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In Print: On News Stands Now

THE LOVE OF BOILED PEANUTS

by Tumbleweed Smith

While in North Carolina a few years back I kept seeing crude signs advertising boiled peanuts. Curiosity got the best of me and I pulled into one of the stands selling the things. “I’d like some boiled peanuts,” I told the man behind the big pot. He told me I better try some first. He handed me a hot, wet peanut. I opened it and saw some of the biggest peanuts I’ve ever seen. I popped them in my mouth and instantly wished I had just kept on driving past that stand. They were mushy and had no taste. He apparently knew he had lost a sale and said, “Not everybody likes ‘em.” I was glad he made me sample them. I bought some regular dry, unboiled peanuts and they were delicious.

I hadn’t given boiled peanuts another thought until I met Warren Garrett in Crockett. He grew up in Crystal Springs, Mississippi and loves boiled peanuts. He is a boiled peanut fiend. “In my youth, on Sunday afternoons in the fall of the year during the peanut harvest while they were still green, peanut boilings were social events,” he says. “People in the neighborhoods would gather around a big washpot and boil peanuts. You have to cultivate a taste for them. In Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, the Carolinas and in some parts of Louisiana you’ll find a lot of people who grew up eating boiled peanuts.”

You boil peanuts in the shell and it’s preferable to eat them while they are warm, just out of the pot. “You boil them in a salt brine,” says Warren, “and they are salty. It depends on your taste as to how much salt you want on them. You can eat them cold, but they’re better right after they’ve cooled down after dipping them out of the pot.”

After Warren left Mississippi and started working in Houston, he occasionally would return to Crystal Springs to visit family members. He has four children and they would be with Warren as he traveled to his boyhood home. On the way back to Houston on one of his trips he spied a man in a pickup near Hammond, Louisiana. “It was an old farmer going along and I could see in the back of his pickup that he was hauling a bagful of peanuts. I just pulled up beside him and waved him over. I paid him fifteen dollars for twenty-five pounds of green peanuts ready for boiling.”

He admits that most people who didn’t grow up eating peanuts boiled in salt brine don’t have a craving for them. The fact that they’re green may have something to do with that. “This is before they are dried. You can boil the dry peanuts, but you need to soak them for quite a while. The best way to boil them is to put them in a pressure cooker. But they’re not as good as the green ones when they‘re fresh from the field. The best ones are picked slightly before they mature. Some farmers in Mississippi make their living growing green peanuts for boiling.”

Warren has tried to boil Texas peanuts, but they don’t work too well. He says it’s the soil. “I’ve given some of my Texas friends boiled peanuts and they all say they don’t know how I can eat them.”

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