Whether you are vegan looking for homegrown plant protein, or want to get the kids interested in plants – Peanuts may be the answer
I’ve always been fascinated by peanuts. And I’ve tried a few times to grow my own. The trouble has been getting viable seed, or basically peanuts that haven’t been roasted, irradiated or processed in any way. Even monkey nuts from the supermarket haven’t germinated.
I’m also interested to growing my own food and that includes plant protein. I wrote about it here back in 2017. https://hartley-botanic.co.uk/magazine/grow-your-own-protein/
So imagine my excitement when I discovered that Plant breeder Lubera was launching Peanut Plants for 2020. Like a kid in a sweet shop. I just can’t wait to try them.
If you want a plant to get people engaged and interested in plants – the peanut is a great subject. Unless you or anyone near and dear to you has a peanut allergy and if they do please don’t grow them – most of us can remember munching on roasted salted peanuts for an evening or on a plane. Little bags in a packed lunch, or bowlfuls at parties and Christmas. But there is so much more of interest to these productive plants.
Peanuts are a fascinating plant because the peanut plant flowers above ground and then the stem holding the fertilised but immature pod grows and pushes the peanut pod into the soil, where it positions itself horizontally and starts to swell. Inside the immature peanuts start to form. This virtually hides the valuable pods and allows them to mature safely underground, unlike other legume pods, which hang from the plants in the open. Each peanut plant can make forty or more pods, with two or more peanuts in each. But the whole process can take four or five months. But that means for one plant you may get hundreds of plump peanuts.
Not only are these plants productive but they are also more ecological in terms of their water needs. Peanuts apparently need just five gallons of water to create an ounce of peanuts, which compares to the 80 gallons of water needed for an ounce on almonds! *
The new peanut Justmore plants have just been awarded the Novelty Bedding Award at IPM Essen.
Peanuts, which weirdly aren’t nuts at all, are closely related to the other legumes that we regularly grow and harvest in our gardens, such as peas and beans. But they crop later in the season. Which is one of the reasons we don’t normally grow them in the UK. But with climate change the UK has become a bit warmer. 0.5 to 1.5C might not sound like much, but honestly it makes a huge difference. Temperatures are rising and while it’s not good news for the planet, it does offer the gardener a wider choice of plants that will grow in our gardens. And that’s partly why we can say hello to growing peanuts. But, when we have an early hot spell, followed by a wetter and cooler July the ‘normal’ peanut varieties don’t thrive. So, our friends at Lubera have tested dozens of varieties from South America to find the best plants to suit our volatile climate and they found four varieties that showed a tolerance to colder weather, established quickly as young plants and produced a reliable crop of peanut pods in autumn.
Plants will be available from the Lubera website in May and can be planted out into the garden from early May and into June for an autumn harvest.
I’ve got my order in already and will add these fascinating plants to my raised beds and planters.
* National Peanut Board