Origins of Peanuts

So it seems that there is some confusion between peanuts and tree nuts. When I tell people my daughter has a severe peanut allergy they will usually ask if she can have other nuts like almonds or pecans.  I have a whole speech saved in my head for just that occasion. I explain that peanuts are a legume. Legumes are in the bean family and grow in the ground, while tree nuts (hence the name) grow on trees. I find it interesting that people are so used to shopping at the stores and finding things on shelves, that they don’t really know the origin of their food.  So let’s talk about peanuts…

According to Wilkipedia – The peanut, or groundnut (Arachis hypogaea), is a species in the legume or “bean” family (Fabaceae). The peanut was probably first domesticated and cultivated in the valleys of Paraguay.[1] It is an annual herbaceous plant growing 30 to 50 cm (1.0 to 1.6 ft) tall. The leaves are oppositepinnate with four leaflets (two opposite pairs; no terminal leaflet), leaflet is 1 to 7 cm (⅜ to 2¾ in) long and 1 to 3 cm (⅜ to 1 inch) broad.

The flowers are a typical peaflower in shape, 2 to 4 cm (0.8 to 1.6 in) (¾ to 1½ in) across, yellow with reddish veining. each Hypogaea means “under the earth”; after pollination, the flower stalk elongates causing it to bend until the ovary touches the ground. Continued stalk growth then pushes the ovary underground where the mature fruit develops into a legume pod, the peanut – a classical example of geocarpy. Pods are 3 to 7 cm (1.2 to 2.8 in) long, containing 1 to 4 seeds.[2]

Peanuts are known by many other local names such as earthnutsground nutsgoober peasmonkey nutspygmy nuts and pig nuts.[3] Despite its name and appearance, the peanut is not a nut, but rather a legume.

Archeologists have dated the oldest specimens to about 7,600 years, found in Peru.[6] Cultivation spread as far as Mesoamerica, where the Spanish conquistadors found the tlalcacahuatl (Nahuatl = “peanut”, whence Mexican Spanishcacahuate and French, cacahuète) being offered for sale in the marketplace of Tenochtitlan (Mexico City). The plant was later spread worldwide by European traders.

Although the peanut was mainly a garden crop for much of the colonial period of North America, it was mostly used as animal feed stock until the 1930s.[7] In the United States, a US Department of Agriculture program (see below) to encourage agricultural production and human consumption of peanuts was instituted in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. George Washington Carver is well known for his participation in that program in which he developed hundreds of recipes for peanuts.


About Annie

I have a daughter with a severe peanut allergy. She was diagnosed when she was 2. She is 11 now. I have lived the battles of having a child with food allergies, and feel education and awareness makes all the difference.

Posted on June 4, 2013, in Important Information, Peanut Allergy, Peanut Free and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. This is so common! A child in my sons class with a peanut allergy (which I heard the mom say was NOT ana and the child could sit next to another child eating peanuts, he just couldnt consume them). So ALL nuts are banned from the class. First they just sent home a note about peanuts which I was fine with. We use alternate butters when in public anyway. Then we got a note about snacks that they have at 1:30p and it said that there was a child with a peanut allergy so ‘therefore all nuts are banned from the classroom.’ Shane had a bar with almonds one day and the teacher told him he couldnt have it. I contacted her and told her that since almonds and peanuts were not in the same family that I didnt understand, because peanuts/peas/beans were in the same family and it would make more more sense to ban those. Though tree nuts are often processed at the same facilities as peanuts and should be eaten with caution by those ana to peanuts, they are not related to peanuts and it made no sense to ban all nuts to me. But it seems it is school policy? I was annoyed but didnt push it because I didnt want to appear to be ‘that parent’ and though I am totally fine with avoiding allergens or potential allergens, we spent a school year avoiding foods we didnt have to in the class. I heard the mom say it was only peanuts too (I was next to her when she was talking to the teacher about the issue) and no other foods. Then, in all the future notes home, it said ‘please remember for allergy reasons not to bring any foods containing nuts.’ This could be dangerous, because to ME, that doesnt mean peanuts, it means tree nuts.

    • I completely agree with you! I think the concern and ban on all nuts has to do with people not understanding and not knowing how to read labels. Yes, it is common for tree nuts and peanuts to be processed in the same facility, or on the same equipment, which would mean a peanut allergic child cannot have them. However, Bean can have almond milk, and she has had pecan pie. She has had honey roasted almond slices from Trader Joe’s. The biggest thing is to read the labels and really read the warnings! IF it is made on the same equipment, may contain trace amounts, made in the same facility, etc, then they are not safe, otherwise she can have it. She eats Jif’s Hazelnut butter, Nutella, and Almond butter. All contain tree nuts.

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