GO­ING NUTS

The Weekend Post - Cairns Eye - - Front Page -

Ker­nels, nuts and seeds are among our kitchen tools to cre­ate tastes, tex­tures and hope­fully some good health. As your pes­tle de­mol­ishes the peanuts in your mor­tar, spare a thought for the crop they came from.

Ground nuts, as they are of­ten called, are a legume in the bean fam­ily. They are an in­dus­try on the Table­lands and we pro­duce a huge amount of Aus­tralia’s peanuts.

The nut forms un­der­ground while the bush it be­longs to is above do­ing some green grow­ing. Af­ter the pretty yel­low flower forms on the fo­liage bits of the plant, it dies back, leav­ing a ‘peg’ that em­anates from the ovary of the flower, that clev­erly bends the branch to­wards the earth and finds its way into the soil and forms a pod.

This even­tu­ally be­comes the nut we are fa­mil­iar with. If you are lucky you might get a bumper crop of three nuts to a pod, but usu­ally two fat seeds is bet­ter. Tin­goora is the va­ri­ety of run­ner-style crop that has been grown more re­cently; this nut can be har­vested af­ter 105 days.

To start a plant, sim­ply use a raw peanut. Roasted, boiled or other treated nuts won’t work. Plant in full sun and the plant needs wa­ter at just about ev­ery phase of its life.

Be­cause the plant takes its cal­cium di­rect from the soil and not through the roots like most other plants, mix dolomite or a gar­den lime through the plant­ing soil first.

The ed­i­ble nut is called Arachis hy­poagea; the or­na­men­tal peanut you may see as a ground cover with the pretty yel­low or orange pea-style flow­ers is Arachis pin­toi. This is a great soil binder, loves lots of wa­ter and can make a ter­rific al­ter­na­tive to turf if you are keen or on a fac­ing or ex­posed bat­ter that needs cover.

Peanuts do what most legumes do and put ni­tro­gen back into de­pleted soils (that’s the drop you see in fal­low sugar cane fields, re­turn­ing what the sugar took – clever eh?).

Peanuts will grow in a large tub in a small space or as one or more plants in a gar­den. Use them as a fo­liage crop with some in­ter­est­ing side ben­e­fits.

When you get to har­vest time, eat them (when the leaves start turn­ing brown), pick them raw, pickle them in brine, or roast them on flat trays in an oven at 160 de­grees for 20-25 mins (if you like them in the shell), then get the mor­tar and pes­tle out again and make peanut but­ter.

The bush is com­pletely wrecked at har­vest, so keep a few ker­nels for re­plant­ing.

Peanuts are an ex­tremely healthy food and re­lease en­ergy over longer pe­ri­ods due to their high lev­els of un­sat­u­rated fats.

They are a great source of Vi­ta­min E, folic acid and an­tiox­i­dants (ac­cord­ing to Cather­ine Ste­wart’s Gar­den Drum blog).

Com­mer­cial peanut prod­ucts are usu­ally laced with sugar for high taste ap­peal and you will eas­ily tell the dif­fer­ence.

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