Imagine growing peanuts in your backyard. If you like the idea, you’ll be delighted to learn that peanut plants are surprisingly easy to grow and great fun to harvest. The growing season is quite lengthy and you will need to identify when your peanuts are ready to harvest.
Generally, you can harvest homegrown peanuts from late summer to early fall. But like all vegetables, it depends on the variety you plant, and when you plant it. There are four common peanut varieties and between them, they take anything from 90 to 165 days to mature.
How Do You Know When Your Peanuts Are Ready to Harvest?
Native to South America, peanuts – or groundnuts – aren’t nuts, they are legumes that grow under the soil. And they are more commonly considered to be a commercial crop than a backyard vegetable.
Harvesting a commercial crop requires mechanical equipment and precise harvest dates to ensure maximum harvest capacity. Growing peanuts is a big business that calls for more management skills than many other commercial crops.
Because they are so nutritious, in some parts of the world, peanuts are grown by resource-limited farmers for their own consumption. For instance, according to a South African Agricultural Research Council (ARC) Grain Crops Institute’s guide on groundnut production, peanuts are an important source of nutrition in certain parts of South Africa.
But for whatever reason peanuts are grown, to benefit from their high nutritional benefits, it is vital to harvesting the crop at the right time. Like many other plants, peanut plants will give you a good clue when they are ready for harvest.
The timeframe also depends on the type of peanut you have planted. This will have been early in spring when the soil temperature was between 65 and 70°F (18-21°C).
Type of Peanut vs Harvest Time
There are several different types of peanuts including runner, Spanish, Valencia, and Virginia. And each type, and each variety within the type, has a different time frame from planting until it is time to harvest. For example:
- Virginia and runner types, 130-150 days after planting
- Spanish within 120 days, and Early Spanish, an early-maturing variety, in as few as 90 days
- Valencia types, 95-100 days
Signs That Show Your Peanuts Are Ready to Harvest
It is commonly agreed that you should harvest peanuts when about three-quarters of them are ripe. But how can you tell?
There are several ways including looking at the color of the seeds and the inside walls of the pods.
Color of the Inner Pod Walls
When you scrape peanuts pods with a knife you will see that the inner layer of the pods varies in color from white to black. The dark color indicates maturity.
Color of the Seeds
In case you are wondering, the seeds of a peanut are the legumes that we eat. When you plant them, you start with fresh, raw peanuts.
The color of immature peanut seeds is white. Every peanut seed gradually becomes a light pink color as it matures. It will also fill the entire pod when it’s ripe.
Color & Condition of the Leaves
The leaves of the plants turn yellow and start to shrivel up.
What Happens If You Don’t Harvest Peanuts?
If you don’t harvest your peanuts, they will rot underground. If you harvest them too late, the pods will tend to break off when you pull the plants out of the ground, never to be seen again!
How to Harvest Peanuts?
According to the National Peanut Board, U.S. farmers harvest about 4,000 lbs (1,815 kg) of peanuts per acre (0,4 hectares) using a mechanical digger. Once they have removed the plants, they leave them on top of the soil to dry for a couple of days.
The farmers then use a second machine to shake the plants and separate the pods.
The process is very different when growing peanuts in your backyard.
How to Harvest Homegrown Peanuts
To be sure that your peanuts are ripe, unearth a few pods from different plants and break them open. Check the color of the seeds (the peanuts) and the color of the inner pod walls.
Use a garden fork to loosen the soil around your peanuts or groundnuts. Try to go straight down into the ground so you don’t dig into the peanut pods.
Even though you plant peanut seeds only about an inch deep, the roots may go as deep as 3 feet (just less than a meter) deep.
Gently lift the plant and its seed pods and their roots out of the ground. Shake the loose soil off the roots and pods and then hang the plants in a warm, dry place to dry for a couple of weeks.
Some growers allow the pods to dry for only a week and then remove the pods and let them dry for about three weeks.
You can remove the seeds when the pods are completely dry.
If you plan to plant more peanuts the following year, keep some of the seeds in their pods. You can check that these are ripe by shaking them. They will rattle in the pod if they are ripe.
Should You Wash Peanuts after Harvesting?
Peanuts need to dry out thoroughly after harvesting, so they should never be washed!
Can You Eat Peanuts Immediately after Harvesting?
Peanuts are a popular food globally, and as such are found in many common guises. This includes peanuts sold in their pods or shells as well as shelled peanuts, removed from their pods.
We eat boiled peanuts, roasted peanuts, and peanuts coated with chocolate, caramel, and other sweet confectioneries. Peanut butter is a ubiquitous ingredient for crackers and sandwiches, including peanut butter and jello, and peanut butter mixed with strawberry jam.
We also process peanuts for groundnut oil – and some people eat peanuts raw.
So, when someone asks whether you can eat peanuts immediately after harvesting, it depends entirely on how you want to eat your peanuts. You can eat them raw, but most people process them first.
How to Store & Preserve Peanuts
You can store raw, unshelled peanuts for up to three months in a dry, dark, cupboard or room that is well ventilated. Dried shelled peanuts will last even longer… up to a year.
Once you have roasted peanuts, you can store them in ait-tight containers for 6-12 months, as long as they are in a cool environment of about 40°F (4,4°C).
In these succinct gardening tips, we describe how you will know when your peanut crop is ready to harvest. We also describe the basic process you need to follow from checking your peanuts are ripe to picking them and storing them.
If you decide to give peanut growing a try, you can look forward to boiling or roasting the fruits of your labor. Enjoy!