Dr. Peanut: George Washington Carver

American Food History is Black Food History

peanuts in and out of the shell

The Spruce Eats

I am a proud Black woman. I am proud of my ancestors, our resilience in the face of all the obstacles and hate, our ability to transcend, transform, and find a way when none seems possible. Thank you to Carter G. Woodson, the creator of Black History Month, for his vision to highlight our Black American figures, both then and now.

Proud Black Americans have shaped this country in ways far beyond their indentured servitude. We thank James Hemings for his work in bringing his French culinary teachings while in Paris cooking in servitude to Thomas Jefferson back to America and giving our country ice cream, creme brulee, french fries, and our beloved mac and cheese.

This year, in honor of Black History Month, we celebrate the great works of American agriculturalist George Washington Carver.  A humble and selfless man with a small mission to help sharecroppers maintain their land, ultimately became America's big agricultural solution and a world powerhouse.

George Washington Carver at work at Tuskegee in September 1938.
Dr. Carver in his lab at Tuskegee in 1938.

National Archives / public domain

Peanuts. The legume of champions. Packed with protein, magnesium, fiber, and potassium, peanuts have been a soldier for the Americas and for its “General”, George Washington Carver. 

With the peanut’s origins rooted in South America, it was Mr. Carver who acknowledged the indigenous American crop, and those farmers’ use in companion farming (two-crop). Mr. Carver adapted this practice to what the agricultural community now known as crop rotation, used to replenish the soil between nutrient reaping cash crops like tobacco, cotton, sugarcane, and corn.

Mr. Carver’s belief in the benefits of nutrient-rich peanuts to the soil was not lost on what the legume could do for the human body. He took this passion to paper writing How to Grow the Peanut and 105 Ways of Preparing it for Human Consumption. Yes, 105 ways! Work!

I had great fun scrolling through the recipes and comparing them with some of my favorite peanut recipes and some that made me scratch my head in amazement. Mr. Carver broke this list into categories with a few permutations of the same recipe for easy use.

If you love peanuts in any of its forms, seek out this handbook and try some of Mr. Carver's simple recipes. I particularity want to try No. 36 for peanut strips with bananas, but more on that obsession later. Let me guide you through Dr. Peanut's bible:

West African Peanut Butter Soup
West African Peanut Soup.

The Spruce/Cara Cormack

  • BREADS No. 8 - 16 of which No. 9 peanut bread number two is closest to ours, and No. 16, Swedish nut rolls, though peanuts for almonds, of course. Mr. Carver follows a similar recipe in No. 20 for tea rolls, which he marks as “delicious”. If he says it is delicious, I believe him.
bread machine peanut butter bread
peanut bread.

The Spruce Eats / Diana Rattray

  • COOKIES No 17 - 28 that must lead with three versions of peanut butter cookies. I think Mr. Carver would be most proud of our 3-ingredient recipe and for his peanut bars (No. 21).
3-Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies
peanut butter cookies.

The Spruce / Kristina Vanni / Eric Kleinberg

Peanut butter cake recipe
peanut butter cake.

The Spruce

  • MISCELLANEOUS DISHES FROM PEANUTS No. 37 - 51 shows Mr. Carver’s ingenious forward-thinking mind as he outlines recipes for meat replacement with peanuts like “mock” chicken, veal cutlets, and sausage, including simple homemade peanut butter (No. 51).
peanut butter in jar with peanut butter filled spoon resting on top of jar
homemade peanut butter.

The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack

bread with peanut butter, bread with jelly
peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

The Spruce / Eric Kleinberg

  • CANDIES AND CONFECTIONS No. 70 - 100, the largest category with taffy, fudge, marshmallows, nougat, caramel, and that tooth-cracker peanut brittle.
Copycat Payday Bars
Copycat Payday Bars.

The Spruce / Nyssa Tanner

  • FANCY CHEESE FOR THE HOME No 101 - 105 includes peanut coffee (roasted and ground peanuts, cow peas, wheat/rye), cream cheese following his colleague M.R. Tolstrup’s recipe to be used for ‘peanut sandwich cheese’, and leaving us simply with recipe No. 105 for salted peanuts.

Thank you Mr. Carver. America is forever grateful for your contributions to a better nation.

American history is Black history.