Health Food Time: Episode #1

I understand that most of my readers do not regularly read the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, or even check the website, so you may have missed “Changes in the Phytochemical Composition and Profile of Raw, Boiled, and Roasted Peanuts” and even “What are the Benefits of Eating Boiled Peanuts?” in the latter.

Briefly, boiled peanuts are significantly higher in flavonoids and polyphenols than other peanuts — even than raw peanuts!  Briefly and comprehensibly, they are higher in fiber, full of those thingies that prevent diseases, and far, far lower in calories even than that abomination in the eyes of the Lord, dry-roasted peanuts.

I know that many of you are unfamiliar with boiled peanuts.  First, they are pronounced “boil’ peanuts.”  They result when peanuts — preferably green peanuts, (i.e., peanuts that have been freshly harvested) are boiled in brine, preferably in an iron cauldron — for a long time.  And they are delicious.  They are said to be an acquired taste, but it’s about the easiest taste I’ve ever acquired, and I’ve acquired a lot of tastes.  Too many.  Even George Washington Carver, genius though he was, never found a better use for peanuts.  I usually am the largest peanut planter in the District of Columbia (our trip to Europe this Spring interfered with planting), and I always boil my entire crop.

You can get freshly boiled peanuts in roadside stands all over the Southeast,* but they are best in peanut-growing areas, such as northeastern North Carolina and adjacent Virginia; South Georgia, below the gnat line; in South Carolina around Orangeburg; and in the Alabama Wiregrass, around Dothan, and adjacent areas of Florida.  These are the main areas where it’s easy to get green peanuts during harvest.  There will be a hand-painted sign announcing their availability.  They will come in styrofoam cups or plastic bags, and they will be wet.

The best way to eat boiled peanuts is to put the peanut, shell and all in your mouth, and test the shell.  Peanuts, of course, come in different shapes and sizes.  Some of the smaller peanuts will be soft, so that you can eat just the whole thing, shell and all, as you would a soft-shell crab.  If the shell resists, suck out the juice, open the shell and eat the peanuts.  There often is a soft layer within the shell, which you can scrape out and eat if no one is looking.

One problem with boil’ peanuts is that once you buy some, you want to eat them, all of them, and they tend to get your hands messy and sticky with salt.  One approach, advocated in Our State magazine, is to drive with your wrists.  This is called the “80 down 40” method, from the fact that it is usually performed while driving 80 miles per hour down I-40.  That’s not for everyone, since real-life driving skills just aren’t taught today.  We’re a long way from a drivers’ license test involving going out to a two-lane road and passing another car while finding a radio station and opening a beer.  A good substitute method is to steer mainly with your left hand and eat the peanuts with your right hand, but this only works of you can open peanut shells one-handed.  You can drop the shells into a well-placed trash bag or into the console if you can’t throw them out the window because it’s too hot to drive with the windows down.  And keep some handi-wipes in the car to clean up after you finish.

Get some.  They taste good and they’re good for you.


*Texas produces more peanuts than any state other than Georgia, but the Texans are not big boil’ peanut eaters.  Bless their hearts.


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