Boiled peanuts - best when loved, eaten hot

The Sun Herald (Sunday) - - News - BY MICHELLE MATTHEWS


When Jay March­man was a stu­dent at the Univer­sity of Alabama, the Dothan na­tive would bring bags of boiled peanuts from McNeill Farms back to Tuscaloosa with him. He had grown up eat­ing the del­i­ca­cies and as­sumed his friends liked them, too.

“It was like pulling teeth to get peo­ple to eat them,” he says.

Lit­tle did he know, as a busi­ness ma­jor, that one day he would re­turn to his home­town – known as the peanut cap­i­tal of the world – and take over for Ed and Nita McNeill, who had founded McNeill Farms 25 years ear­lier.

“I’ve been eat­ing th­ese peanuts from th­ese folks since I was a kid,” he says. And now he’s teach­ing his daugh­ters, Frances, 4, and Maryn, 3, how to eat them.

“As fast as I can shell them, they’ll eat ’em,” he says.

Boiled peanuts, which are ac­tu­ally not con­sid­ered a nut at all but a pea variety, are even pop­u­lar with the hip­ster crowd. Para­mount, a pop­u­lar eatery at the cor­ner of 20th Street and 2nd Av­enue North in Birm­ing­ham, of­fers an Alabama Hum­mus ap­pe­tizer that sub­sti­tutes boiled peanuts for chick­peas, served with pita bread.

They’re of­ten found at less trendy lo­ca­tions like road­side stands and gas sta­tions, as well, and they’re a tail­gat­ing musthave for many foot­ball fans. Best served hot, the shells soften as they’re boiled, and the peanuts in­side are soft and mushy. The best way to eat them is to bite into the shell, re­leas­ing the brine and the pea in­side; then throw the shell away.

The taste of fresh boiled peanuts can’t com­pare to that of those warm­ing in a ubiq­ui­tous crock pot in a con­ve­nience store or, God for­bid, sold in a can.

When boiled peanuts are made with green peanuts that have re­cently been extracted from the earth, they be­come “a whole other an­i­mal,” Jay says.

McNeill Farms’ peanuts are grown on a to­tal of 3,000 acres, mostly in cen­tral Florida, where they ben­e­fit from an extended grow­ing sea­son. “We get green peanuts be­fore any­one else,” he says, so McNeill has the first and last peanuts every year, all hand-picked in the fields, then destemmed, washed and packed. Each Wed­nes­day from the first of April through Thanks­giv­ing, a re­frig­er­ated semi-truck trans­ports bushels of green peanuts to Dothan.

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