Peanuts are a beloved ingredient that has grown in popularity over the years and has slowly worked its way into almost everything. From a raw snack and being mixed with chocolate and other sweets to being part of a multitude of savory dishes and making delicious butter, there’s nothing this little thing can’t do.
What many might not know is that peanuts are not nuts. In fact, they’re not even fruits but versatile legumes, like lentils or beans. These unusual plants have special growing habits and interesting biology.
Today, we’ll let you in on everything peanut, from how do peanuts grow and are harvested to how you can add this crop to your garden.
What Is a Peanut Plant?
Although many think peanuts will grow similarly to other “nuts”, on trees, peanuts actually grow on a bush-like plant that usually doesn’t exceed 18 inches (46 cm), similar to other legumes.
This plant develops normally above ground, with its foliage and flowers, while underground, the roots, pegs, and pods grow. These pods are where the seeds, or peanuts, develop and are an unusual biological occurrence.
Where Do Peanuts Come From & Grow?
Peanuts are thought to be native to South America and gradually spread worldwide, mostly due to colonization.
Nowadays, the largest peanut producer is China, followed by India. In the US, they’re mainly produced in the East and South, as they prefer sandy soils and hot climates, with Georgia being the largest producer.
How Do Peanuts Grow — Life Cycle
You’ve heard about peanuts’ “strange biology”, but what does this actually mean? The stages of the growing cycle of peanuts are not far from the majority of legumes, they just happen differently. Here’s how peanuts grow:
Peanut seeds are planted by mid to late spring when temperatures are around 65-70 ºF (18-21 ºC).
Around 10 days after sowing, seedlings will begin to erupt from the soil. They will proceed to mature and grow up to 18 inches (46 cm) tall.
When around 40 days have passed, yellow flowers will begin to bloom close to the ground, around the lower portion of the peanut plant. They’ll then self-pollinate and fall off.
From the fecund flowers, stem-like structures known as pegs will grow toward the ground, perforate the soil and begin to develop into peanut pods. Each plant can develop around 40 or more pods.
Harvesting is usually done in fall and consists of digging up the plant to expose the ripe pods to open air for them to dry out and be ready to store.
Can we Grow our Own Peanuts?
The short answer is yes, but its growth depends on what do peanuts grow on. As with any other crop, if you can provide for its optimal growing conditions, you can definitely have peanuts in your garden.
The hard part about planting peanuts is not so much growing them but the curating process after harvest. They require special care to not be left ripe too long in the soil, as well as to retain only a little moisture to prevent rot after harvest, amongst other things.
How to Grow Your Own Peanut Tree at Home
If you’re determined to have your own peanut plant at home but are still wondering how are peanuts grown, here are some steps and tips to help you succeed:
- They can be grown in a garden bed or containers on your patio or balcony. Peanuts also tolerate being grown as indoor plants.
- If grown in containers, make sure these are deep enough to allow for the pods to develop, anywhere between 12-24 inches (30-60 cm).
- Use calcium-rich sandy soil.
- You can use any raw peanut as a seed. Just break the shell and plant the peanut at least 2 inches (5 cm) deep.
- Watering is crucial, so make sure to offer them about 2 inches (5 cm) of water every week.
- You can mound the soil around the plant when it begins to flower to help the pegs push easily into the soil.
How Long Does it Take to Grow Peanuts?
As with every plant, the variety of peanuts will influence their growing cycles, but usually, it will take between 4 to 5 months or 120 to 160 days for peanut trees to go from planting to harvesting.
When to Harvest Peanuts?
When it comes to harvesting, timing is everything. You’ll know it is time to harvest when the leaves of the plant begin to turn yellow and wilting, just like tree leaves falling in autumn.
Peanuts can’t be pulled before they are ripe but can’t also stay too long on the ground or the pods will snap out of the plant and will not come out when the plant is dug up. The soil can’t also be too wet or too dry.
How Are Peanuts Harvested
Due to their unusual growing habit, harvesting peanuts is different from other legumes. Instead of being picked from the plant, the whole plant needs to be pulled out of the ground to expose the pods.
Large-scale farms use combines to lift the plant off the ground, shake the roots, and flip it upside down and leave it in the soil for 3 to 4 days. This allows the pods to dry before they’re thrashed. They are then submitted to heat and air movement to reach the desired curated/dried final product and be stored safely.
For those growing peanuts at home, all these steps can be done by hand instead of using machinery and should be followed exactly as the large-scale producers do.
Do Peanuts Grow Back Every Year?
You would think since the plant is completely removed when harvested, there wouldn’t be any reappearance, but peanuts plants can spread via rhizomes, which are underground shoots that will turn into new plants. So yes, some can come back year after year.
Do Peanuts Grow on a Vine or in the Ground?
They grow in a ground plant and develop below ground. The fruits or pods are pushed underground when they begin to form and mature there, while the rest of the plant develops above ground, so the peanuts themselves do not grow on trees.
Can we Grow Peanuts from Raw Peanuts?
Yes. Raw peanuts are the seeds of a peanut plant. So if you plan on growing them yourself, all you have to do is free them from the shell and place them on sandy soil, and soon a peanut plant will grow.
Is a Peanut a Vegetable or a Fruit?
To answer this, you need to know what does a peanut plant look like. Although they are called nuts, peanuts are actually legumes, much like beans or peas. This means they’re not fruits but are technically vegetables.