This spring try a plant which is easy to grow, tolerates our alkaline soil, is good to eat, and is fun to share. Peanuts, quite humble and simple, offer a good return on your gardening investment.
Peanuts can be ordered through seed catalogues and planted in the spring. A loose sandy soil is ideal. Seeds are usually planted 2 inches deep and 4 inches apart - rows spaced 2 to 3 feet apart, but planting instructions vary according to the peanut variety selected. Peanut plants have an orderly bushy appearance and grow two to three feet high.
When blossoms arrive the process to form the peanut has begun. A small nodule replaces the yellow flower at the end of a tendril which turns and stretches itself back towards the soil. When the blossoming period is over, more soil can be heaped around the base of the plant. It is in this soil that the peanut develops. Peanuts grow underground like potatoes and are harvested in a similar manner. Peanut plants should be watered regularly and thoroughly to assure the good development of the nut.
In the fall the soil is loosened and the whole plant is pulled up. After pulling up the plant, spray it with a water mist to remove loose soil which may cling to the shell. The whole plant is dried by hanging in bunches from the leaves or thrown in the bed of an old truck where the sun dries them easily. The peanut is surrounded by a moist shell and requires drying for two or three weeks before it is easily removed from the shell.
The final enjoyment of feeling the snap between your fingers when you open the shell, tossing the peanuts towards your mouth, and rolling them around a little before crunching down on them with your teeth culminates the total gardening experience.
Children love to participate in the growing of a peanut crop. The placing of the peanut in the soil as a seed may seem a bit odd to them. Physically digging and pulling the peanut plant from the earth makes it all seem fun. Leaving the peanuts to dry for a few weeks may teach children to develop patience since the peanuts are very moist when taken from the soil and quite difficult to remove from the shell. The final reward of eating something fun to open and crunchy to chew really gives children pleasure:
2 Cups raw peanuts, skin on
I Cup sugar
1/2 Cup water
Place peanuts, sugar and water in frying pan. Mix well. Bring to boil and continue to cook, stirring constantly until water completely evaporates - about 7 minutes. Peanuts will be sugar coated. Separate so they aren't clumped together and place in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 300 degrees for 30 minutes. Coo! and then enjoy! - Carolyn Gruenhagen