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By Luella Fischer
According to the National Peanut Board, peanut butter was first introduced at the St. Louis World Fair in 1904 and ever since, statistics show that half of the American peanut crop goes to producing the popular spread. Historians believe a St. Louis physician encouraged a food products company owner in the 1800s, to process ground peanuts as a protein source for those who could not chew meat due to poor teeth health. Later, peanut butter was an important protein source in both World wars. Ever since, peanut butter has been a beloved snack, sandwich spread and devoured additive to our favorite candies and confections.
The peanut plant originated from South America and traveled to Asia and made its way back again to North America. Peanuts, like soybeans, are actually a legume and grow underground. According to the National Peanut Board, the peanut plant flowers above the ground but fruits below ground. This is not typical for most plants. Depending on the variety and condition, the planting to harvest stage is a short four to five months.
Although peanut butters original introduction occurred in Missouri, the crop requires a warmer climate and prominent in the South. Past presidents, Jimmy Carter and Thomas Jefferson were both noted as peanut farmers. But the most notable peanut enthusiast, George Washington Carver, was born in Missouri.
Dr. Carver developed more than 300 uses for peanuts including chili sauce, shampoo, shaving cream and glue. Born in Diamond Grove, Mo., in 1864, Carver began his love for nature and plants early on. He didn’t allow the challenges of wanting to pursue higher education stand in his way.
In 1916, he published, “How to Grow the Peanut and 105 Ways of Preparing it For Human Consumption.” At the time, the boll weevil had destroyed the South’s cotton crop and many farmers had turned to peanuts as a cash crop. Dr. Carver and his research contributions helped save a dying economy in the south. Sharecroppers were growing peanuts, utilizing the oil and eating any remaining crop, following Carver’s discoveries.
Records show that peanuts were grown as a commercial crop beginning in the early 1800’s. They were first grown in Virginia and used as a cocoa substitute and mainly for food and oil. At this time, peanuts were a primary source for livestock and considered a common food eaten by the poor. Many felt that peanuts were difficult to grow and harvest.
Next time you enjoy a spoonful of peanut butter, remember: you are eating a portion of the 1.5 billion pounds consumed by Americans each year. And it all started at the St. Louis 1904 World’s Fair.
Fun Fact: It takes about 540 peanuts to make a 12-ounce jar of peanut butter.
Honey Roasted Peanut Crusted Pork Loin
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 pound pork tenderloin
- 1/2 cup honey roasted peanuts, finely chopped
- Combine first six ingredients in a small bowl. Mix well.
- Rub the pork loin with the olive oil and then rub with spice mixture, making sure to thoroughly coat.
- Place the pork loin in a large plastic bag and seal. Refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.
- Before baking, roll the pork loin in the chopped honey roasted peanuts, pressing firmly to make sure the peanuts stick.
- Bake at 400°F for 25 minutes or until a thermometer registers 140° F. Remove from oven; let stand 5 minutes before serving.
Makes 4 servings.
Peanut Butter Banana Bread
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 cup peanuts, chopped
- 1/4 cup wheat germ
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 eggs, room temperature
- 2 1/3 cups sugar
- 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
- 1/2 cup canola oil
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups coarsely mashed bananas (about 3-4)
- In a medium bowl, combine flours, peanuts, wheat germ, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Beat eggs in large bowl. Add sugar; beat until creamy. Add peanut butter, oil and vanilla; beat well.
- Add banana, beat 1 minute. Stir in dry ingredients until blended.
- Spray two pans with non-cooking spray. Divide batter equally between pans; tap on countertop settle batter.
- Bake at 375°F 55 to 65 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
- Cool in pans 10 minutes. Turn out onto rack; cool completely. Slice 32 slices when cool.
Luella Fischer enjoys writing and has a passion for cooking and Missouri history. She is also the author of a children’s book series and directs a Missouri Farmers Care agriculture education program where third graders have the opportunity to make bread, plant seeds, and experience food and agriculture hands-on.