I’m Surely Going Nuts Today

At a ballgame, between hot dogs, beers and ice cream, I can go through three bags of peanuts. L-O-V-E them!!! I love my peanut butter, too. If YOU love peanuts and peanut butter, there’s apparel and costumes available online to prove it…by the way, I want those socks!!! Whatever, peanuts and peanut butter are a great source of the protein a body needs. Add jelly and, BOOM!! Oh, yeah!!!! Now you’re talking‘!!

Being a foodie, my mind most days is focused on food.  What to have for breakfast? How long before lunch?  Wonder what Jackie and I will whip up for dinner – (ok, what Jackie has in mind…).  For quick satisfaction, sometimes I drift back to my childhood and seek out one of my “go-to” favorites – a simple peanut and butter sandwich (or two).  Being one of 18, Mom used to make a number of different stops on her grocery run, one the dairy and one being the bakery.  I can still remember the smell of fresh bread and filling our carts with multiple loaves.  I knew it wasn’t long before I’d be back home, spreading yummy crunchy peanut butter and strawberry jam in between two lovely slices.  A side of fritos (yea, I’d put them inside sometimes too), and I was set. These days the occasional PBJ for a snack does me wonders. I like mine toasted so that the peanut butter starts to melt before the first bite!  This month writer Kate Wheeling wrote a little history on peanut butter for Smithsonian magazine that sparked my memories and taste buds and directed me to do a bit more digging for this blog.  Special thanks to Smithsonian, Wikipedia, huffpost.com, chem.libretexts.com, the Georgia Peanut commission and The Marathons and YouTube.  Enjoy this fun “how it’s made” video and song and help me with my reader’s poll – send me an email – what’s your preference: grape or strawberry.

