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The History of Peanut Butter

First Posted: 01/23/2012 12:00 pm Updated: 08/31/2012 10:48 am

We've all known and loved peanut butter since childhood. What would our school lunches or couch-potato snacks have been without peanut butter or a PB&J sandwich? Whether you're a fan of creamy or chunky, peanut butter has always had a place in American culture. But have you ever wondered how peanut butter came about? And how did it become so popular? In honor of National Peanut Butter Day, which is January 24, we delve into some peanut butter history and trivia.

Peanut butter actually dates back to Aztec times. The Aztecs mashed roasted peanuts into a paste, somewhat different from what we know of as peanut butter today. But many people have been credited with the title of peanut-butter-inventor, among them George Washington Carver. However, he did not invent peanut butter; instead he promoted more than 300 uses for peanuts, among other crops such as soy beans and sweet potatoes.

The actual invention of peanut butter, its process of manufacture and the machinery used to make it, can be credited to at least three doctors/inventors. In 1884 Marcellus Gilmore Edson of Canada patented peanut paste, the finished product from milling roasted peanuts between two heated surfaces. In 1895 Dr. John Harvey Kellogg (the creator of Kellogg's cereal) patented a process for creating peanut butter from raw peanuts. He marketed it as a healthy protein substitute for patients without teeth. In 1903, Dr. Ambrose Straub of St. Louis, Missouri, patented a peanut-butter-making machine. In 1922, chemist Joseph Rosefield invented a process for making smooth peanut butter that kept the oil from separating by using partially hydrogenated oil. In 1928 he licensed his invention to the company that created Peter Pan peanut butter. And in 1932 he began producing his own peanut butter under the name Skippy.

Some Peanut Trivia:

  • Peanuts are actually not nuts but legumes grown underground.

  • The U.S. is the third largest producer of peanuts (Georgia and Texas are the two major peanut-producing states). China and India are the first and second largest producers, respectively.

  • More than half of the American peanut crop goes into making peanut butter.

  • U.S. presidents Jimmy Carter and Thomas Jefferson were peanut farmers.

  • It takes about 540 peanuts to make a 12-ounce jar of peanut butter.

  • Americans eat around 700 million pounds of peanut butter per year (about 3 pounds per person).

  • An average American child eats 1,500 PB&J sandwiches before graduating from high school.

More Related Content:
Recipes using peanut butter from Peanut Butter & Co.
Taste Test: The Best Tasting Peanut Butter

Learn more about how peanuts are grown and how peanut butter is made in the video below.

How do you like to enjoy peanut butter? Leave a comment below.

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Filed by Joseph Erdos  |