We call them nuts and treat them like nuts,
but peanuts are not nuts at all. They're legumes. Also called
groundnuts, earthnuts, and goobers, peanuts seem as American as
baseball. The most amazing thing happens when peanuts grow: They start
out on a stem where a flower grew, but after the flower dies, the stem
bends over, and as the peanut develops, it mysteriously buries itself in
the earth. Mature peanuts are then dug up.
The two most common varieties of peanuts are
small, round Spanish peanuts (often seen in peanut mixes) and larger,
oval-shaped Virginia peanuts (often sold in the shell). When buying
in-the-shell peanuts, look for clean shells with no breakage. Shake the
peanuts and buy those that make no sound. If they rattle, the peanuts
are old and beginning to dry out.
Unshelled and vacuum-packed shelled peanuts
cab be kept at room temperature for a few weeks, but it's best to
refrigerate them. Tightly wrap unshelled peanuts and keep in the
refrigerator up to 6 months. Once they are opened, refrigerate
vacuum-packed, shelled peanuts in the jar up to 3 months.