If you consider yourself a baseball fan, you know that peanuts are not just for elephants at the circus. Peanuts and baseball practically go hand-in hand. Spectators at ballgames in America have enjoyed peanuts since the early years of the game, as far back as the first decades of the 20th century, when the botanist now known as the Father of the American Peanut Industry, George Washington Carver proposed over 300 uses for the peanut and specifically emphasized the peanut’s importance as a cash crop in the South.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, there are about 0.51 million square hectares (close to two thousand square miles) of peanut farms in the United States, which produces close to 1.89 million metric tons (about four billion pounds) of peanuts. Peanuts are native to Peru, and were first grown in the United States as cheap livestock food.
So how did peanuts get into your ballpark and all up in your jelly?
During the American Civil War, soldiers ate peanuts for their affordable and tasty energy supply and nutritional value. When soldiers returned from war, their newfound preference for peanuts created a high demand for the product. In-shell peanuts became a popular snack among spectators at baseball games, and the circus alike, where the snacks were sold by vendors. Frequent peanut-eaters know the historically appropriate, although messy, methodology of peanut-eating involves shelling the legumes and casually dropping the shells onto the ground or floor.
If you or someone you love has a peanut allergy- never fear! Major League Baseball clubs still have their doors opened to you. Many major league, minor league, and independent league teams have designated peanut-free seating areas for those with serious peanut allergies. You can read more about peanut-free baseball games here.
Impress your friends and family with these fun facts about peanuts from around the interwebs:
-Jazz legend Duke Ellington‘s first job was working as a peanut vendor at the Washington Senators baseball games in Washington, D.C. in the first decade of the 1900s.
-There are many varieties of peanuts, some you may have heard of, including: Valencia, Virginia, Spanish and Runner.
-A peanut shortage due to the hot dry summer in 2011, is expected to lead to an increase in the prices of peanut products.
-March became national peanut month in 1974.
-Former President of the United States Jimmy Carver was a peanut farmer.
Do you have a favorite baseball tradition? Is there a particular ghost of baseball past you would like to revisit? Ever wonder why they do what they do, and when they started doing it? If you have a suggestion, question, or submission for Throwback Thursday, contact Elise by tweeting @Elise_Myers.