Excited about this experiment, we spent the season watching closely as the plants grew larger and larger, producing flowers and what we hoped would be peanuts below the surface.
NYC has a healthy squirrel population and, since they already use our farm for burying treasure and chewing through irrigation for some fine NYC water, we knew they’d be excited to find peanuts on the menu. We started out by covering the bed with a row cover immediately after planting. We pinned it down all the way around to be sure they couldn’t get underneath.
Towards the end of the growing process, the peanut plants outgrew our covers and we (reluctantly) uncovered them so they could get the maximum amount of sun. For the first couple of weeks, we thought the squirrels had been thrown off by the lush green plants but they did eventually figure out the delicious treats that lay just under the soil.
Peanuts take almost our whole frost-free season to grow (mid-May through mid-October) and we had planned to harvest in October. After the squirrels discovered the plants, we decided to harvest, right at the beginning of September. With fingers crossed, we pulled up the plants.
We were pleasantly surprised! The plants were covered in peanuts!
Most peanut farms will leave the plants out on the ground, peanuts up, for up to three weeks (weather permitting). This allows the peanuts to dry on the plant and then they will be ready for storage or roasting almost immediately! As you might have guessed, we are not able to leave them outside for even a few hours. Instead, we pulled them off the plants and spread them in a single layer in a dark, dry space. After about 3 weeks they were dry! Next up – roasting. We can’t wait to try them!
Want to grow peanuts in YOUR NYC garden space? Here are some tips!
- Plant in loose, well-drained soil as soon as the danger of frost is gone; it’s safe on May 15th.
- Cover your planted soil immediately with row covers that allow sun and water through.
- As the plants grow, prop the row covers up to allow space for the plants. Make sure to keep the bottom secure, though – those squirrels are crafty!
- Hill them up once the start to peg by adding more soil at the base of the plants. (Pegging is when the flower dives into the soil to produce the peanut underground.)
- Water regularly until the peanuts start to mature – peanuts like moist soil while they are growing, but if it is too moist once they form, they can rot. Check by digging around the base of the plant to see how big they are.
- Once harvested, let them dry inside in a dark, dry spot. Spread them out in a single layer on a cookie sheet and mix them around every few days so they don’t stay wet on the bottom.
- Roast, boil, or toast (and don’t forget the salt!) and enjoy!