Peanut Storing: Learn About Post Harvest Peanut Curing

By: Amy Grant

One year when my sister and I were children, we decided to grow a peanut plant as a fun — and from my mother’s point of view, educational — experiment. It was probably my first foray into gardening, and surprisingly, yielded an actual, although extremely unappetizing, peanut crop. Unfortunately, we didn’t know that post-harvest peanut curing followed by roasting has to occur before they taste anything like ballpark nuts.

How to Dry Peanut Plants

Peanut curing in gardens doesn’t occur directly but only after harvesting. Peanuts, also known as goobers, goober peas, ground peas, ground nuts, and earth nuts, are legumes that uniquely flower above ground but fruit under the soil. Peanuts are categorized by either nut variety (Spanish or Virginia) or by their growth habitat — either runner or bunch. Virginia peanuts are the type found at baseball parks around the country with one or two large kernels per peanut pod. Spanish peanuts have two or three smaller kernels and are often sold with a rusty red “skin” adhering to the outside of the nut.

Both varieties require well-drained soil. They should be planted after the danger of frost has passed, as they call for a soil temperature of 65 F. (18 C.) for germination. Sow the peanut seeds 1-1/2 inches (4 cm.) deep, 6-8 inches (15 to 20.5 cm.) apart. Space bunch types 24 inches (61 cm.) apart and runner peanuts 36 inches (91.5 cm.) apart. These warm-season annuals take a minimum of 120 frost-free days to maturation.

The moisture content of a peanut kernel, once dug up, ranges from between 35 to 50 percent. This relatively high moisture content must be properly brought down to 8 to 10 percent through proper post-harvest peanut curing. Improper curing will result in molding and spoilage.

Post Harvesting Peanut Curing

Harvest the peanuts once the foliage yellows in late summer to early fall. Dig the plant up carefully and shake the loose soil from the pods. Curing peanuts may then be accomplished via natural drying or mechanical drying. Commercial farmers use mechanical techniques for curing peanuts, but the home grower can air-dry the nut.

You can try peanut curing in garden sheds or garages or in a window indoors so long as they are warm and dry and humidity levels stay low. Hang the plant for one to two weeks in that location. Damp or humid conditions will cause the nuts to rot, while overly hot or rapid drying will lower the quality, giving the peanuts an odd flavor and splitting the shells.

Rain during the last days of curing will cause shell discoloration and potential mold and insect infection.

Peanut Storage

Once the nuts are properly cured, peanut storage should occur in mesh bags stored in a cool, well-ventilated area until you choose to roast them. Peanuts do have high oil content, and as such, will eventually go rancid. To lengthen the life of your peanuts, store them in a sealed container in the refrigerator for several months or in the freezer for several years.

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Growing Peanuts in the Home Garden

Peanuts (Arachis hypogaea) are an important field crop in the southeastern United States. In 1995, peanuts were grown on 1.5 million acres in the United States. and produced a crop of 3.5 billion pounds. Peanut seeds (kernels) are used for peanut butter, oil, flour, roasted peanuts, and other food products. While they are not widely grown in Iowa, their unique growth habit makes them a fun addition to the home garden.

Peanuts are also known as goobers, goober peas, groundpeas, ground nuts, and earth nuts. The peanut is a legume with compound leaves similar to clover and yellow, pea-like flowers. Peanut varieties can be classified by growth habit (bunch or runner) and nut type (Virginia or Spanish). Virginia types are large podded and usually contain 1 or 2 large kernels per pod. Spanish types are smaller podded and contain 2 or 3 small kernels per pod.

Peanuts grow best in loose, well-drained soils. Avoid poorly drained, clay type soils. Plant peanuts after the danger of frost is past. Peanuts require a soil temperature of 65 F for germination. Sow peanut seeds 1 to 1 1/2 inches deep and 6 to 8 inches apart. Row spacing for bunch types should be 24 inches and 36 inches for runner types. Suggested varieties for home gardens include 'Spanish,' 'Early Spanish,' 'Virginia Improved,' and 'Jumbo Virginia.' Peanuts are warm-season annuals that require a minimum of 120 frost free days to reach maturity.

The flowering and fruiting of peanuts are unique. Plants flower above ground, but the pods develop below ground. Peanut plants begin to bloom about 30 to 40 days after emergence. The flowers are small, bright yellow, and pea-like in appearance. After pollination and fertilization occurs, the stalk (peg) below the fertilized ovary elongates and curves downward. It takes about 10 days for the peg to penetrate into the soil. A week after soil penetration, the peg tip enlarges and pod and seed development begin. The fruit mature in 9 to 10 weeks with favorable temperatures and moisture conditions. Since the peanut plant flowers over several weeks, all the pods do not mature at the same time.

