Peanuts Make their Way to Northern Gardens - Indiana Yard and Garden - Purdue Consumer Horticulture

Peanuts Make their Way to Northern Gardens

B. Rosie Lerner, Consumer Horticulture Extension Specialist

Peanuts have long been a popular backyard garden crop in the southern United States, much to the envy of northern gardeners. But since some garden seed catalogs make peanuts available all over the county, peanuts &emdash; also known as goober peas &emdash; are making their way north.

Peanuts do require a long, warm growing season of about 120 days. Bright yellow flowers begin to form about seven weeks after planting. After the flowers fade, a small peg is formed that grows downward until it enters the soil. The nuts then begin to form underground.

As the peanuts mature, the foliage will begin to turn yellow. Peanut plants flower throughout the season, so nuts at many different stages of development will be found on the plant at any given time. Because of this, there is unfortunately no one good time to harvest all of the plants. If plants are harvested late in the season, many of the early-formed pods may rot or sprout underground. But if plants are harvested early on, much of the production potential will be lost. It is best to aim for the middle and harvest as the plants begin to show signs of maturation.

Peanuts are harvested by carefully lifting the entire plant out of the ground; the nuts should still be attached to the plant. The nuts need to be cured or dried before processing. Allow the nuts to air dry outdoors for several days while still in the shell. Nuts can be left attached to the plants for ease of handling. Then stack the plants and store in a warm, dry, well-ventilated area for two to three weeks. When fully dried, the peanuts can be stripped from the plants.

Nuts will keep longer in storage if left in the shell, unroasted and placed in a cool, dry area. Shelled nuts should be kept in the refrigerator to prolong their usefulness. The skins can be removed by boiling in water, a process called blanching, or by roasting in the oven.

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