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Peanut is a legume that is obtained from the species of ‘bean’ family. Peanut is also popularly known as groundnut. The flower of this herbaceous plant has a typical pea shape with yellowish rough covering. Inside the covering, 2-3 seeds exist and these edible seeds are called peanuts. Peanut is basically known for the oil obtained from it and it is also added to various recipes to give a nutty flavor. Some of the popular peanut recipes are peanut butter, peanut cookies and salted peanuts.

History of Peanut

The first domestication of peanut was done in Peru. In pre-Columbian times, peanuts were depicted as a part of art and culture. From Peru, the cultivation of peanuts has spread to Mexico and later peanut plant became popular throughout the Europe.

Culinary Use of Peanut

Peanut is widely used as a snack. Salted peanuts, masala peanuts and fried peanuts are good for munching. Many popular confections also include peanuts as a whole or in crushed form. Most common culinary use of peanuts is to make peanut butter. It is widely used as a spread in sandwiches and pancakes. Peanut sauce is also a very popular peanut recipe. In pilaf and other ice dishes, peanuts are used as a garnish. Peanut oil is also known for its mild flavor. It has high smoking point. Many top culinary chefs use peanut flour in their recipes due to its good protein content and flavor enhancing properties. Peanut dishes made with peanut flour are usually gluten-free.

Popular Peanut Recipes

• Tomato peanut chutney – It is one of the popular peanut recipes from India. It is used as a dip or as a side dish.

• Peanut rice – In this dish crushed peanuts are used as garnish on the top of the rice.

• Peanut butter – It is one of the most commonly used peanut recipes across the world. In this recipe roasted peanuts are crushed and mixed with oil in a food processor. Peanut butters serve as a nice spread.

• Peanut candy – It’s a popular confection served in international cuisine. Peanuts are dipped in caramel and set aside to get hard. It can also be eaten as a sweet snack.

Cuisines Commonly Making Peanut Dishes

The native cuisine of peanuts is Peruvian cuisine; hence it is used in making various peanut dishes in Peruvian cuisine. A Peruvian dish called ‘papas con ocopa’ is made by pouring peanut sauce over potatoes. In this cuisine, peanut sauce mixed with onion and garlic is also used with seafood and meat. In Indian and Pakistani cuisine, peanut is mainly eaten as a snack. Various sweet and salad dishes also make good use of peanuts to give a crunchy texture. A spicy sauce is made in Indonesian cuisine that includes peanuts as the main ingredient. This sauce is poured over many peanut dishes including gado-gado and ketoprak. American cuisine exhibits various peanut recipes that are used to make desserts and candies.

Preferred Methods of Making Peanut Dishes

Peanut dishes are quiet popular in global cuisines. There are several methods in which peanuts can be used while cooking. Some of them are as follows:

• Roasted – Roasted peanuts are added to various dishes such as peanut butter, salads and rice dishes.

• Boiled – Boiled peanuts are used to make peanut sauce and chutney.

• Crushed – Peanuts are crushed to make garnish for various rice and savory dishes.

• Caramelized – Caramelized peanut dishes are served as peanut candies.

• Baked – Peanuts are often added to baked items such as cookies, muffins and cakes.

Nutritive Value of Peanuts

Peanut is an excellent source of 30 phytonutrients. Protein contents are very high in peanuts along with other nutrients such as manganese, phosphorus, vitamin E, folate and dietary fiber. It is believed that consumption of peanut and peanut dishes increases fat but this is ‘good fat’ or unsaturated fats. The niacin present in peanuts also helps in smooth blood flow and maintaining a healthy brain.

Consumption Criteria of Peanut and Peanut Dishes

Consuming peanuts might cause allergies in some people. Due to this reason it is advised to eat peanuts and peanut dishes with extra care. There is a substance called ‘aflatoxin’ that is found to contaminate peanuts that may cause cancer hence it is dangerous to consume contaminated peanuts.

Food and Drug Administration Approval for Peanuts

FDA released a report in 2003, that peanut is helpful in maintaining a healthy cholesterol level in body. Studies also revealed that consumption of peanut reduces danger of heart diseases.

Buying and Storing of Peanuts

While buying either shelled peanuts or unshelled peanuts it is advised to reject the discolored peanuts because they may get rancid very fast and catch contamination from aflatoxin. Peanuts should be stored in refrigerator either in shells or without shells. Unshelled peanuts can be stored for at least nine months and shelled peanuts can be stored for up to three months in refrigerator.

Types of Peanuts

There are several species and varieties of peanuts cultivated but only three varieties are suitable for human consumption. Here is the list:

• Spanish peanuts – This variety is mainly grown in South Africa, Southeast and Southwest US. This type of peanut has high oil contents.

• Virginia peanuts – This is the large seeded variety of peanut grown in States of US. This is an ideal choice for roasting, salting and for adding in confections.

• Valencia peanut – It has red stems with coarse texture. Its commercial production is highest in New Mexico.

Peanut Trivia

• 20% of peanut’s world production is used in manufacturing chocolates.

• The US state Georgia produces the largest amount of peanuts.