One of the best parts of doing what I do for a living is being able to go on press tours.
For someone like me, who gets unreasonably excited when I see food growing in its natural state, these press tours are absolutely thrilling. I also love coming home and sharing photos and information that I acquired on the tours, because it’s important for everyone to know where our food comes from.
This past September, I was invited by the Canadian Peanut Bureau to go to Georgia and learn all about peanuts! I jumped at the chance of course, because peanuts. All the peanuts.
Peanuts seem to me like the oft-ignored legume (they’re technically not a nut), hiding behind other nuts like almonds and walnuts and not soaking up a lot of attention. I’m not sure why though; peanuts deserve a heck of a lot of love.
Peanuts are full of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, and in fact, 85% of their fats are unsaturated. Peanuts are also the highest-protein nut with 7 grams per ounce, and are an excellent source of magnesium, vitamin E, and niacin. They’re a source of fiber and other nutrients as well, and peanuts are the least expensive nut. Win-win-win!!
On the tour, I ate a TON of peanuts. I ate boiled peanuts. Peanut ice cream. Fried peanuts. Peanut brittle. Roasted peanuts. Lots and lots and lots of roasted peanuts. OMG. All the peanuts, all of the time. It was heavenly, and I was pretty much full the entire trip. That’s a lot of fiber and protein, people, and those things keep you happy and satiated for a while.
On the tour, we visited Glen Lee Chase’s farm just outside of Plains, Georgia. The farm was started by his parents in 1952, and has grown from 10 acres to 500 acres during that time. Glen now lives there with his wife and son, and he still farms peanuts there.
No one knows more about farming peanuts than Glen, so we were so lucky to get a tour – and I got a tractor ride, too – from Glen himself! He even tore up several rows of his precious peanuts so our group could see how the peanuts are harvested. I have to add that omg tractors these days…he had Sirius Radio in there, and we rocked out while the high-tech computerized tractor did its thing. Whoa!
Peanuts grow under the ground, but their plants flower above ground. Peanut plants require less water than other nuts do, and in about 120 days, the peanut plants are ready to be pulled from the soil. The plants are pulled out and left in the field for about 2 to 3 days to ‘cure’ the peanuts – in other words, taking the moisture in the nuts from 25-50% down to 10% by ‘drying’ them in the sun.
If you’ve never seen or eaten a freshly picked peanut, they have a pink sheen on their skin, and are starchy and mild-tasting. The roasting of the nuts is what gives peanuts and peanut butter their distinct ‘peanutty’ taste.
One myth about peanuts that I want to debunk right now is that of mold, or aflatoxin. Some people believe that peanuts are unsafe to eat because of a naturally-occurring mold that is sometimes found on peanut and other crops.
Each and every peanut crop is inspected for aflatoxin, and the FDA has rigorous food safety standards to prevent outbreaks of aflatoxin illness. In fact, there has never been an aflatoxin illness outbreak in the United States to this day. Other countries do have issues with aflatoxin in their peanuts, but peanuts grown in the United States are safe to consume.
After we toured Glen’s farm, we were lucky enough to get all dressed up and attend an event with President Jimmy Carter! Dining with a former President was thrilling, and I have to let you know that President Carter actually made it to the afterparty later on! We got to speak to him and shake his hand and he was super sweet.
The following day, we attended the Plains Peanut Festival, which was like a classic small-town party complete with beauty queens and a parade. President Carter presided over the festival from that balcony you see in the photo below. Awesome, right? After more peanuts, BBQ’d ribs, and gator on a stick (yes, you read that correctly), it was time to head home to Toronto. What a fun time!
To thank the Peanut Bureau for inviting me on this really epic trip, I’ve developed my crispy tofu with spicy peanut sauce recipe – a plant-based, rich and delicious dish you’re going to love.
This is a super quick meatless dinner that the entire family will love! Dial down the spice for kids if you want.
- 1/2 cup peanut butter
- 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon sriracha or more to taste
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 1/2 teaspoon fish sauce
- 1/4 cup water plus more if needed
- 1 clove garlic crushed or finely minced
- 1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger peeled and grated
- 2 350 g packs firm tofu
- 2 tablespoons neutral oil
- Salt and pepper
- 1/2 pieces onion chopped into small pieces
Slice tofu into 1/2-inch pieces and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick or cast iron frying pan.
Add onions to the pan and fry until browned, then remove from the pan and set aside.
Add 1 tablespoon of oil to the pan and heat until very hot.
Add the tofu to the hot oil and fry, turning once, until browned on both sides.
While the tofu is cooking, combine the sauce ingredients, adding the water last and little by little, stirring until desired consistency is achieved.
Serve the tofu with the sauce, alongside noodles or rice and vegetables.