Peanuts in Pennsylvania

Peanut 'Early Spanish'

Text and photos ©Nancy J. Ondra

As I was ordering vegetable seeds last year, I ran across a listing for ‘Early Spanish’ peanuts, and I absolutely had to order some. Would I even be able to grow them here? Would they need a lot of pampering? Would I actually get a harvest from them? On our afternoon walk that day, I reported my great find to Mom and rambled on a bit about what I’d read about growing them. When I stopped to take a breath, she calmly replied “You used to love to grow those when you were little.” What? I’m pretty sure I’d remember that, but well, I’ll defer to her on that point. Maybe I did plant them, but did I ever harvest any? She’s not too clear on that, so maybe that’s why I don’t remember the experience. Because with peanuts, the real fun is in the harvesting, not in the growing.

Sprouting them was easy enough. I started a half-dozen plants indoors on a heating mat about 4 weeks before our last frost date, then set them out around the end of May.

Peanut 'Early Spanish'

They were in flower by the end of June, I think, with small, yellow blossoms. They weren’t all that exciting, so I forgot to look closely to see the really neat part: Once the flowers are fertilized, they bend downward and push an inch or two into the soil, a process called pegging. So aboveground, it doesn’t look like much of anything is happening; the real action is underground. It’s probably just as well I didn’t think about that, or I’d probably have poked around in the soil and damaged the developing peanuts.

Around the end of October, I was doing some cleanup in the veg garden and found the peanut plants, which had been partially swamped by some winter squash vines. The plants didn’t look too promising, but I grabbed a fork to dig them up, and wonder of wonders, they had peanuts!

Peanut 'Early Spanish'

Eager to sample my harvest, I washed off the roots, picked off a plump-looking peanut, pried open the soft shell, and popped one of the pale seeds into my mouth. Hmmm. It was kind of crispy, kind of starchy-tasting, but overall not much of a thrill in the flavor department.

Peanut 'Early Spanish'

I was rather disappointed, but then I thought, well, maybe they were supposed to dry out some after harvest, so I left them out for a week or two, then clipped the clusters into a paper bag. I sure wish I’d tried to taste them again at that point, because for the life of me, I can’t figure out now what I did with the bag after that. Gee, maybe there’s some cosmic reason I’m doomed to forget my peanut-growing experiences. I’d try growing them again this year, but, um…I’ve forgotten where I put the seeds.

11 responses to this post.

  1. Nancy, maybe they need to be roasted and salted?

    I know that at the flower shows around here they give kids peanut seeds to plant so they must be fairly easy to grow.

    Don’t know if I’d try them myself, I think I’d rather have a friend try them and go visit and see :-)

    Hi Melanie! I think you’re right about the roasting and salting. I guess I won’t know for sure unless I try to grow them again. Or unless I can convince a friend to grow them, as you suggest – a much better idea!
    -Nan

  2. Well, *I’m* impressed. Peanuts right here in scenic PA, and a harvest, too! Who’d’a thunk. Maybe you just needed to roast them to bring out the flavor. Of course, I can’t help wondering if a delegation of mice might have carried off the entire bag, in which case, no wonder you can’t find it! (Not that you’d want to now…) So, what weird and wonderful veggie are you going to try instead this year?

    You too think roasting is the answer, I see. Since I don’t have a proper oven, I wouldn’t have been able to try that anyway. Somehow I’m guessing that microwaving would not give the same results. Weird veggies for this year? Oh, I have lots of cool things in my seed stash, and I’ll write about them as they progress!
    -Nan

  3. I like boiled peanuts. It’s not something everyone enjoys though. Occasionally down south you’ll pass a peanut stand that sells boiled peanuts.

    Oh, thanks, Robin! I do have the technology to boil stuff, so maybe that’s an option if I try them again.
    -Nan

  4. I know you will have a laugh at me when I say this .. its ok ..
    I still can NOT believe peanuts come from under ground !!!!! haha
    Joy
    Are you sure there isn’t some sort of peanut tree hiding there ? LOL

    They do, Joy, they do! It doesn’t seem possible, but it is. I think you need to try them for yourself!
    -Nan

  5. Too bad you forgot those peanuts, I’ll bet they would be great roasted, how about a toaster oven? There is a great peanut farm in Ontario, Canada called Colonel Peanut. I took the tour there from the planting, to harvesting, to roasting. I would not have guessed that peanuts would grow so far north there either. Sorry, no website. But the point is…peanuts growing in winter land.

    Frances at Faire Garden

    Oh, yes, I can make toast! Maybe that would work. Still, I had some vague idea that home-grown might taste really good without being “processed.” And peanuts in Canada? I realize they have some very mild areas, but I wouldn’t have thought of peanuts growing there. But then, I wasn’t sure they’d grow in PA, either!
    -Nan

  6. Oh my gosh, how wonderful is this? We were given peanut seeds to grow at my first visit to the Cincinnati Flower Show several years ago and I never did anything with them, because I figured it was useless. They are still around here somewhere…

    What is it about those elusive peanuts? LOL

    Sneaky little buggers, aren’t they? If you find them, maybe it would be worth giving them a try!
    -Nan

  7. I grow peanuts here in Chicagoland. I don’t plant them, my squirrels do! If I don’t find them in time, they sprout & start growing. I’ve never allowed 1 to mature, so I don’t know if what would be produced would be worth eating.

    Your squirrels must be very well fed, MMD. Any time we put out whole peanuts, they shell and devour them right on the spot! Maybe you’d want to leave one of your volunteers this year and see if you get anything.
    -Nan

  8. Peanuts–how cool! I’d never heard of pegging before–it’s fascinating.

    Maybe you’ll try them sometime, Brianna. I’m sure they’d be much happier in your area than mine!
    -Nan

  9. Very interesting post. I am so foolish that I thought they were nuts on bushes. Now I know how it is! Thank’s.

    Hardly foolish, Marie. It’s hard to imagine that they form underground, because it’s so different from what we expect!
    -Nan

  10. Posted by edward on October 8, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    I saw this webpage because I was researching peanuts. I live in berks county PA. I was joking about growing peanuts with friends and family. Well one day my wife’s uncle brought over a pack of seed he had in his garage and he never tried it. So I planted them at the end of May, since then half of the seeds grew and it was slow at first. every other week for about 2 months (june and july) I mixed 1 tbs of miracle grow with 1 gal of water. then they grew at a fast rate and started flowering with little yellow flowers. Now it is the beggining of October and still did not harvest. I was wondering how do I know when to harvest them. The leaves are still green and still what looks like still growing. I am gonna give somemore miracle grow but my main question is when should I harvest them. It is getting near freezing temperatures at night. Any advice would be appreciated.

    Hi Edward. I let them grow as long as possible, so I’d suggest waiting another week or two before lifting the plants with a digging fork. It’s ok if the tops get frost-nipped a bit. I wouldn’t fertilize them any more, though.
    -Nan

  11. Posted by Jim Strey on January 3, 2010 at 10:32 am

    I had an interesting thing happen. When I came home to my Florida house, I noticed an unusual plant by my front door. Looked like a weed. But when I pulled it up, I noticed a peanut had taken root and sprouted. So I replanted it and am now waiting for something to happen. Got so interested that I might just plant some in my garden this year.

    That’s pretty cool, Jim. You must have been very surprised! I hope you have equally good luck growing them intentionally.
    -Nan

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