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Did You Know? - Peanuts

Teresa Kendrick

Did you know that the first people known to have used the peanut were the Mayans of Mexico?

International explorers first recorded the peanut in Haiti, but were told it had originally been taken from the Mayan lands. The Mayans called it " cocoa de la tierra", because it is harvested from the ground. In fact the peanut is a botanical curiosity because it isn’t a nut but a legume, a relative of the chick pea.

Before the 1850’s the qualities of the peanut were virtually unknown to the rest of the world. When cotton crops began to fail in the southern United States, the peanut traveled to Alabama where it caught the attention of scientist George Washington Carver. His amazing research produced 395 uses for the legume.

Among other things, the oil from the "nut" produced rubs, creams, paints, animal feeds, coffee blends, synthetic chocolates, and an excellent glue for envelopes and stamps.

The shell was found to be a very specialized part of the plant because it directly absorbed the soil’s nutrients and passed them along to the rest of the plant, a task usually performed by the roots.

Carver found ways to use the shell to produce imitation cork and other light wood substitutes.

As a result of Carver’s research, the peanut became a cash crop throughout the world, although the original cultivation of the wild plant occurred in central Mexico (Puebla, Jalisco and Guanajuato).

Today in Mexico, peanuts are used primarily as food, either dried and roasted, or ground into powders for sauces.

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This Did you Know provided by Teresa Kendrick.

Published or Updated on: January 1, 2006 by Teresa Kendrick © 2008
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