WHAT IS MONG PHALI? PEANUTS OR GROUNDNUTS: HISTORY AND HEALTH BENEFITS OF PEANUTS: HOW TO ROAST YOUR OWN PEANUTS
Peanuts are not actually nuts, but legumes (members of the bean and pea family) and actually grow underground, so are not tree nuts like walnuts and almonds. This is why they are called Earthnuts and groundnuts, although these names also apply to a tuber which is also called a pignut from the plant, Conopodium majus. In Urdu they are Mong Phali and in India they are known as China badem. They have their origins in South America and were cultivated in Argentina and Bolivia 4,000 years ago. They are also called Gooper Pea and Monkey Nuts. They were spread from South America by the European explorers in the 15th and 16th centuries and reached India which is still one of the largest producers of peanuts.
In Britain when you bought them in their shells, children would take them to the cinema and throw the shells from the top tier of seats onto the audience below, so they were eventually banned from at least one cinema in the town I lived in.
Whenever I see peanuts I am reminded of George Melly singing “The Peanut Man” and although I have searched on the Net for this song and his particular lyrics, it was to little avail, you’ll no doubt understand why when you read what I can remember of them: - “Nuts! Hot Nuts! get them from the peanut man,
….get them while you can…..
…He’s got the hottest nuts in town,
Buy them from the peanut man.”
The plant above ground can grow to 18 inches tall and has yellow flowers, and the peanuts are ready to harvest when the leaves have yellowed. Peanuts can then be sold in their shells or unshelled, perhaps roasted or even honey roasted, and whichever way you have your peanuts, including in the form of peanut butter, they are very good for the body and brain. The oil is also good as it can withstand fairly high temperatures without burning and it has oleic acid in it as does olive oil, which is rich in antioxidant properties. Its antioxidant properties are similar to those of pomegranates, and they are more potent than from carrots and beetroot. These properties are boosted when peanuts are roasted. They also contain resveratol, a flavonoid which is present in red grapes and their finished product, red wine. This improves the blood flow to the brain and so reduces the risk of strokes.
Peanuts are a good source of dietary fibre, protein and carbohydrates in the form of “good” fats, which include Omega-6 and -3 fatty acids. They also contain Vitamin E, and the B-complex vitamins particularly niacin, which when combined can decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. As for minerals, peanuts contain iron, zinc, copper, magnesium, phosphorous and are potassium rich, with traces of selenium too. Nuts seeds (such as pumpkin seeds) help to lower blood pressure and peanuts are no exception.
Peanuts also contain arginine, an amino acid which can help in cases of congestive heart failure, erectile dysfunction, upper respiratory ailments and type II diabetes. They have been used in some cultures as aphrodisiacs as well as anti-inflammatory agents and decoagulants.
In the 19th century in the States, after the civil war, George Washington carver thought up 300 ways of using peanuts and advocated growing them instead of cotton as the cotton crops were being destroyed by the boll weevil. While we don’t use them in 300 different ways, they are used as biofuel, (the University of Georgia runs its fleet of buses for 8 hours a day on a 30% mix of peanut oil and diesel) as peanut oil is cheaper then some other oils. They are also used in the manufacturing of soap, cosmetics and lubricants, while the tops of the plants are used as fodder. The shells provide high fibre roughage in animal feed and are used in the manufacture of particle board and fertilizer, so there’s not much wastage from this plant.
Peanuts can not only help to reduce the risk of heart disease, but can also help prevent cancer (antioxidant activities) and diabetes and may help reduce inflammation.
At the end of the 19th century a physician in the US came up with peanut butter, although this had been made for centuries by people in other countries. Phineas T. Barnum sold bags of roasted peanuts to circus-goers in 1870 and now peanuts are served with drinks almost everywhere whether raw or roasted.
Unfortunately many people suffer from peanut allergies, especially in the UK, so if you suffer with asthma or hay fever, you may be allergic to them. Some people also suffer from arachibutyrophobia which is the fear of getting peanuts stuck in the roof of the mouth. However for those with no peanut problem, November is designated as the month for Peanut Butter Lovers in the States.
If you think that roasted peanuts are not worth the expensive, buy raw peanuts and use this recipe below to make your own roasted peanuts. Unsalted ones are good additions to soups and salads too, and are good in carrot halva, or added to breakfast cereals and muesli. When eaten in small amounts daily, peanuts can reduce the risk of many chronic diseases.
Shelled or unshelled peanuts
Freshly grated sea salt
Freeze unshelled peanuts which still have their skin on overnight to make it easy to rub it off with your fingers.
Preunshelled they can be roasted.
Place the sheet in the oven and leave shelled peanuts for 15-20 mins, and unshelled ones for 20-25 mins.
Sprinkle with freshly grated sea salt and leave to cool.
Store them in an air tight container.
These have Taste and are a Treat.