Among their many common names, Virginia peanuts (Arachis hypogaea) are called goobers, ground nuts and ground peas. They’re also called “ballpark peanuts” because their superior flavor when roasted or boiled makes them the peanut of choice sold at sporting events. Although they’re not grown exclusively in Virginia, their common name gives a nod to the warm southeastern climates where they thrive.
What is a Virginia Peanut?
Virginia peanut plants do not bear “true nuts,” such as those that grow overhead in trees. They are legumes, which produce edible seeds in pods underneath the ground, so planting and harvesting Virginia peanuts are easy tasks for the average gardener. Virginia peanut plants are high-yielding, and they produce larger seeds than other peanut types.
Virginia Peanut Information
Virginia peanut plants produce peanuts after a unique life cycle. Bushy, 1- to 2-foot-tall (30-60 cm.) plants produce yellow flowers that are self-pollinating – they don’t need insects to pollinate them. When the flower petals fall, the tip of the flower stalk begins to elongate until it reaches the ground, but it doesn’t stop there.
“Pegging down” is the term that describes how this stalk continues to grow into the ground until it reaches a depth of 1 to 2 inches (2.5-5 cm.). At the end of each peg is where the seed pods begin to form, encasing the seeds, or peanuts.
Planting Virginia Peanuts
Some Virginia peanut varieties that are grown commercially are also suitable for the home garden, such as Bailey, Gregory, Sullivan, Champs and Wynne. The best practice for planting Virginia peanuts starts in the fall or winter before you plant the following summer.
Loosen the soil by tilling or spading. Based on soil test results, work limestone into the soil to adjust the soil pH between 5.8 and 6.2. Virginia peanut plants are sensitive to fertilizer burn, so only apply fertilizer according to soil test results in the fall preceding your growing season.
Sow seeds as soon as the soil warms in spring to a depth of approximately 2 inches (5 cm.). Place five seeds per one foot (30 cm.) of row, and allow 36 inches (91 cm.) between rows. Keep the ground moist but never soggy.
Tip: If possible, grow Virginia peanuts in the section of your garden where you grew corn the previous year and avoid growing them where you grew beans or peas. This will minimize diseases.
Harvesting Virginia Peanut Plants
Virginia peanut varieties need a long growing season to mature – 90 to 110 days for green, boiling peanuts and 130 to 150 days for dry, roasting peanuts.
Loosen the soil around plants with a garden fork and lift them by grasping at the base and pulling. Shake the dirt from the roots and pods and let the plants dry in the sun for a week (with the pods on top).
Remove the pods from plants and spread them on newspaper in a cool, dry place (such as a garage) for several weeks. Store the peanuts in a mesh bag in a cool, dry place.
Peanut Plant Profile
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Peanuts are a tropical legume. Growing them is fun and rewarding. And watching the peanuts grow is fascinating too, especially with kids because peanuts are unique in their growing habit. The plants send shoots called “pegs” into the ground where the peanut clusters grow.
|Botanical Name||Arachis hypogaea|
|Common Name||Peanuts, Goobers, Groundpeas, Ground nuts, Earth nuts|
|Mature Size||1 to 2 feet with a three-foot spread|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun|
|Soil Type||Sandy loam|
|Soil pH||6.0 to 6.5|
|Hardiness Zone||Zones 5-7 ("Northern" varieties) 8-12|
|Native Area||South America|
Three types of peanuts are commonly grown in South Carolina: Virginia, Valencia, and Runner. Several different varieties of each type are available. The variety selected should depend on soil type, length of growing season, and personal preference.
Virginia types are the best all-around choice for both boiling and roasting. These large-podded peanuts are sometimes called “ballpark” peanuts. Virginia types produce high yields and have excellent flavor.
Valencia types are often boiled because of their distinctive flavor, 3 to 5 seeds per pod, and attractive red seed coats. Valencia types produce smaller kernels and yield less than Virginia types.
Runner types, as the name suggests, have a prostrate or running growth habit. These are the “peanut butter” peanuts that generally are small but have excellent flavor. They contain two medium-sized seeds per pod.
Valencia peanuts are a sweet type of peanut that are covered by a bright red skin and usually contain three or more kernels in a longer shell. They are mostly served as roasted peanuts and sold in their peanut shell or boiled.
Boiled peanuts are a Southern staple that date back to America’s colonial days. Try this recipe with Valencia peanuts to create your own, courtesy of the National Peanut Board.
While grown less frequently in the U.S., the primary production here is in New Mexico and Texas.
The peanut plant is very versatile. There are also many non-food uses for peanuts using the peanut shells, skins, and kernels.