School holiday activity: growing peanuts

Green Lifestyle

These school holidays, try growing peanuts as a fun garden experiment for kids. You can even grow them from nuts bought at the health food store!


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Peanuts (they’re actually legumes) grow underground, but you may be surprised to learn the nuts aren't in amongst the roots.

Once the plants reach a certain height and make their small yellow flowers, they send shoots – or pegs – down from the branches, penetrating the soil. The shells form on the ends of these.

Peanuts prefer light, loamy or sandy soils and even watering – not too much or they’ll rot. They’re usually planted between October and January in temperate climates, and later in hotter areas. They have the added advantage of being able to fix nitrogen in the soil by converting it from the atmosphere. Consequently, you can dig the plants into the soil after harvest and they’ll feed the soil.

You’re ready to harvest after about 120 days in wetter areas and 170 days in drier places, when the plants start to go yellow. The pods will be a dark colour and the nuts turned from gold to pink. Pull up the whole plant, shake off excess earth and hang the plant to dry for a few days in a sheltered spot with good airflow. Wash off the remaining dirt and air dry for a couple of weeks.

Eat the nuts raw or oven roast them at 180°C for 15–20 minutes for a crisper consistency.

If you can’t find seedlings, you can plant raw, unprocessed peanuts from a health food store. They should have unbroken, brown skins. Sow 3–5 cm deep and they should germinate in a couple of weeks. Plant seedlings 45 cm apart to give the pegs ample space.