Did you know that groundnuts, or g-nuts, is just another name for peanuts? And that they are -despite the name- not a nut at all? Botanically speaking, g-nuts are classified as a legume and thus belong to the same family as beans, peas and lentils. Moreover, they are regarded as the crop that yields “the highest protein per acre of any food” in much of Asia and Africa, according to National Geographic.
While many people still regard peanuts as a salty bar snack, the name groundnut is most commonly used in Africa, where it is an essential ingredient in cooking across the continent. A thick g-nut sauce accompanies dishes in Senegal, groundnut soup is famous in Ghana whereas in Nigeria, meat skewers are dusted in hot spices and ground peanuts. In Cote d’Ivoire you can buy a bottle of roasted g-nuts in a recycled plastic bottle by the side of the road and fresh g-nuts are ground to a paste in a traditional stone mill in Northern Uganda.
Peanuts migrated to the US during the slave trade, still confusing many today who think that peanuts originate in Africa. In reality, the peanut plant is said to have originated in Brazil or Peru. Peanut-shaped pottery was found in South America, especially in the Amazon valley and as old as 3,000 – 5,000 years. While jars filled with peanuts were left in graves of the ancient Incas to provide food in the afterlife.
G-nuts usually enjoy well-drained, light-colored, loose, sandy loam soils, that contain high levels of Calcium. They like a pH of about 6.0–7.0 and take about 4-5 months until they are ready for harvest.
As a legume, the g-nut plant has a natural ability to fix nitrogen from the air and soil, which only adds to its global popularity: reducing the need for Nitrogen fertilizer, increasing organic matter, and improving soil structure are among the benefits from growing g-nuts as a cover crop.
Grown as a cash crop, Potassium, Phosphorous, Calcium and Sulfur are the nutrients most commonly applied to g-nuts, depending on the soil. The plant is exceptionally good at using beneficial fungi to access nutrients in the soils such as Phosphorous and Zinc. As a result, g-nuts respond very well to fertilizer left after previous crops. However, this makes them very sensitive to the effects of other crops grown in rotation with them, with grass-type crops such as corn, sorghum, millet, or other small grains being the crop of choice to precede them.
Since the fruit grows underground, it absorbs most of its required Calcium and Boron through the shell and the pegs, rather than through the roots. This impacts the timing of fertilizer application, which is why Calcium is usually applied just before flowering.
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