Travel with peanuts from the farm to your local grocery store.
Seeds go into the ground early in the spring.
From planting to harvesting, the growing cycle of the peanut plant takes about four to five months, or lasts 120 to 160 days. Once planted, seedlings break through the soil in about 10 days and grow to about 18 inches tall. Unlike most plants, the peanut plant flowers above the ground but fruits below ground. (Link to “How Peanuts Grow” page)
When the peanuts are ready for harvest, the farmer uses a digger to loosen the plants, sever the taproot and lift the plant from the soil. The peanut plant is rotated and placed in a “windrow”—with peanuts up and leaves down. They are usually left in windrows for two or three days to cure, or dry. Last, a combine separates the peanuts from the vines and places the peanuts into a hopper. Freshly dug peanuts are placed into peanut wagons and are ready to begin their journey from farm to market.
The peanut’s first stop is a buying point.
Most farmers do not have the time during harvest to continue cleaning and drying their crops. So growers rely on a Peanut Buying Point to receive, weigh, clean, dry, inspect, grade and prepare the peanuts for storage and shelling.
Between 80 and 90 percent of all peanuts go to a shelling processor.
In some areas, a sheller can be the peanut crop’s first stop. After cleaning, drying, inspecting and grading, the peanuts either go to commercial use or are accepted for storage. From the sheller, peanuts can go to a food manufacturer, a peanut processor, a crushing facility in the U.S. or the shelled peanuts can be exported to another country.
About 5 to 10 percent of all peanuts go to seed companies. After processing, these peanuts become next year’s seed.
Roasting processor. These peanuts stay inside the shell and are roasted. The flavors can be original, spicy or sweet. The possibilities are limitless! Roasted peanut are most commonly known as “ballpark” peanuts and show up at sporting events and in stores. Some are exported.
Peanut processor. It’s common for raw peanuts to be delivered to a company that processes the peanuts. These companies set up contracts with various peanut butter companies, confectioners or snack companies, and prepare the peanuts for the food company to use for their products. Peanuts are sorted according to variety, uniformity of size or flavor, and prepared and sold to food manufacturers. These manufacturers make the peanuts into some of our favorite American foods—peanut butter, peanut candies or snacks.
Food manufacturer. Sometimes peanuts are sent to a food manufacturer that has its own peanut processing capabilities. The peanuts are then turned into peanut butter, peanut candy, peanut snacks and other peanut products.
Crushing facility. Raw peanuts are crushed to produce peanut oil or peanut flour. Some peanut oil is sold as is, and some is added to other oils to produce vegetable oil. Crushing facilities also produce peanut meal, which is usually sold for livestock feed.
Curious about how peanut butter gets from the farm to your pantry? Check out The Journey of a Peanut Butter Jar.