Peanut is a small annual dicotyledon herb growing up to a foot above the ground. It is thought to have originated in the Central Americas and from where it spread to rest of the world through Spanish explorers. Today, it is one of the widely cultivated oilseeds and established principal commercial crop in China, India, African nations, and the United States of America.
Peanut plant takes approximately 120 to 150 days to produce the crop after sowing its seed. The process of peanut development is quite interesting! Its yellow flowers, after self-pollination, develop into “ovaries” called pedicels, which elongate rapidly to turn downward to bury several inches deep underground, from where the fruits develop into peanut pods we know.
Health Benefits of Peanuts
Peanuts are rich in energy (567 calories per 100 g) and contain health benefiting nutrients, minerals, antioxidants and vitamins that are essential for optimum health.
Peanut kernels are a good source of dietary protein; compose fine quality amino acids that are essential for growth and development.
Research studies have shown that peanuts contain high concentrations of polyphenolic antioxidants, primarily p-coumaric acid. This compound has been thought to reduce the risk of stomach cancer by limiting the formation of carcinogenic nitrosamines in the stomach.
vitamin-E is a powerful lipid soluble antioxidant which helps maintain the integrity of mucosa and skin by protecting from harmful oxygen free radicals.
The nuts are packed with many important B-complex groups of vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6, and folates. 100 g of peanuts provide about 85% of RDI of niacin, which contributes to health and blood flow to the brain.
Just a handful of peanuts per day provide enough recommended levels of phenolic antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, and protein.
Selection and storage
Peanuts can be available in the markets year around. In the stores, different forms; shelled, unshelled, salted, and sweetened can be found for purchase. Try to buy unshelled (intact outer shell) nuts instead of processed ones. They are generally available in airtight packs and bulk bins. The pods should feature compact, off-white color healthy-looking shell, uniform in size, and feel heavy in hand. They should be free from cracks, mold, and spots and free of rancid smell.
Unshelled groundnuts can be placed in a cool, dry place for many months, whereas shelled (without the shell) nuts should be placed inside airtight container and kept in the refrigerator to avoid them turn rancid.
Preparation and serving methods
Peanut kernels usually eaten as is, by cracking them with firm pressure between fingers or using clippers, or nutcracker machine. The nuts can also be enjoyed roasted, boiled, salted, or sweetened.
They are nutty, yet pleasantly sweet in taste. Roasting enhances taste, augments antioxidants levels like p-coumaric acid, and helps remove toxic aflatoxin.
Roasted and crushed kernels often sprinkled over salads, desserts, particularly sundaes and other dairy-based preparations.
Boiled peanuts possess unique flavor and taste. Boiling, in fact, enriches their nutritional and antioxidants profile.
Bumbu kacang (peanut sauce) is a well-known preparation that employs fried peanuts, palm sugar, shallot, galangal, garlic, tamarind, lemon juice, lemongrass, salt, chilli, pepper, sweet soy sauce, ground together and mixed with water to semi-solid texture.
Peanut butter is a food paste prepared from roasted nuts, with or without the addition of oil. It is popular throughout the world and commonly used as dip/spread. Peanut milk is also a favorite lactose-free healthy drink.
Peanut “chutney” or paste, made from these nuts, chili peppers, salt, coriander leaves, garlic and mustard seeds, is a popular dip among South Indian, Sri Lankan regions.
Peanut oil is another healthy source of edible cooking oil like soy or olive oils. It is widely employed in cooking for its aromatic flavor, especially in the many South Indian States, and Sri Lanka.
Peanut allergy is a type of hypersensitivity response in some people to food substances prepared using these nuts. The resultant over-reaction of the immune system may manifest as severe physical symptoms like vomiting, stomach pain, swelling of lips and throat leading to breathing difficulty, chest congestion, and sometimes death. It is, therefore, advised to avoid any food preparations that contain peanut products in these individuals.