I was hosted on this trip, and have been compensated for this post by Texas Peanut Producers Board. The opinions are my own.
Earlier this month I had the opportunity to visit West Texas to learn about peanut farming and production, as well as the multiple benefits of peanuts. While I have always been a fan of peanuts (see some of my favorite peanut recipes below), this trip offered me unparalleled insight into a process that does so much more for the environment and local economy than I could have imagined. My love for peanuts has multiplied as a result, and I hope you can take some of what I learned away from today’s post.
Thank you to Texas Peanut Producers Board for a wonderful and memorable opportunity, and for the local farmers and business owners for taking the time to show this city girl where her peanut recipe ingredients come from!
Mind-Blowing Peanut Fact One: Peanuts are not actually nuts. They are legumes.
This fact just blew my mind. What also blew many of my followers’ minds when I posted about it on Instagram and my Instagram Story (you can see all my behind-the-scenes moments from the Texas Peanut Blogger Tour on my highlighted Instagram Story here) was the somewhat surprising fact that peanuts are grown underground, and not on a tree. But these were just the first of several fascinating peanut facts!
About 200,000 acres of peanuts are planted by Texas farmers each year. The peanut farming process was central to our tour, and we learned so many cool things from West Texas peanut farmers like Mason Becker of 4M Farms (who is also the President of the West Texas Young Farmers Association – more on that below). We got a hands-on experience with peanuts out in his fields, from root to legume to leaves. Being a legume, these plants have a unique feature that takes free nitrogen out of the air, processes it in little nodules in the roots, and turns it into its own fertilizer of plant-ready nitrogen. This can also help other crops when used as a rotation plant, as many peanut farmers do.
Mind-Blowing Peanut Fact Two: It takes only 4.7 gallons of water to grow an ounce of peanuts (whereas an ounce of almonds requires 80 gallons).
Peanut farming has many ecological benefits, with water efficiency being a pretty significant one. They are smart plants that create their own micro-climates and adapt to pause growth during dry weather conditions. Their deep roots can reach water from the soil better than some other plants, too.
In addition to the water efficiency compared with other nuts, peanuts are shelf-stable and can provide nutrition for a long time with little waste. During our visit to a Birdsong Peanuts shelling facility, we saw how even discarded parts of peanuts, like shells, are used for animal feed and pet litter. When asked if the leaves from the peanut plants are used for food, Mason Becker shared that they usually churn the leaves back into the soil. I didn’t know just how efficient and low-waste peanut farming and production was until this trip.
As mentioned above, the peanut plant sustains in its environment by creating its own nitrogen and fertilizer, which not only prevents the need for added nutrients and fertilizers, but also helps conserve and sustain the soil for the next peanut plants or other crops in their rotation.
Mind-Blowing Peanut Fact Three: Texas is the second largest peanut producing state in the US.
Texas farmers grow all four market types of peanuts, and are the only state to produce all four varieties plus organic peanuts. The types of peanuts are:
Runner Peanut: Accounting for 80% of the peanuts grown in the US, Runner Peanuts are used most commonly for peanut butter.
Virginia Peanut: These are “ballpark peanuts,” which are the largest in size and commonly used for gourmet snacks.
Spanish Peanut: These stand out because of their red skin, and are a smaller variety. Spanish Peanuts are primarily used as salted peanuts and in peanut candy.
Valencia Peanut: Valencias are unique for their sweeter taste and containing three or more kernels in a shell. They are commonly used as boiled peanuts.
At the Birdsong Peanuts shelling facility we visited, we learned more about how these Texas peanuts make it from the farm out to purchasing customers (think JIF for their peanut butter or Mars for their nutty candy bars). I hadn’t considered before this trip how important size and consistency would be to purchasers. But when you think about the size needed for a consistent bag of peanut M&Ms, or a consistent size for roasting nuts so that none burn before being made into peanut butter, it makes perfect sense that quality and consistency are key. Texas peanuts can be trusted for these factors, and companies like Birdsong take it to the next step to ensure quality and size sorting to keep customers happy with the peanuts used in their end-products.
Mind-Blowing Peanut Fact Four: Each year Americans consume 600 million pounds of peanuts and 700 million pounds of peanut butter.
We sure eat a lot of peanuts! And while peanut butter is the most popular way to consume peanuts, there are so many other great ways to incorporate them into your diet. On the first evening of the tour we had dinner at Las Brisas Steakhouse in Lubbock. The chef had some custom-prepared items for our group that included peanuts in unique ways. For example:
Tuna sashimi topped with wasabi-soaked peanuts
Street tacos with a peanut sauce
I use peanuts in a lot of my home cooking as well. Here is a round-up of some of my favorite peanut recipes. You will definitely want to pin these:
After School Snack Idea: PBJ “Sushi” (Fab Everyday)
Peanut Butter Chocolate Mousse Parfait (Hip Foodie Mom)
Classic Peanut Butter Cookies (Allrecipes)
“The King” Cupcakes (The Disney Diner)
Peanut Butter Pie (Allrecipes)
Mind-Blowing Peanut Fact Five: Peanuts have many health benefits, including reducing the risk of obesity, diabetes, and many other diseases.
Peanuts provide 29 essential vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and antioxidants. Talk about a healthy snack choice! While being cholesterol-free, peanuts are also low in saturated fats and high in both protein (with more protein than any other nut) and fiber, which are great for your muscles, bones, organs, and skin. On top of this, Texas peanuts are packed with high oleic monounsaturated fats (the good fats you find in things like avocado and olive oil).
“But what about allergies?” you may be thinking. I have learned from the Texas Peanut Board that there have been many promising new research efforts studying ways to successfully manage peanut allergies. Families can learn more here, but by working together, doctors, parents, and educators have been very successful in managing exposure to peanuts in schools and public settings. Based on the results from this study (which showed a reduction in the development of peanut allergies of up to 86 percent by children who were exposed to peanut protein early), experts at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) are rethinking the approach to food allergy prevention. NIAID’s new guidelines recommend introducing peanut protein to infants as early as 4-6 months of age, depending on risk factors. Speak to your doctor to understand your family’s risk factor and create a plan that’s right for your family.
Mind-Blowing Peanut Fact Six: Many of Texas’ peanut farmers are passionate about promoting Agriculture through community involvement and education to secure the industry for future generations.
One of my favorite moments of the tour was having lunch with some of the members of the West Texas Young Farmers Association. Those involved with WTYFA recognize that there is a growing gap between those involved in Agriculture and those who are not, which can lead not only to a shortage of future Ag career-seekers, but also opens the door for misunderstanding and misrepresentation. From the WTYFA’s mission: “Our organization’s goals are to promote the positive aspects of agriculture through as many outlets as possible. Including community outreach projects, in-school education and training for our youth, while also being involved and active in our government.”
It was awe-inspiring to see how passionate these farmers and others in the Ag fields are in fighting for the voice of the farmer to be heard at all levels of government (local, state, and federal) to protect the industry for future generations. You can learn more about what they’re doing on their Facebook page here.
In addition to those mentioned above, we were hosted by other partners during our time in Lubbock. Stay tuned for more reviews and recommendations for the Overton Hotel, McPherson Cellars and La Diosa Cellars, who all deserve a visit when you are in town.
Thank you again to the Texas Peanut Producers Board for hosting me on this trip, and thank you all for following along. I hope you have a new appreciation for peanuts after all this enlightenment!