish with more chopped peanuts if desired. Cut into bite size pieces and serve.


Peanut Chocolate Delight Leighanne Kelly, 1st place, Youth Dessert

20 chocolate cream-filled sandwich cookies, divided

2 tablespoons butter, softened

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup peanut butter

1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar, divided

1 carton (16 ounces) frozen whipped topping, thawed, divided

15 miniature peanut butter cups, chopped

1 cup cold milk

1 package (3.9 ounces) instant chocolate fudge pudding mix

Crush 16 cookies; toss with the butter. Press into an ungreased 9-inch square dish; set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, peanut butter and 1 cup confectioners sugar until smooth. Fold in half of the whipped topping. Spread over crust. Sprinkle with peanut butter cups.

In another large bowl, beat the milk, pudding mix and remaining confectioners sugar on low speed for 2 minutes Let stand for 2 minutes or until soft set. Fold in remaining whipped topping.

Spread over peanut butter cups. Crush remaining cookies; sprinkle over the top. Cover and chill at least 3 hours.


Chocolate Peanut Butter Muffins Leighanne Kelly, 1st place, Youth Bread

Makes 12

1/2 cup peanut butter

1/3 cup butter, softened

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup sugar

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 3/4 cups flour

1/4 cup cocoa

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoons baking soda

2/3 cup milk

1 1/2 cups chocolate chips, divided

2 tablespoons peanut butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners and set aside. In large bowl, combine 1/2 cup peanut butter and softened butter and beat well until combined. Add sugar and brown sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat well.

In sifter or sieve, combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, and baking soda. Sift into peanut butter mixture; add milk, and stir until batter is smooth. Fold in 1 cup chocolate chips. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until muffins spring back when touched in center. Remove to wire racks to cool.

In small bowl combine 1/2 cup chocolate chips with 2 tablespoons. peanut butter; microwave on medium power for 1 minute, then remove and stir until smooth. Frost muffins.


Peanut ButterToffee Cheesecake Brownies Robin Roberts, 1st place, Adult Dessert

1 (19.5 ounce) package Pillsbury

Family Size Chocolate Fudge

Brownie Mix

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup water

2 eggs

1 package (8 ounce) cream cheese, softened

1 can (14 ounce) Eagle Brand

Sweetened Condensed Milk

1/2 cup peanut butter

1 bag (8 ounce) Heath milk chocolate toffee bits

1 cup Hersheys milk chocolate baking chips

3 tablespoons whipping cream

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray 13 by 9-inch pan with Crisco Original No-Stick Cooking Spray.

In medium bowl, stir brownie mix, oil, water and eggs 50 strokes with spoon. Spread batter in pan; set aside.

In large bowl, beat cream cheese with electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy. Add milk and peanut butter; beat until smooth. Stir in 1 cup of the toffee bits. Spoon mixture over batter; spread evenly.

Bake 30 to 40 minutes or until cheesecake layer is set and edges are light golden brown. Cool on cooling rack 30 minutes. Refrigerate 40 minutes.

In small microwavable bowl, microwave chocolate chips and cream uncovered on high 40 to 60 seconds or until chips are melted; stir until smooth. Spread over cheesecake layer. Sprinkle with remaining toffee bits. Cool completely, about 1 hour. For brownies, cut into 6 rows by 6 rows.

Store covered in refrigerator.


Recipes for Fall

The peanut harvest signals the season of rich, hearty dishes. The deep flavors are perfect for cooler weather. Flavors can be twisted or turned using a complexity of ingredients or they can be allowed to stand on their own. Think of tomatoes: eat them right off the vine or cook them into a rich sauce. Peanuts are just as versatile.

Red Truck Bakerys West African Peanut Soup

Brian Noyes, Red Truck Bakery & Market, Warrenton, Virginia

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 medium onions, diced

3 ribs of celery, diced

1 large carrot, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes, with liquid

1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced

8 cups chicken or vegetable stock

1 (14 ounce) can of coconut milk

1 teaspoon crushed red chili pepper

2 cups peanut butter

2 cups of cooked chicken, diced or shredded

1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in soup pot, add onion, celery, carrot and garlic, sweat vegetables over medium heat for 5 minutes. Raise heat and add tomatoes, sweet potato, crushed chili, coconut milk and stock, bring to a boil. Stir in peanut butter, simmer over low heat for 45 minutes, adding chicken in the last 10 minutes. Add cilantro and check seasoning just before serving


Hampstead Boiled Peanuts

I am told by the people that buy my boiled peanuts that I make the best boiled peanuts for a Yankee that is. Kevin Emma, Hampstead Peanuts

50 pounds dry, raw, Virginia-type,

North Carolina-grown peanuts

Salt and seasoning to taste

Place them in a stainless steel kettle. Fill it with water and turn on the heat until it reaches a boil.

Then turn down the flame and let simmer for about 10-12 hours stirring every so often, until ready. Test taste. When ready, turn off the heat. Add salt and seasoning. Stir and let sit overnight. Bag peanuts. Reserve some brine to freeze. Reheat peanuts in brine before serving.


Houstons Peanut Haystacks

Houstons Peanuts, Dublin, North Carolina

1 tablespoon peanut butter

1 package (6 ounce)

butterscotch morsels

1 can chow mein noodles

1 cup roasted peanuts

Melt peanut butter and butterscotch morsels together in heavy saucepan over low heat. Mix in noodles and peanuts until all ingredients are well moistened. Form little clusters on foil or waxed paper and allow to harden.

 


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