Like all our food, peanut butter starts with a seed, a grower, and the soil. Peanuts are grown in 13 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia. There are over 7,000 farmers in the major states producing peanuts.
Beginning in April and May, when the soil is just the right temperature, about 65°F to 70°F, farmers begin planting. Specially grown kernels from last year’s crop are planted about 2 inches into the soil. It takes about 10 days for the seedling to break through the ground. In another 30 to 40 days for the plant to flower, depending on the moisture of the soil. When the petals fall off the yellow flowers, the peanut ovaries begin to form below the surface.
Harvest season is September through October, about 120 to 160 days after planting. When the conditions are just right, not too wet and not too dry, the farmer drives a digger up and down the rows. The machinery pulls up the plant, shakes off any loose soil, and lays the plant back down with the peanuts up. The crops are then left to dry to about 10% or less moisture.
After drying for a few days, the combine removes the peanuts from the vines and places them into a hopper on top of the combine. Then they are transferred to a wagon where warm air is circulating to continue the curing process.
Making Peanut Butter
The next stop will be the manufacturer, where it will be made into peanut butter. There is typically a two-step grinding process. First, the peanuts are reduced to what is called a medium grind and then to a fine, smooth texture. While peanut butter must be at least 90% peanuts, due to regulation, other ingredients may be added to the mix during grinding, such as salt, sugar, and some oil. Once it is all mixed together, the creamy peanut butter is squeezed into jars for your next peanut butter sandwich.
Want more Agriculture Facts? Click here
National Peanut Board