The Tastiest Health Food: Boiled Peanuts

My brothers, Jim and David and I, were revisiting memories of our early years visiting my remarkable mother, Dear’s parents, Walter Ewing Griffin (Daddy Papa) and Selma Shadburn Griffin (Nana), in Vienna, Georgia. Vienna is pronounced with a long “i’ in the first syllable, just as you pronounce the sausages — at leasts folks down South do. Vienna is a small town in southern Georgia, the county seat of Dooly County. Daddy Papa ran the local movie theatre, where we boys used to have our way with the candy and snow cones in the snack bar. Anyway, among our many wonderful memories was the cast iron pot of boiled peanuts in the corner drug store. I love freshly boiled peanuts, and I have updated a post from a few years ago for the benefit of everyone who missed it.

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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 LivingStrong.com website, so you may have missed “Changes in the Phytochemical Composition and Profile of Raw, Boiled, and Roasted Peanuts” in the former 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 — higher even than raw peanuts!  Briefly and comprehensibly, boiled peanuts 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 raw 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 whole lot of tastes.  Too many.  Even George Washington Carver, scientific genius though he was, never found a better use for peanuts.  I usually am the largest peanut planter in the District of Columbia, 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 the sandy- soiled 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 at roadside stands.  The peanuts will come in styrofoam cups or plastic bags, and they will be wet and salty.

The best way to eat boiled peanuts is to put the peanut, shell and all, in your mouth, and test the shell with your teeth.  Peanuts, of course, come in different shapes and sizes.  Some of the smaller peanuts will be so soft 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 boiled peanuts is that once you buy some, you want to eat them right away, and they tend to get your hands messy and sticky with salt.  One approach, described 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 the drivers’ license test I took. I was taken out to a winding two-lane road and directed to pass another car while finding a radio station (using a knob, not buttons) and opening a beer (with a church key), all at the same time. It was a real-life test, and those skills have served me well.  

A good substitute method is to steer with your left hand and eat the peanuts with your right hand, but this only works if you can open peanut shells one-handed.  Once you’ve eaten the peanuts, drop the shells into a well-placed trash bag or into the console if you can’t throw them out the window (they’re biodegradable) because it’s too hot to drive with the windows down, as it usually is when you’re eating boiled peanuts.  Be sure to keep some handi-wipes in the car to clean up after you finish.

You can buy cans of Peanut Patch brand boiled peanuts at many grocery and convenience stores — just about all stores in the South, and Harris Teeter up here. Sometimes you can come across Hawk’s or Lil Red’s bilked peanuts. That can help you get through the year, but there’s nothing like freshly boiled peanuts cooked at a roadside stand, or sold a couple of kids outside B’s Barbecue. Get some every chance you get.  They taste good and they’re good for you.

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4 thoughts on “The Tastiest Health Food: Boiled Peanuts

  1. I used to fly from DC to Charleston SC every few months to visit my parents during the 20 years that they lived in the Bishop Gadsden retirement community out on James Island. If I wasn’t able to get a flight that arrived early enough to meet them for lunch, I would stop for lunch on my own at the Hominy Grill on my way from the airport to James Island. After you placed your order, the wait staff would bring you a bowl of boiled peanuts to keep you busy until the real food arrived. I loved those boiled peanuts and have wished that some restaurant in DC would serve them. I was saddened to hear that Hominy Grill closed down, after 24 years, in the spring of 2019 — just a few months before Dad passed away.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I did construction labor one summer when I was in high school in Gainesville, Florida. A person pedaling boil peanuts would come every morning selling a small paper bag for 10 cents (this is the early 60s). After moving away, whenever I went to Gainesville to visit my mother, I’d go to the farmers market and buy green peanuts and boil them myself.
    Years later I was in Columbia, SC and saw boil peanuts for sale. The person asked me “new crop or old crop?” I didn’t know what he was talking about. As you said, they should always be green. The “old crop” is only for when the green peanuts are no longer available.

    Liked by 1 person

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