  • Peanuts are actually not nuts but legumes grown underground.  It’s rich in heart-healthy fats and is a good source of protein, which can be helpful for vegetarians looking to include more protein in their diets. A 2-tablespoon serving of peanut butter contains up to 8 grams of protein and 2 to 3 grams of fiber.
  • The U.S. is the third largest producer of peanuts (Georgia and Texas are the two major peanut-producing states). More than half of the American peanut crop goes into making peanut butter. China and India are the first and second largest producers, respectively.
  • The earliest reference to peanut butter can be traced back to the Ancient Incas and the Aztecs who ground roasted peanuts into a paste. However, modern peanut butter, its process of production and the equipment used to make it, can be credited to at least three inventors.
  • In 1884 Marcellus Gilmore Edson of Canada patented peanut paste, the finished product from milling roasted peanuts between two heated surfaces. In 1895 Dr. John Harvey Kellogg (the creator of Kellogg’s cereal) patented a process for creating peanut butter from raw peanuts. He marketed it as a nutritious protein substitute for people who could hardly chew on solid food. In 1903, Dr. Ambrose Straub of St. Louis, Missouri, patented a peanut-butter-making machine.
  • Kellogg’s “food compound” involved boiling nuts and grinding them into an easily digestible paste for patients at the Battle Creek Sanitarium, a spa for all kinds of ailments. The original patent didn’t specify what type of nut to use, and Kellogg experimented with almonds as well as peanuts, which had the virtue of being cheaper. While modern peanut butter enthusiasts would likely find Kellogg’s compound bland, Kellogg called it “the most delicious nut butter you ever tasted in your life.”
  • A Seventh-Day Adventist, Kellogg endorsed a plant-based diet and promoted peanut butter as a healthy alternative to meat, which he saw as a digestive irritant and, worse, a sinful sexual stimulant. His efforts and his elite clientele, which included Amelia Earhart, Sojourner Truth and Henry Ford, helped establish peanut butter as a delicacy. As early as 1896, Good Housekeeping encouraged women to make their own with a meat grinder and suggested pairing the spread with bread. “The active brains of American inventors have found new economic uses for the peanut,” the Chicago Tribune rhapsodized in July 1897.
  • It takes about 540 peanuts to make a 12-ounce jar of peanut butter.
  • Before the end of the century, Joseph Lambert, an employee at Kellogg’s sanitarium who may have been the first person to make the doctor’s peanut butter, had invented machinery to roast and grind peanuts on a larger scale. He launched the Lambert Food Company, selling nut butter and the mills to make it, seeding countless other peanut butter businesses. As manufacturing scaled up, prices came down. A 1908 ad for the Delaware-based Loeber’s peanut butter, claimed that just 10 cents’ worth of peanuts contained six times the energy of a porterhouse steak.
  • Americans eat around 700 million pounds of peanut butter per year (about 3 pounds per person).
  • By World War I, U.S. consumers—whether convinced by Kellogg’s nutty nutrition advice or not—turned to peanuts as a result of meat rationing. Government pamphlets promoted “meatless Mondays,” with peanuts high on the menu. Americans “soon may be eating peanut bread, spread with peanut butter, and using peanut oil for our salad,” the Daily Missourian reported in 1917, citing “the exigencies of war.”
  • Manufacturers sold tubs of peanut butter to local grocers and advised them to stir frequently with a wooden paddle as oil would separate out and spoil. Then, in 1921, a Californian named Joseph Rosefield filed a patent for applying a chemical process called partial hydrogenation to peanut butter, which is liquid at room temperature and converted into an oil that’s solid or semisolid at room temperature and thus remains blended; the practice had been used to make substitutes for butter and lard, like Crisco.  Rosefield was the first to apply it to peanut butter allowing the more stable spread could be shipped across the country, stocked in warehouses and left on shelves, clearing the way for the national brands we all know today.  Rosefield went on to found Skippy, which debuted crunchy peanut butter and wide-mouth jars in the 1930s.
  • The only invention that did more than hydrogenation to cement peanut butter in the hearts (and mouths) of America’s youth was sliced bread—introduced by a St. Louis baker Otto Rohwedder   in the late 1920s—which made it easy for kids to construct their own PB&Js. An average American child eats 1,500 PB&J sandwiches before graduating from high school.
  • In World War II, tins of Skippy were shipped with service members overseas, while the return of meat rationing at home again led civilians to peanut butter. Even today, when American expats are looking for a peanut butter fix, they often seek out military bases as they’re guaranteed to stock it.
  • Americans still eat far more of the spread than the people in any other country: It’s a gooey taste of nostalgia, for childhood and for American history. By 2020, when Skippy and Jif released their latest peanut butter innovation—squeezable tubes—nearly 90 percent of American households reported consuming peanut butter.
  • No American is more closely associated with peanuts than George Washington Carver.  Contrary to popular belief, George Washington Carver did not invent peanut butter.  He was one of the greatest inventors in American history, discovering over 300 hundred uses for peanuts including chili sauce, shampoo, shaving cream and glue. He was a pioneer in the agricultural world, and many refer to him as father of the peanut industry. His innovations also increased the legume’s popularity and made peanuts a staple in the American diet.
  • Born enslaved in Missouri around 1864 and trained in Iowa as a botanist, Carver took over the agriculture department at the Tuskegee Institute, in Alabama, in 1896. He found that cotton had stripped the region’s soil of its nutrients.So Carver began experimenting with plants like peanuts and sweet potatoes, which could replenish the nitrogen that cotton leached. In classes and at conferences and county fairs, Carver showed often packed crowds how to raise these crops.
  • Since his death in 1943, many of the practices Carver advocated—organic fertilizer, reusing food waste, crop rotation—have become crucial to the sustainable agriculture movement. Mark Hersey, a historian at Mississippi State University, says Carver’s most prescient innovation was a truly holistic approach to farming.
  • Whether you’re a fan of creamy or chunky, peanut butter has always had a place in our culture. Perhaps the bigger question – grape jelly or strawberry jam?  I already know my favorite!

How Peanut Butter is Actually Made 
People Try American Peanut Butter For The First Time
Making a Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich in Space
How to Grow Your Own Peanuts at Home