Annuals, Edible fruit
The peanut originated in South America and bears best where summers are long and warm. It is tender to frost but worth growing even in cool regions. Plants resemble bush sweet peas (Lathyrus) and are 10–20 in. high. After the bright yellow flowers fade, a “peg” (shootlike structure) develops at each flower’s base and grows down into the soil; peanuts develop underground.
The four basic classes of peanuts are Virginia and Runner types, with two large seeds per pod; Spanish, with two or three small seeds per pod; and Valencia, with three to six small seeds per pod. Buy seeds (unroasted peanuts) from mail-order suppliers.
For best performance, plant infertile, well-drained soil; sandy or other light-textured soil is ideal for penetration by pegs. In cool-summer areas, grow peanuts against a south-facing wall for maximum heat, as plants do best when soil temperature is 70°–80°F (21°–27°C). Plant as soon as soil has warmed in spring, setting seeds (with shells removed but skins intact) 1 1/2–2 in. deep. Sow seeds of Virginia and Runner peanuts 6–8 in. apart; sow Spanish and Valencia peanuts 4–6 in. apart. Fertilize at planting time. In cool-summer areas, grow under floating row covers to hasten growth. In 110 to 120 days after planting, foliage yellows and plants are ready to dig; loosen soil, then pull up plants. Let peanuts dry on vines in a warm, airy, shaded place for 2 to 3 weeks; then strip them from the plants.
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