Quest for the perfect peanut

We’ve been looking for raw in the shell Spanish peanuts and have been surprised at how hard they are to find. There was a time, and not so long ago, when this was not a problem.

It was possible, if you didn’t grow them, to go to the farmers market or even some grocery stores and buy these peanuts in bulk.

But not now. Fifty years ago, Spanish peanuts were easily found all over the South and made up most of the peanut crop. But now they’re mostly grown in Texas and Oklahoma.

olivia6-25 Page 4A.inddThe Fowler clan prefers Spanish peanuts because they all love boiled peanuts and believe this is the best kind to boil. Each year about this time, they boil a bunch and freeze them. Fowler sets up his operation in the tractor shed. He uses a huge stainless steel stock pot that holds about 12 pounds of peanuts and cooks them in salted water for a couple of hours.

This year has been challenging, because we found you can order unshelled raw peanuts online, but there are only two varieties available at this time.

One thing that’s been a problem is flooding from Hurricane Matthew. Some places haven’t been able to get into the fields to harvest.

Now, Virginia peanuts, a recent peanut on the scene, can be found. They are larger than Spanish, but don’t have the red skin or the higher oil content that gives the Spanish peanut such a distinct flavor. Valencia peanuts have excellent flavor, as do the green runner peanuts, but the Fowler clan wants only the Spanish peanut.

By the way, it’s not really Spanish. The earliest peanuts date from 7,000 years ago in Peru. The Spanish took them to Europe, and traders took them to Africa and a bunch of other places.

America got them when slaves came to our shores from West Africa.

That’s also how we got okra and sweet potatoes, staples in southern cooking.

But I digress.

Anyway, this year we’re settling for green runner peanuts from Hardy Farms in Georgia. We’re ordering a bushel and dividing among the clan. Our daughter and son-in-law in Nashville have already put in their order and expect to pick up their boiled peanuts at Thanksgiving.

Now I know I’m in a minority here when admitting the fact that I don’t care for boiled peanuts. I’ve learned over the years not to say, “I don’t like them.” The proper thing to say is, “No thank you. I don’t care for them.”

Roasted peanuts are my preference. Hot roasted peanuts. It’s a matter of personal taste. But I’m one of those strange people who doesn’t like licorice.

Long ago, Halloween trick-or-treat excursions always resulted in a lot of licorice candy, which I traded for anything else I liked in my brother’s bag. He loved licorice, so it was a win-win situation.

The peanuts of choice were the small plastic bags of Tom’s salted peanuts sold then for 10 cents a bag. And these were often poured into a bottle of Coca-Cola and eaten while the liquid was drunk. This was considered a gourmet treat.

But, as Grandmama used to say, “To each his own.” I suppose there’s a peanut out there for everybody. More power to them.