Monday, April 16, 2007

Why are they called "Spanish" peanuts?

Who's asking: An anonymous Google searcher from British Columbia

"Spanish" peanuts are one of the four most popular types of peanuts grown for commercial use today; the others are Virginia, Runner, and Valencia. Spanish peanuts are high in oil and flavor, have smaller kernels than Virginia or Runner peanuts, have red skins and are often used to make peanut brittle.

They're called Spanish peanuts because those varieties -- now grown in South Africa and the United States, mostly -- were developed in Spain, in the late 18th century. Peanuts as a species originated in South America (Peru or Argentina), and Spanish and Portuguese explorers took them to Africa, Asia and Europe. Spanish explorers brought the "Virginia" varieties with them from the West Indies to Mexico, and the "Peruvian" variety from Peru to the Philippines and China. The "Spanish" variety actually seems to have originated in Brazil; the "Valencia" varieties, also developed in Spain, first came from Argentina.

Peanuts are an international food staple. They're not nuts at all, but legumes that grow on vines or stalks. They need hot summers, alternating wet and dry weather, and sandy soil -- which is why they do so well in the Virginia and Georgia tidewater regions. One interesting bit of trivia is that peanuts weren't commonly grown in the South until the 1850s, when farmers started planting them in soil that had been exhausted by cotton. Lucky for the Confederate Army, which survived on "goober peas;" they wouldn't have gotten very far eating cotton.

The "historic" storm we were supposed to get yesterday is just a lot of rain, I'm glad to say. I leave very early tomorrow morning for a quick trip to New York, so posting may be late or absent altogether until Thursday.

8 comments: said...

Hi, there.
Thank you for the info;
the classification and its origins of peanuts.
I've come to your good writings in serching for what is "Spanish Peanuts" which I've got from a Whole Foods Market by a friend as a gift who travelled US recently.
We enjoyed very much the tast along with your historical overview,,, became more delicious!

Thank you again and have a good day!

Christina Gore said...

yes, thank you very much for sharing your knowledge of legumes.CLG

Stephanie said...

Wow, I love your blog. Thanks for the info!

Francisco Belmonte said...

Hi. I realized that your entry dates from 2007 although I just stumbled upon it in 2015. Anyways, just wanted to point out that the Spanish never brought peanuts to Mexico; they found them there. As means of proof you can look at the Mexican Spanish word for peanut: "cacahuate" which comes from the Nahuatl (ancient central Mexican) word "tlalcacahuatl" which the conquistadors couldn't pronounce and they changed to "cacahuete". The Spanish indeed spread the legume worldwide, but certainly not to the place where they first found it.

Anonymous said...

I like the smaller, brown-skinned Spanish Peanut and no site or blog has addressed the nutritional benefits of eating the brown skin or removing the brown skin. Is there a health benefit to eating the skin?

Delwingoss said...

These are my favorite peanuts but man... they are really hard to find in the local grocery stores.

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