Who's asking: Chris Neely, St. Louis, MO
This is the last peanut question for a while, I think -- although I am very fond of peanuts, alone and as peanut butter. I don't really like peanuts in things, and peanut butter-flavored stuff is usually gross... exceptions to this are Isamax's peanut butter whoopie pie and the peanut-butter filled, chocolate-frosted doughnuts at Stan's in Westwood.
But I digress. Peanuts are called peanuts because they look like peas and taste like nuts. The word "peanut" dates to 1807, approximately; before that, they were called ground nuts and ground peas. The British also called them "monkey nuts."
A nut, botanically, is the hard, one-seeded fruit of a tree. Peanuts grow on vines, not on trees, they're not hard, and they grow two or three to a pod. So they're not nuts.
This begs the next question, "What is a legume?" A legume is a pod that splits into two valves, with the seeds attached to one side of the valve. That describes peanuts, peas and beans. It also describes tamarinds, which I would never have classified as legumes, but actually are.
Peanut butter and tamarind paste might be a pretty good combination, now I think of it.