Mar. 1 – Everyone Loves Peanut Butter

GabeAmerican History(BR), Bell Ringers

Mar. 1 is National Peanut Butter Lovers’ Day.

Peanut Butter is a quintessentially American food. And even in places (like the Netherlands) where it is eaten on bread, it is never eaten with jelly except in the United States!

While George Washington Carver, a famous African-American inventor, didn’t invent peanut butter, he did discover more than 300 uses for peanuts.

Carver was a noted scientist and professor at the Tuskegee Institute. In the early 1900s, the boll weevil was rampaging the South’s cotton crop. Carver was looking for alternative crops that could be commercialized, and also were good for the soil. Peanuts are legumes (not nuts). One of their features is that they bind nitrogen in the soil around their roots. Since nitrogen is the major component of fertilizer, planting them enriches the soil, rather than depleting it (as cotton does). His promotion of peanuts led to a major switch in cultivation, and for a time, peanuts rivaled cotton as the lead crop in the South.

When so many farmers switched from cotton, however, it dramatically reduced the price for peanuts. Carver dedicated himself to inventing new uses for peanuts, many of which are still popular today!

  1. What other products do you use that are made with peanuts?
  2. Do you think of peanut butter as American? What other foods come to mind when you think of American foods?
  3. The boll weevil led to the widespread destruction of cotton, and caused significant hardship, because so much of the South’s economy was driving by cotton. Apart from causing more farmers to grow peanuts (and eat peanut butter), what effect do you think this had on Southern culture, and on migration away from the South?

Image Citation:

Heart carved into a container of peanut butter.  Digital Image.  HipNJ.  February 19, 2019.