Peanuts are native to the tropics of the Americas and probably originated in Brazil or Peru. By the time the Spanish began their exploration of the New World in the 15th century, peanuts were grown as far north as Mexico. Spanish explorers brought peanuts to Europe upon their return, and other traders eventually brought them to Asia and Africa.
But who first thought of mashing them up into a pasty, tasty treat? Researchers believe the ancient Aztecs mashed peanuts into a paste hundreds of years ago. Modern peanut butter didn’t come about until the 1890s, though.
In 1890, Dr. Ambrose Straub, a St. Louis doctor, asked George A. Bayle Jr., the owner of a food products company, to process ground peanut paste as a protein substitute for toothless people who couldn't chew meat.
In 1897, J.H. Kellogg, who later became famous for his breakfast cereals, obtained U.S. Patent 580,787 for a "Process of Preparing Nutmeal," which produced a "pasty adhesive substance" that he called "nut-butter."
A few years later, peanut butter was first sold as a snack food in 1904 at the Universal Exposition in St. Louis by C.H. Sumner. Today, peanut butter is made mainly from ground dry-roasted peanuts. It comes in many varieties: creamy, chunky, natural and even flavored with honey!
So just how many peanuts does it take to make a jar of peanut butter? Quite a few!
The National Peanut Board estimates it takes about 540 peanuts to make a 12-ounce jar of peanut butter. That’s approximately 45 peanuts per ounce of peanut butter.
If your family buys peanut butter in those large 40-ounce mega-jars, each one of those jars takes a whopping 1,800 peanuts to make!
March is not just National Peanut Month. It’s also National Nutrition Month, which makes it the perfect time to recognize how nutritious peanuts are.
Peanuts are a good source of protein, vitamin E, niacin and magnesium. Peanuts are also naturally cholesterol-free and low in saturated fat. Peanut butter may also protect against cardiovascular disease due to high levels of monounsaturated fats.
Fun peanut facts:
- Peanuts aren’t really nuts! They’re technically classified as legumes, like beans, peas and lentils.
- Georgia produces more peanuts than any other state.
- Two peanut farmers have been elected president of the United States: Thomas Jefferson and Jimmy Carter.
- Americans eat approximately three pounds of peanut butter per person each year, or a total of about 500 million pounds. That's enough to cover the floor of the Grand Canyon!
- Arachibutyrophobia is the fear of peanut butter getting stuck to the roof of your mouth.
- The world's largest peanut butter and jelly sandwich was created in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on September 7, 2002. It weighed nearly 900 pounds and contained 350 pounds of peanut butter and 144 pounds of jelly.