History of the Boiled Peanut

The earliest known history of the peanut was that it originated in Brazil, South America.  Visiting Portuguese and Spanish ships transported the peanut to Africa around 1500.  Although now commonly referred to as a peanut, the peanut is actually a legume, a member of the bean family.  After flower pollination, the stalks actually bend and burrow into the earth, where the fruit develops underground.  The boiled peanut is specifically green peanuts fresh out of the ground.

Other common names were ground nuts, ground peas, pindars (from the Kongo language – mpinda), and goobers – from the Angolan word nguba.

Although the history of the peanut is vague, it is believed it was brought to the southeast US during the 17th and 18th centuries.  Carried on ships for provisions on long voyages.  The Gardner’s Dictionary of 1754 states “all the settlements in America abound with it (the peanut)”.

In 1847 the first peanut recipe was included in Sarah Rutledge’s book Carolina Housewife a recipe for ground-nut soup.   Which interestingly states ingredients as “beaten peanuts simmered with a pint of oysters and a seed pepper”.

The nut also was the inspiration for the acclaimed song Goober Peas printed as sheet music in New Orleans in 1866, composed by A. Pinder and P. Nutt.  With its catchy refrain of “Peas!  Peas!  Peas!  Peas!  Eating goober peas!  Goodness how delicious, eating goober peas.”

Many state that the history of boiled peanuts started during the Civil war (1861-1865).  When troops were cut off from supply chains, peanuts became an important source of food.  Other historians claim that the reason was not desperation, but more likely that the soldiers liked the tasty snack.  The easiest way for soldiers to cook the peanut was roasted or boiled.  By adding salt in the boiling process the peanut could be preserved for up to seven days, not only that but the salt killed impurities and bacteria.  No one quite knows where the salt supplies came from.

Soldiers were often referred to as ‘goober-grabbers’.  In 1856, the Jackson Clarion of Mississippi stated the soldiers “never fought better than with a goober patch in their rear”.

With shortages abounding during the war the peanut was used in a variety of manners including machine oil, cooking oil, feeding livestock, and acting as a coffee substitute.

As the popularity of the peanut increased, a result of demands from the north, more and more peanuts were shipped to the northern states.  In 1871, the Scientific American states “There is hardly an article of American production that has grown so rapidly in importance as the peanut”.

By 1921, ‘Hawking’ peanuts became the side hustle of small sidewalk vendors, shops, and most notably the roadside stands.

During the 1930s cooks were vying for the title of best peanut cooker in their area.

The turn of the 20th century is when boiled peanuts started to become the snack of choice in Southern society.  It was quite fashionable to serve boiled peanuts at weddings and parties.

Today the peanut is incorporated into many gourmet recipes such as “country ham braised peanuts” PBS, A Chef’s Life, Vivian Howard.

As for this Southerner, I’ll stick to the good old boiled peanut!

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Written by Brenda Lewis

Brenda Lewis is a native of Jackson County. She has attended the University of Southern Mississippi on numerous occasions, earning a BS in Architectural Technology, advanced studies in Accounting and now on a mission to finalize her Masters of Business Administration.
Brenda is an avid fisherwoman, owns her own boat, baits her own hook, cleans her own fish and cooks them. But sorry guys, she has a loving husband, daughter and 4 grandchildren. When unable to fish her spare time is spent in the greenhouse and garden, supplying fresh edibles for the family and cultivating local species and rarities.
In 2007 her team was awarded the 2007 Golden Eagle Challenge from the University of Southern Mississippi. The challenge was to create the best business plan and presentation of a viable technological business. In 2015 she was certified as a TapRoot Cause Analyst, a system used to improve performance, fixing small problems to avoid major incidents.
Having worked in a small family business since childhood she was exposed to entrepreneurship. That experience led her to her own business, tax preparation, where she served her loyal clients for 10 years. During that time, she earned the Enrolled Agent certification with the IRS, and insurance and security licenses, offering additional services to her clients.
Her employment has been in private business, government, contract and corporate settings. Mostly in management, her tasks included a variety of administrative, safety, Quality control and human resources.
“The reason I want to write for OurMsHome is I have experienced the advancements in Jackson County first hand over the past 50 years, and I feel that the county has made enormous progress. We need to ‘toot our horn’ and let the world know about our rich history and abundant natural resources.”

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