January 24, 2013 - National Peanut Butter Day

Are you one of the “average Americans” who eats more than six pounds of peanut products in a year? (!)

Do you live in the original home of the peanut plant, Paraguay?

Do you live in one of the places in the world where peanut butter is popular?

Or are you, perhaps, one of the unlucky few who is allergic to peanuts?

You probably know that peanuts are not true nuts but are instead “beans” in the legume family. The peanut plant is unusual because, after its flowers are pollinated, the flower stalk gets longer and bends until the ovary touches the ground. Then the stalk keeps growing—pushing underneath the soil—and the mature fruit develops inside a pod underground. This growth of fruit underground is called geocarpy.

Peanuts were being cultivated in South America more than 7,600 years ago, and they were being traded and eaten by the Aztecs about 500 years ago. European explorers spread the plant worldwide. People in North America didn't often eat peanut products until the early 1900s, after George Washington Carver and others developed new uses for peanuts.

Peanut paste has been used for centuries, but modern peanut butter dates to the late 1880s. A man named Marcellus Edson (NOT Ed-i-son) patented a process of milling roasted peanuts between heated surfaces until the peanuts became semi-fluid; when the fluid cooled, according to Edson, it had the consistency of butter, lard, or ointment. Gosh, I'm so glad people decided to call the result peanut butter, and not peanut lard or peanut ointment!

Dr. John Harvey Kellogg took out a patent for another invention that contributed to modern-day peanut butter; perhaps more important was the fact that Kellogg fed peanut butter to his patients at Battle Creek Sanitarium. Eventually PB & J became one of the most popular sandwiches in North America.

Celebrate peanut butter (if you can!)

Try out some peanut butter recipes. If you want, you can eat peanut butter all day long. Might I suggest Peanut Butter and Jelly Pancakes for breakfast, Goldfish Checkerboard Sandwich for lunch, Peanut Butter-Marinated Spiced Fried Chicken for dinner, and Peanut Butter Cake for dessert?

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