We’re on a peanut butter kick this week, which got us wondering about the origins of such a ridiculously delicious spread.
We were surprised to discover that “peanut paste” can be traced all the way back to the ancient Incas of South America! From there the idea of crushing peanuts into paste popped up here and there as the peanut plant was spread globally by the explorers of the day, but peanut butter as we know it today didn’t begin to formulate until as “recently” as the 1890s.
George Washington Carver is popularly considered the inventor of peanut butter, but that’s not entirely accurate. Carver was a passionate researcher and promoter of peanuts as an alternative crop for farmers in the American South (he discovered over 300 uses for the peanut!), but the creation of modern peanut butter can’t really be credited to one inventor. Instead, it seems to have unfolded in three steps carried out by three different parties.
The first was an unknown St. Louis physician who began packaging “peanut paste” in 1890 as a source of protein for his patients with no teeth. By 1895 the Kellogg brothers were nearly there, but were boiling their peanuts rather than roasting them. Finally – at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis – Mr. C.H. Sumner turned a tidy profit of $705 (don’t laugh – that would be nearly $19,000 today!) by peddling the peanut butter we know, love and enjoy to this day.
And when we say LOVE, we mean it! Half of all the peanuts grown in the USA (an industry that injects more than $4 billion USD into the US economy every year) go into the production of peanut butter at a rate of about 600 peanuts for every 375 gram jar!
Research indicates that women prefer smooth or creamy while men opt for chunky – does that sound like your household? We’d be interested to hear how you like to enjoy peanut butter; smoothed onto toast? Scooped onto crackers? Baked into biscuits? On a spoon straight out of the jar? Let us know with a comment below.