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Is the Peanut Man-made? (History of the Peanut) – GIY Plants

Is the Peanut Man made or natural

Is the peanut man-made? The peanut comes from the peanut plant (Arachis hypogaea). A member of the bean or legume family (Fabaceae) of plants. Which include staples like the soybean, pea, lentils, and chickpeas.

The peanut plant itself, however, is man-made; it does not naturally grow in the wild.

There are many theories about the peanut plant’s origin. But the most likely scenario is that it may have been bred by the ancient people of today’s Peru over 10,000 years ago.

Recent genetic evidence suggests that the domesticated peanut plant we know today. Came about from a possible man-made hybridization of two wild species (Arachis ipaensis and Arachis duransis).

Origins of the Peanut

The earliest fossil record shows peanuts may have moved in the Zaña Valley. In Northern Peru 8,500 years ago from the eastern Andes Mountains. However, the peanut hulls found here do not have similar characteristics to modern domestic peanuts.

The earliest known fossil record resembling modern peanuts dates back about 4,000 years ago. At an archaeological site in Peru.

Genetic sequencing suggests the peanut may have first originated in Peru about 10,000 years ago. When two wild species of peanut (Arachis ipaensis and Arachis duransis) were hybridized by humans. [1]

Over the years since first being hybridized, selective pressure by humans have favored peanut cultivars that provided higher yields, higher oil content, higher fertilization efficiency, and high resistance to pathogens.

At the time of European expansion into the New World in the 1500s, the modern cultivated peanut was already widespread throughout South America.

Early Spanish explorers discovered natives cultivating the plant in the West Indies, Mexico, Brazil, and extensively in Peru.

From the new world, the plants traveled to Europe, Africa, Asia, as well as colonial America.

Is Peanut Butter also Man-made?

Freshly made peanut butter from peanuts

Yes, peanut butter which comes from the peanuts of peanut plants are man-made as well. Peanuts harvested are shelled, roasted, cooled, blanched and ground up. Then are mixed together with salt, sugar, and a vegetable oil stabilizer to produce peanut butter. Occasionally, chopped peanuts may be added to give the crunchy peanut butter texture.

According to the US FDA, brands cannot call their product peanut butter unless it is made up of 90% peanuts. With the other 10% being ingredients such as salt, sugar, and vegetable stabilizer. Additionally, peanut butter must not exceed 55% fat. [2]

Did George Washignton Carver invent Peanut Butter?

Although he is sometimes credited with inventing peanut butter, George Washington Carver did not invent peanut butter.

However, he was famous for popularizing the crop among American Southern farmers. Who were suffering from declining soil due to generations of cotton farming and boll weevil infestations.

He is credited with creating more than 300 products (e.g. medicines, lotions, and soaps, etc.) derived from the peanut plant. Which helped popularize the cultivation of peanuts as a nitrogen-fixing soil-building plant.

Peanut butter’s invention is credited to Canadian Marcellus Gilmore Edson. Who first patented peanut paste in 1884. His peanut paste was derived from milling roasted peanuts between two heated surfaces.

A year later, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg (creator of Kellogg’s brand of cereals) patented another process. That allowed for the creation of peanut butter from raw peanuts or almonds.

However, it was probably the Aztec and Incas who first created peanut butter. From smashing roasted peanuts together to make a paste.

Of course, without modern vegetable stabilizer and machines, the peanut paste created by the Aztecs was probably not as smooth as modern peanut butter.


[1] Liu, Y., Shao, L., Zhou, J., Li, R., Pandey, M. K., Han, Y., Cui, F., Zhang, J., Guo, F., Chen, J., Shan, S., Fan, G., Zhang, H., Seim, I., Liu, X., Li, X., Varshney, R. K., Li, G., & Wan, S. (2022, February). Genomic insights into the genetic signatures of selection and seed trait loci in cultivated peanuts. Journal of Advanced Research. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jare.2022.01.016

[2] Office of the Commissioner. (2018, January 31). Food Standard Innovations: Peanut Butter’s Sticky Standard. U.S. Food And Drug Administration. Retrieved October 21, 2022, from https://www.fda.gov/about-fda/histories-product-regulation/food-standard-innovations-peanut-butters-sticky-standard

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