America’s Most Popular “Legume”
DEFINITION: The peanut is a variety in the legume or “bean” family. It is an “herbaceous plant” growing 0.98 to 1.6 ft tall annually. After its pollination, the “fruit develops” into a “legume 1.2 to 2.8 in long,” which will contain 1 to 4 seeds. In turn, the seeds force their way underground to mature.
HISTORY: Peanuts are “indigenous” to the tropics of the Americas and were mashed up to become a “pasty substance” by the Aztec Native Americans thousands of years ago. In those ancient times of the Aztecs, early versions of “peanut butter” were nothing but “pure roasted peanut paste.” It had a somewhat more “bitter taste,” and was considerably harder to work with and spread than the standard “Peanut butters” that we use today.
BACKGROUND: In the late 1800s the peanut was frequently referred to as a “goober.” It was used to “nourish domestic animals,” and was thought not fit to be consumed by humans. George Washington Carver thought it had great “potential for human consumption,” and realized its “nitrogen fixing qualities” would make it a good crop to alternate with cotton. Carver worked feverishly day in and day out and revealed over 300 uses for the peanut, on the vine and on the skin of the plant. He proved that candies, milk, cookies, coffee, butter, oil, paper, and that over 30 dyes could be made from the “pent” crop.
To assist in its “spread-ability,” vegetable oil was later added to most brands; but with new modern processing machines being invented, the peanut butter was already noticeably smoother than it had been in the past. It was at this time that ingredients like “sugar and molasses” were added to the recipes to make it more pleasing to the palette and more of an indulgence.
WHY PB? Peanut butter in modern times is a “food paste” made largely from ground-up, dry roasted peanuts. It is primarily used as a sandwich spread, often times with our favorite jam or jellies. The way we know of peanut butter in this day and age, comes from a U.S. Patent 306,727, which was issued in the year 1884 to Marcellus Gilmore Edson of Montreal, Quebec, Canada. His patent is based on the preparation of a “peanut paste” as and as an introduction to the production of peanut candies. His patented process consisted of “milling roasted peanuts between heated surfaces” until the peanuts entered “a fluid or semi-fluid state.” When the peanut product cooled, it set into “a consistency like that of butter, lard, or ointment,” Edson explained.
HEALTH: Peanuts and peanut butter provide vitamins B3 and E, protein, dietary fiber, magnesium, foliate, and high levels of the antioxidant p-coumaric acid. For these facts, studies show that “Peanut butter may safeguard against the high risks of cardiovascular disease” due to high levels of monounsaturated fats and resveratrol. When peanut butter is prepared with the skin of the peanuts, it has a superior level of resveratrol and other “health-aiding agents.”
“Natural peanut butter and peanuts” do not contain partially hydrogenated oils. A U.S. Agricultural Research Service (ARS) survey of commercial peanut butters in the U.S. showed the presence of trans fat, but at very low levels. Unfortunately there are some commercial brands of peanut butter that may contain a small amount of “added partially hydrogenated vegetable oils,” which are high in trans-fatty-acids; which are thought to be a contributor to “atherosclerosis, coronary heart disease, and stroke.” The reason they add these oils is to “prevent the peanut oil from separating.” The United States and China are primary exporters of peanut butter.
Thanks to the Ancient Aztecs, George Washington Carver, and Marcellus Gilmore Edson the creation of the peanut butter cup has made its way into modern society! In fact the “Peanut Butter Cup” is one of the most popular kinds of candy bars in America.
PB CUP: The peanut butter cup is a “molded milk, or dark chocolate candy with a creamy or crunchy peanut butter filling inside.” The diameter, thickness, and the relative quantity of these two “delicious components” differ among the requirements of the manufacturer. Any type of chocolate may be used for the shell, but milk chocolate is most commonly used.
In 1928 the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup brand was created by Harry Burnett Reese, who was a former dairy farmer and shipping foreman for Milton S. Hershey. Mr. Reese, being a resident of Hershey, Pennsylvania, was motivated by Milton Hershey, so he left the dairy farm to be the owner of his own candy business. Using “Hershey Chocolate” in his confections; Reese established The H. B. Reese Candy Co. in the basement of his home. Because the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups were selling so well, Reese eventually discontinued producing his other candy lines. In 1963, several years after Reese’s death, the company was sold to The Hershey Company for $23.5 million!
In recent years the Reese’s company has experimented with diversity of peanut butter cups. Some variations have used white chocolate, dark chocolate, chocolate-flavored peanut filling and banana peanut butter in a chocolate cup that was sold as the “Elvis Special Edition.”
In the United States, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups characteristically come in two, four, and in the king size versions of eight-packs. They are packaged in a “distinctive orange wrapping.” The “traditional” two-pack is a .75 oz. cup, the “King Size” four-pack is a .70 oz. cup, and for the hard core peanut butter cup fan, there is the “Lunch” eight-pack in a .55 oz. cup. The “mini” cups come in a variety of bag sizes and assorted foil colors with multiple “seasonal themes.”
In the 1970s and 1980s, a string of commercials were run for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups featuring different situations in which two people collided into one another, one is eating peanut butter and one eating chocolate. One person would call out, “You got your peanut butter in my chocolate!” and the other would call out, “You got your chocolate in my peanut butter!” They would then taste the delicious combination and comment on the fantastic taste, at which would then tie in the slogan, “Two great tastes that taste great together.”
By the 1990s, the product’s slogan was, “There’s no wrong way to eat a Reese’s.” Today the current slogan is: “Perfect.” Oh yes, and how “PERFECT” it is!!