It is that time of year where farmers are digging and harvesting peanuts. I love the smell of a fresh turned peanut field about as much as I love eating them. Ever since I was a kid, I have loved boiled peanuts, especially this time of year when the weather starts to cool.
Peanuts in Georgia are usually planted in April and May when soil temperatures at 4 inches deep reach 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Peanuts are actually not a nut, but a legume. There are different varieties of peanuts that can be grown in the United States such as Runners, Spanish, Virginia and Valencia. In Georgia, Runners are the main variety grown. According to the Georgia Peanut Commission, over half the Runners grown in the United States are used to make peanut butter. As a child, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were a staple during the summer months when I stayed with my grandparents.
Peanuts are harvested in two stages. The first stage is inversion. The digger digs up the plants while the shaker shakes off the excess soil. The plants are then inverted and left to dry for a few days. After the peanuts have dried, they are harvested with a peanut combine, which separates the pods from the vines. The pods go to the hopper, and the vines come out the back of the combine back onto the field.
According to the 2013 Farm Gate Repot, Houston County grew 1,052 acres of peanuts. As the Agriculture Agent in this county, I am involved with helping farmers check peanut maturity.
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When peanuts are getting close to being dug, usually around 120 days, we perform what is called a hull scrape. Using a pressure washer, the outer layer of the pod is stripped away to show the colors that indicates maturity. The colors range from white, yellow, orange, brown and black. Peanuts that are white are the most immature and black is the most mature. The pods are then laid out on a maturity board to determine a digging date. The condition of the vines and nuts are also looked at and consider in determining a digging date. This method gives farmers a more accurate dig date than growing days alone, because there are so many environmental factors that can influence peanut maturity.
I don’t know about you, but I think it is time for me to go and get some “Caviar of the South.”
Dates to remember
Oct. 8-18: Georgia National Fair
Oct. 20-22: Sunbelt Ag Expo, Moultrie
For more information on any program area, contact Houston County Extension at 478-987-2028 or visit the office at 801 Main St., Perry. Office hours are 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Visit the website at www.caes.uga.edu/extension/houston for more news about your local Extension office.