This delicious food has always traveled well
The history of peanuts is a journey from South America, east across the Atlantic Ocean and back again to North America. The peanut plant probably originated in Peru or Brazil and was grown in Mexico when Spanish colonialists arrived. Peanuts traveled back to Spain, and from there traders and explorers spread them to Asia and Africa. The western tropical region of Africa proved a hospitable growing place for peanuts and they were brought to the southern United States by enslaved West Africans beginning in the 1700s.
The status of peanuts became more prominent following the War Between the States when Union soldiers found them to their liking and took them home. The call "hot roasted peanuts" was first heard in the late 1800's at PT Barnum's circus. Desire for peanuts spread as circus wagons traveled across the country.
The peanut was not a significant agricultural crop until the early 1900's when the boll weevil destroyed the South's cotton crop. Following the suggestion of noted scientist Dr. George Washington Carver, peanuts replaced cotton's position in the South as a money crop.
The first commercial peanut crop in Virginia was grown in Sussex County (near the present-day town of Waverly) in the early to mid 1840's. However, peanuts are a part of Virginia's history dating back to the first settlers. Peanuts are currently produced on about 12,000 acres. Depending on the year, acreage has ranged from this year's level to around 50,000 acres, averaging in the low 20,000 range since 2002. Prior to the change in present legislation in 2002, Virginia typically grew 75,000 acres.
The production of peanuts in Virginia is concentrated in 8 or 9 counties in the southeastern corner of the state. In addition, there are a significant number of manufacturers in the region, ranging in the size from small gourmet processors to Planters Peanuts which is located in Suffolk.
The first commercial peanuts in North Carolina were grown in the Wilmington area beginning around 1818.
Historically, production of peanuts in North Carolina took place in the northeastern part of the state. Acres planted to peanuts prior to 2002 averaged 150,000 per year. Since 2002, acres devoted to peanuts have ranged from 100,000 acres to the current 65,000.
While the northeastern portion of the state has seen a decline in acreage, there has been a substantial increase in peanut acreage in the southeastern part of the state. There are also a large number of processing facilities located throughout the state.
South Carolina Peanuts
While peanuts have been grown in South Carolina for many years, only recently has the state become a major peanut producer.
Acreage prior to 2002 was typically 10,000 acres. Since that time, the number of peanut acres planted has constantly expanded to a range of 55,000 to 65,000 acres. South Carolina is now the 6th largest producer of peanuts in the US.
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