SLOAN COLUMN: A second helping of boiled peanuts
Last week’s column included an amusing tale on a northerner’s introduction to boiled peanuts, the Caviar of the South. It was followed by a short commentary on personal distaste for the mushy legumes.
Not to my surprise, many were mildly offended at my aversion to South Carolina’s state treat. I was already well aware of my minority status when it comes to not caring for boiled peanuts and the responses only served as a confirmation.
“I just can’t get enough of them,” exclaimed several die-hard boiled peanut fanatics. Can’t get enough? Well, here’s a second helping. What follows is just about everything you would ever want to know about boiled peanuts:
NOT SOUTHERN IN ORIGIN: Sorry to bust your bubble folks, but boiled peanuts did not originate in the south. They arrived in America via the slave trade.
Some will claim the first peanuts to be boiled were the indirect result of Union General William T. Sherman leading his troops on a fiery march through Georgia. The infamous march split the Confederacy in two and deprived Rebel soldiers of much needed supplies.
With most foods in short supply, peanuts remained plentiful. Rebel soldiers took to roasting the peanuts over campfires or boiling them. No one knows what bright soul came up with the idea of adding salt to the peanuts when boiling them, but they were probably trying to make them last longer. Salt served as a preservative and would keep them from spoiling for nearly a week.
This theory can be discounted by the fact that salt was also in short supply. Also, without refrigeration, boiled peanuts would spoil much quicker than ordinary peanuts.
The more likely origin of boiled peanuts is that they arrived in America with African slaves. Becky Billingsley, a food historian from Myrtle Beach, says Africans were fed raw peanuts from their homeland while on the slave ships coming to the United States. Upon their arrival, they grew them in their gardens by their cabins. They boiled peanuts and introduced them to their masters’ families.
African descendents, she said, were likely boiling peanuts long before the Civil War.
NOT A NUT: Peanuts are not really nuts. They are actually considered legumes. Nuts grow on trees, while peanuts grow underground.
STATE SNACK: The boiled peanut was designated as the official state snack of South Carolina by Gov. Mark Sanford in 2006.
PARTY TIME: There are two annual events in the Palmetto State celebrating the boiled peanut – the Boiled Peanut Festival in Bluffton and the S.C. Peanut Party in Pelion. In its ninth year, the Bluffton festival will take place Sept. 12-13. Those attending can expect to find all you can eat boiled peanuts, live music, and a boiled peanut cook-off. The festival also features he World’s Largest Boiled Peanut. The 22-feet long, half-ton legume is not real. It’s made of plywood and spray foam, but it does make for a great photo op.
The party of parties, however, can be found in the tiny town of Pelion, which will host the event for a 39th year on Nov. 6-7. From the blessings of the pots to officially begin the boiled peanut cook-off to the parade that begins and ends at the “Pelion Pole,” a giant peanut attached to an eight-foot pole, the two-day event is non-stop nutty.
HEALTHY ALTERNATIVE: Boiled peanuts are packed full of protein to help in building muscle while providing a healthy alternative to traditional snacks. They are lower in calories and fat than their roasted cousins and also have a higher concentration of anti-oxidants and nutrients.
GOING GREEN: Green, or raw, peanuts are a must when boiling. The main advantage of green peanuts is that they cook faster. Dried peanuts take much longer to boil.
TOP PRODUCER: The nation’s top producer of canned boiled peanuts is McCall Farms in Effingham. Under the “Peanut Patch” brand name, McCall Farms cans more than 31 million pounds of peanuts annually. That, my friends, is a lot of boiled peanuts.