Cultivate the soil around peanut plants to control weeds and to keep the soil loose so the pegs can easily penetrate the soil surface. Cultivate shallowly to prevent damage to the peanut roots. Stop cultivation in the immediate vicinity of the plants when the pegs begin to penetrate into the soil. A 1 or 2 inch layer of mulch can be placed around plants in early June to control weeds. Any weeds that do appear can be hand pulled.

Harvest the peanuts when the foliage begins to yellow in late summer or early fall. Dig up the plants with a spading fork and carefully shake off the loose soil. Cure the peanuts by hanging the plants in a warm, dry shed or garage. Beware of mice. After the plants have dried for 1 or 2 weeks, shake off any remaining soil and pull the peanut pods from the plants. Continue to air dry the peanuts for an additional 1 or 2 weeks. Once dried, place the peanuts in mesh bags and store them in cool, well-ventilated place until roasted.

This article originally appeared in the May 2, 1997 issue, p. 56.

How Do Peanuts Grow?

Similar to any other plants, when you plant peanuts, it will undergo several stages, such as:

1. Seed Cracking

The peanut seeds will start growing and rising from the soil about 10 days after you plant them.

At this stage, your plant is green and oval-leafed and is roughly 18 inches tall. The flowers come up above the ground while the fruit stays below.

2. Flowering

During this stage, you will see yellow flowers along the lower part of the peanut plants, but it can take 40 days to see results. The flowers can pollinate themselves. As the petals fall off, the ovary of the nut starts to form.

3. Pegging

The ovary bud is called the peg. It enlarges, and then starts growing away and down from the plant. You would see a small stem going into the soil at this time. This embryo is at the tip and goes into the soil.

Then, it ends up going horizontal to the surface and takes the form of a more mature peanut. It continues to flower and grow and is likely to produce over 40 pods.

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  • Can peanut plants be grown from raw peanuts? Sure! If you have raw peanuts that are still in the shell, then they can be used as peanut seeds.
  • Do peanuts need to be soaked before planting? As with many seeds, peanuts can be soaked the night before planting to speed up the germination process.
  • What is the best soil type for growing peanuts? Loose, sandy soil is best for peanut development, since they’ll need the space for developing the legumes below the surface.

Growing peanuts is really quite simple, and if you’ve never tried it, I encourage you to give it a try! I’d love to know if you’ve tried growing peanuts or just let me know your favorite way to eat peanuts. Have a great week and happy gardening!

Planting Peanuts

Peanuts need full sun. If you have heavy soil, ensure good drainage by working in enough organic matter to make it loose and friable.

Peanut seeds come in their shells and can be planted hulled or unhulled. If you do shell them, don’t remove the thin, pinkish-brown seed coverings, or the seed won’t germinate.

Northern growers should start a peanut plant indoors in a large peat pot a month before the last frost. Sow seeds one inch deep, place in the sunniest spot possible, and water weekly. Transplant peanut plant seedlings to the garden when the soil warms to between 60 and 70 degrees. Space transplants 10 inches apart, being careful not to damage or bury the crown.

In the South, plant outdoors around the date of the last expected frost. Space seeds 2 inches deep and 5 inches apart in rows 2 to 3 feet apart. Firm the soil and water well. Thin plants to 10 inches apart.

Dry Your Plant

Peanuts planted in gardens are cured after harvesting has taken place. Peanut curing is possible by either mechanical or natural drying methods. For those harvested in the garden, you are able to air dry them. For commercial use, on the other hand, use mechanical techniques to cure the peanuts.

Uproot the peanut plant and hang it upside down in a warm and dry place for about a month until the leaves are crumbly and start to fall off the plant. Either leave the peanuts on the plant or remove them, but they should be dry and ready in a month’s time.

The peanut kernel should have a moisture content ranging from 8 to 10 percent from the 35 to 50 percent when the peanuts were dug up. Humid conditions result in bad taste, low quality and causes rotting of the peanuts. Rainy conditions towards the end of the curing period will also cause insect and mold infection, as well as discoloration of the shells.

After curing, place the peanuts in mesh bags and store them in an area or room that is cool and well-ventilated - such as in the garden shed or garage - until the time that you want to roast or sell them. However, due to their high oil content, peanuts tend to go bad fast. So, in order to increase their lifespan in the storage area, store them in a sealed container in a refrigerator or freezer from months to years.

Watch the video: Why Peanuts Are Bad - by Dr Sam Robbins

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