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.
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!
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.
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.