Growing up in the north Georgia, the appearance of signs along rural highways advertising “Boiled Peanuts” (pronounced bowled peynuts) signaled the end of summer and the beginning of football season. As the temperature began to drop, we would put away our flip flops, don our flannel shirts and head for the Appalachian Mountains to “see the leaves.” With Larry Munson calling the play-by-play in the background, we would stop at a roadside stall to buy a bushel of Rome Beauties or Arkansas Blacks, and a steaming paper sack of boiled peanuts with a jug of apple cider. The peanuts never made it home, instead they were consumed in a soggy frenzy that resulted in pruney fingers and damp sleeves.
For the record, our friends in the Northeast and Mid-West have never heard of boiling peanuts. In fact, boiled peanuts has even appeared in an episode of the Travel Channel’s “Bizarre Foods.” Readily available in Southern states, peanuts became a crucial nutritional commodity during the American Civil War. Using the ancient preservation technique, peanuts were boiled in salt water to eliminate impurities and kill bacteria. When troops of the Confederacy were without food, peanuts provided a high-protein ration that could be carried by soldiers and lasted for up to a week.
Peanuts were first brought to the southeastern United States during the late 17th century. Many historians assumed that peanuts were brought to this continent by slaves from Africa, but peanuts actually originated in Brazil and Peru; and, despite their name and appearance, peanuts are not really nuts, but rather members of the bean family.
While it may be difficult to replicate the country ambiance of a local produce stand, boiling up some “goobers” is actually pretty easy. You can use dried unroasted peanuts, but green (freshly harvested) work best and require far less cooking time.