Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Growing peanuts

For the past 3 years I have grown peanut plants on my allotment. The British weather is not really suitable for such a task but I like a challenge. Usually, I buy my peanut seeds from the Plants of Distinction catalogue. Inside the packet there are 3 monkey nuts, providing 6 (although often only 5) peanuts. These I sow in pots in February and germinate on my windowsill. Finally, the seedlings are planted out in June. During the summer the plants produce small yellow flowers very similar in shape to pea flowers. This is not surprising as peas and peanuts are related, both belonging to the legume family. If the flowers are pollinated then a long stem grows out of the dying flower and heads downwards until it finds the soil. There it buries itself and in due course a new monkey nut forms underground - hence the other name: "ground nut".

Germination of the peanut seeds is never 100%, then keeping them alive for several weeks indoors is tricky. They don't like drying out and they are prone to pest attacked. Then once in the garden, they can struggle in the cool British weather. As a result, I have never managed to grow more than a handful of peanuts - scarcely more than I start with! Still, I enjoy the challenge and persevere every year, despite the somewhat high price of the seeds (£1.65 for 6).

This year has been no different. Once again I ordered my 3 monkey nuts from Plants of Distinction. Once shelled, I planted the 5 peanut seeds and waited for a few days for germination. Only 3 germinated this time and when I investigated the others the seeds had rotted to soft mush. Several days later, when I checked them again, I realised the pots had dried out and unfortunately 2 of the plants succumbed to this neglect. So I was left with one plant - not likely to yield a good harvest for that!

Frustrated by this I decided it was time to experiment with supermarket monkey nuts to see if I could get these to grow. I bought a 400g bag of "natural" unroasted (obviously!) peanuts, shelled 3 of them and planted the 6 nuts. Then just one week later when I returned from holiday I was delighted to see 5 of them had germinated and were growing away strongly. Success, I would say! Time will tell if I manage to get a reasonable harvest this year but next year I shall be sourcing my seeds from the supermarket not the seed catalogue - it is a good deal cheaper (£1.50 for maybe 200 seeds) and so far, more successful.

As for the rest of the bag of unroasted monkey nuts, these I roasted as a single layer on a large baking tray in a preheated oven at 180°C, gas 4 for 25 minutes. Steve declared these the freshest and tastiest roasted monkey nuts he'd ever tasted! Well, hopefully only until we harvest our own peanuts in the summer!

1 comment:

  1. Fascinating! I may have to rise to the challenge myself next year.

    Pretty plants. If you weren't worried about the harvest could you just keep them as house plants?