Illustration of Peanut butter

1884 Peanut butter

The book of science

Tom Sharp

Marcellus Gilmore Edson food science Illustration of Peanut butter

Peanut butter

Domesticated in pre-Columbian Central and South America, high in protein, high in nutrients, the peanut is a pea and not a nut. Nine thousand years later, for people who had trouble chewing solid food, Marcellus Gilmore Edson patented peanut butter. Little did the Aztecs or Edson realize the joy of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and chocolate peanut butter cups.

Peanut-butter conquest

John Harvey Kellogg, who invented toasted corn flakes with his brother, Will Keith Kellogg, developed peanut butter as a health food. George Washington Carver who promoted it as a cheap and healthy addition to the American diet and a way to restore nitrogen to depleted soils, included peanut butter among a hundred and five recipes for cooking with peanuts. Now it is a staple the world over.

One thousand uses

George Washington Carver published only one hundred and five ways to prepare peanuts, but he didn’t have a poetic license and he wasn’t trying to be funny. Seriously, he proposed three hundred uses for peanuts, including glue, metal polish, and wood stain. But he was silent about using peanut sauce in stir-fries, and about adding peanut butter to energy bars, and sticking peanuts up your nostrils to reduce odors. Marcellus Gilmore Edson added sugar to peanut butter to stiffen it, but not chocolate chips, nor ginger cookies, nor coconut flakes, nor, for a warm thrill, baking chocolate and chipotle powder. Orange rind, crushed mint candy, and marmalade are all good. Peanut-butter pie, peanut-butter ice-cream, peanut-butter cookies. Peanut-stuffed olives and peanut-butter-coated chicken wings. Paste peanut butter on pretzels, slather it on chocolate bars, spread it on cookies, thin and drizzle it over vegetables and rice. Peanut butter and raisins on celery is called “ants on a stick.” Eat it with granola, eat it with carrots, mix it with birdseed to feed the birds. Sandwiches with peanut butter and banana, with peanut butter and mayonaise. Cucumber and peanut-butter tea cakes. Salted peanut-butter chip dip. Add a dollop of peanut butter to hot oatmeal or vegetable soup. Make a cake of puffed rice stuck together with peanut butter. Dip long-stemmed strawberries in melted peanut butter. Peanut-butter and banana popsicles. Peanut-butter-stuffed pastries. Baked apple with peanut butter in the core. Above all, be proud of your humble peanut butter. It connects you with the poor farmers of the Southern states; it connects you with history and people throughout the world.

The Bambara groundnut or “Congo goober,” originating in West Africa, has been pretty much supplanted in Africa by the peanut or “goober peas” to the extent that in Africa peanuts are called groundnuts. Groundnuts and peanuts are in the same botanical family, Fabaceae.

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