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George Washington Carver and the many uses for peanuts

Janet Hackert, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, Harrison County, University of Missouri Extension


As we celebrate Black History Month, one of Missouri’s most famous African-American scientists comes to mind: George Washington Carver. Carver studied several plants, but is perhaps best known for his work with peanuts.


Carver discovered over 300 uses for peanuts, ranging from shaving cream and shampoo to wood stains and plastics. He also came up with an amazing number of edible options for peanuts. In a 1925 report called, “How to Grow the Peanut and 105 Ways of Preparing it for Human Consumption,” Carver gives recipes for five different peanut soups, six types of breads, five peanut salads, 21 desserts and 29 candies (including peanut and prune ice cream and peanut carrot fudge). Some recipes are for more common foods, such as peanut butter and peanut brittle. He also came up with several ways to eat peanuts as a main dish, devising recipes for such foods as liver with peanuts, mock meats — including chicken, veal cutlets and sausage made from peanuts — a peanut omelet and baked peanuts with rice.


Carver studied this legume because he wanted to help poor cotton farmers in the South improve their depleted soil. He found that it was an inexpensive protein food crop, too. Dry roasted peanuts are an excellent source of magnesium, niacin and potassium. They are also a good source of zinc, copper, thiamine and phosphorus. They are high in fiber, and contain iron, pantothenic acid and vitamin B6. Peanuts also are high in fat—mostly unsaturated fat, which is a healthier choice than the saturated fat found in meat.


For parents of children who are not fond of meat and for those whose work has them on the go at mealtimes, peanuts can be a convenient way to fit in a healthy snack. A half ounce of peanuts (or tree nuts such as almonds, walnuts and cashews) or a tablespoon of peanut butter counts as equivalent to 1 ounce from the protein group. Most older children and adults need approximately 4-6.5 ounces from this group each day. Of course, peanut allergies can also be a concern.


For more information on Carver’s accomplishments and the many uses for peanuts he discovered, go to


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Last update: Friday, February 24, 2017