After pollinating, the ovary of the peanut flower grows downwards until it goes underground and turns, continuing to grow outwards parallel to the surface. Thereafter, the peanut seed matures and starts to grow upwards, forming a new peanut plant close to the original. This growth cycle takes four to five months.
Despite their name, peanuts are in fact legumes, but their taste, use in cooking, and nutritional value is closer to that of nuts than of other legumes. They are an excellent vegetable source for protein.
Peanuts, often eaten in the form of butter, are the most popular nuts in the US, representing 67 percent of all nut consumption. They are also used to make oil used for deep-frying, flour and are eaten whole, typically salted.
Peanuts originated in South America, but today the biggest producers are China and India. In the West, the US is the main producer. They need a warm climate for cultivation, but it can be quite dry. They are harvested by cutting off the plant close to the ground and lifting it up whole, leaving the peanut pods to dry on the plant for a couple of days, and then threshing them to separate the nuts.