When or why Southerners started boiling peanuts no one knows exactly. But good ideas have a way of spreading and, today, Southerners know how great boiled peanuts are. Not only are boiled peanuts called “the caviar of the South,” but they are also the official state snack of South Carolina. From Labor Day on into the holiday season, boiled peanuts are abundantly available at roadside stands, gas stations, ball games, festivals, and anywhere else people gather for fun.
History gives us clues about the origin and growth of the popularity of boiled peanuts.
Colonial Days: Peanuts were first brought to America by slaves from Africa and the practice of boiling peanuts probably originated here. If there was a surplus peanut crop, field workers would hold a “peanut boil” to celebrate with shared conversation and food.
American Civil War: Letters and memoirs from the Civil War tell us Confederate soldiers were without the basics of bread or meat, especially toward the end of the war. Peanuts were an available food and could be carried wherever they went. On the trail, soldiers roasted or boiled peanuts over campfires and added salt as a preservative.
Traditional Folk Song: “Goober Peas” The lyrics of this Civil War Southern folk song describe daily life during the Civil War who enjoyed eating boiled peanuts (goober peas). But, “goodness, how delicious, eating goober peas,” as the chorus goes.
Twentieth-Century Popularity: The first boiled peanut recipe was published in 1899 by Almeda Lambert, Soon entrepreneurship stepped in and a 1925 account from Orangeburg, SC tells of boys selling boiled peanuts as a snack for five cents per bag.
Today, Boiled Peanut Recipes Abound on Social Media. Check out our Pinterest Board dedicated exclusively to Boiled Peanuts.