The peanut is part of the legume family and, despite its name, is not actually a true nut. The peanut is the fruit of an annual herbaceous plant, meaning they die after flowering and fruiting and grow back from seed, which are 1 ft to 1.6 feet (30-50cm) tall. When in bloom the peanut plant has yellowish-red flowers. Peanuts were most likely first cultivated in Peru around 7,600 years ago. There are currently four types of peanut being grown and sold around the world. They are called Virginia, Runner, Spanish and Valencia.
How do Peanuts Grow?
All types of peanuts grow best in well drained, loose, sandy loam soil. Some types of peanuts are more suited to irrigation, whereas other varieties do well in semi-arid conditions. All of the main varieties of peanut are damaged by frost and it is for this reason that they are usually grown in spring and summer time.
The first stage of peanut farming is to plant the peanut seeds. These are usually obtained from the plants from the previous season. Peanuts are planted in long rows with 6 to 10 plants in a row. The seeds are placed an inch or so below the surface of the ground. Within one to two weeks a peanut plant will emerge from the planted seed. The plant is fertilized, watered and the area around it weeded. 30 to 40 days after planting the peanut plant will begin to flower.
Once the plant is flowering it is closer to producing peanuts, which are the fruit of the plant. The small yellowish flowers with red veins sprout on top of a long stalk called a peg. Once the flower has been pollinated the flower shrivels and the peg elongates and curves over towards the soil. Within 10 days the peg penetrates the soil and buries itself an inch or two under the soil.
The final stage in peanut growth is when the end of the peg enlarges and forms a pod with seeds inside. Usually two to four peanuts will develop from the end of each peg. It takes a further 9 to 10 weeks for the peanuts to mature enough for harvest.