When you think of peanuts you may think of the comic strip featuring Charlie Brown and his lovable dog, Snoopy; or the PB & J sandwiches you ate as a kid; or perhaps the packing material you use to send holiday gifts; or even allergies, which seem to be all the talk these days.
Here are a few fun facts about peanuts from the National Peanut Board:
- It takes about 540 peanuts to make a 12-ounce jar of peanut butter.
- Two peanut farmers have been elected president of the USA – Thomas Jefferson and Jimmy Carter.
- According to the Guiness Book of World Records, Earl Adkins from Enfield, North Carolina holds the record for growing the largest peanut – four inches long! (The average length of a peanut is about one inch.) Find out how peanuts grow.
As you may remember from history class, starting in 1920 George Washington Carver, an African American scientist, botanist, educator, and inventor came up with over 300 uses for peanuts to support farmers by finding additional markets for peanuts, such as shampoo, shaving cream, chili sauce, and even glue.
WHY ALL THE EXCITEMENT OVER PEANUTS?
More recently, a new use for peanuts was discovered that not only supports farmers, but also saves children’s lives – Ready to Use Therapeutic Foods (RUTF). RUTF is a high energy, fortified, ready-to-eat food suitable for home-based treatment of children with severe acute malnutrition. Peanuts make up about a quarter of the recipe for this life-saving product. ECF works in developing countries to locally produce RUTF and save lives of severely malnourished children.
Locally grown peanuts are widely available and already a part of local diets in the countries where we work. They are also very nutritious, with high levels of protein and vitamin B which are essential for children recovering form severe acute malnutrition.
Here are a few more nutritional facts from the National Peanut Board:
- Peanuts have more protein, niacin, folate and phytosterols than any nut.
- Peanuts and peanut butter contain over 30 essential nutrients and phytonutrients.
- Peanuts are naturally cholesterol-free.
And like Carver, through our work producing RUTF, ECF supports local peanut farmers in need of buyers in order to provide an income to support their families. In Zambia, most of the peanut producers are small-scale farmers with about a half-hectare of land (where as the average peanut farm in America is 100 acres). 90% of these farmers are women who grow peanuts for their families and to sell at the local market.
In Zambia, peanuts are ground into paste to be added to peanut curries or stews, ground into powder and added to maize meal for extra protein, roasted to eat as a snack or used to extract oil for cooking. I personally had some experience grinding peanuts during our recent training in Kenya with our Somali partners, the Dr. Hawa Abdi Foundation. (Check out the blog, in case you missed it!)
And as for the allergies question, well you just don’t find it in Africa. According to André Briend, a pediatric nutritionist with the World Health Organization, “Food allergy seems far less common in poor countries than in rich countries… This well-known observation has been explained by different factors, but apparently, crowding and repeated exposure to infections seem to play a role.” He goes on to say that, “After several years of using this product and feeding several hundreds of thousands of severely malnourished patients with it, I never heard of a place where it was a real issue.”
So, given that this little nut has the power to save kids’ lives… well, in a nutshell, that’s why we’re nuts about peanuts!!