Saturday, November 29, 2008
A Pot to Pea In
Emboldened by my rooftop cotton crop last year (all of three plants),’08 was my summer to experiment with planting peanuts. I’m always searching for plants that will teach kids the connections between what we eat and use, and how it grows, things I can grow in my all container garden on a rooftop in Manhattan. Although I’ve farmed flowers and herbs in Pennsylvania, and grew enough vegetables there to make a dent in our supermarket shopping, I had never tried growing peanuts. In fact though I was intrigued with the Planters Peanut man as a girl, and pondered smooth vs. chunky for peanut butter sandwiches for my kids, peanuts were pretty much off my radar screen as a crop.
I love a challenge. The first part was finding seeds in early June when the big idea hit. Many companies thought it was too late to ship. Henry Fields did not. At www.HenryFields.com. I selected both ‘Early Spanish’ (100-120 days) and ‘Virginia Improved’ (120 days) and planted them more or less according to package directions on June 18. There was not one line on the packages about planting on a city rooftop in containers.I knew that the peas grew underground from 4th grade teacher Miss Stimson at the Mann School in Philadelphia. But I knew little else. When the leaves emerged they looked like PEA leaves, and when the yellow flowers followed, they looked like PEA flowers. The light bulb finally exploded in my head. I had planted PEAnuts. As they grew I thinned to one plant per pot.
Found a Peanut. The ‘nuts’ are really legumes, seeds encased in a shell, like peas and limas. The nuts form from the ovaries of the flowers that are near the bottom of the plant stems. The ovaries send down tubes into the ground where the peanuts mature. Both varieties formed peanuts, with the ‘Early Spanish’ a little smaller and faster maturing as advertised.I’m told that one can plant the peanuts from a grocery; they must be un-roasted of course, out of the shell but whole, not split in half. If you want to try that, go to a health food store and look for organic peanuts that ostensibly haven’t been treated with any growth retardant. My opinion? A packet of seeds is the biggest bargain in the universe both for the educational matter that’s on the outside and the miracle of growth that’s within.
My rooftop peanut harvest wasn’t enough to roast for World Series watching to cheer on my beloved Phillies and I’d sworn off FOX TV for the duration, so I bought some peanuts already roasted, and shelled them as I listened to the World series on radio.