Peanuts are an important crop in many Southern states, and are found in a wide variety of popular recipes. Peanuts, actually legumes rather than nuts, are sometimes called groundnuts because of their unusual fruit development. After the flowers are fertilized, they wither to the ground and bury themselves; the pods mature underground. They are usually harvested by uprooting the whole plant to dry the nuts. Another common name for peanuts here in the South is "goober," or "goober-pea," which comes straight from the African "nguba."
Though the peanut originated in Brazil, it came to the United States from Africa as many Southern foods have. In the 1890's George Washington Carver, of Alabama's Tuskegee Institute, began to promote the peanut as a replacement for the cotton crop which had been destroyed by the boll weevil. By 1903 he had developed hundreds of uses for peanuts in recipes for appetizers, main dishes, soups, and desserts.
According to John Mariani's "Encyclopedia of American Food & Drink," a process for roasting shelled peanuts in oil was developed in the early 1900s by an Italian immigrant, Amedo Obici. Obici, along with Mario Peruzzi, began packaging the peanuts in airtight bags under the "Planters" label. Peanut butter was created in the 1890s by a St. Louis physician as a soft protein substitute for people with poor teeth. By 1922, a year after the development of a mechanized process for making it, peanut butter was being promoted as a health food at the St. Louis Universal Exposition by concessionaire C. H. Sumner. In 1932 J.L. Rosefield, who developed a process to prevent oil separation and spoilage, began marketing his peanut butter product under the name "Skippy." Its popularity quickly spread, and today more than half the American peanut crop goes into the making of peanut butter.
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