Peanut Party! Peanut Butter Lovers’ Day, March 1

peanut_butterConsider the humble peanut: it’s little, it’s pretty plain. The peanut isn’t colorful and flashy like many fruits and vegetables, and it isn’t strongly flavored like chile peppers.

But the peanut is a popular little nut, the main (and sometimes only) ingredient in one of America’s favorite foods – peanut butter.

Good, and good for you. Peanuts have more protein, niacin, folate and phytosterols than any nut, and contain over 30 essential nutrients and phytonutrients. Peanuts are also naturally cholesterol-free.

Peanut party. March 1 is National Peanut Butter Lovers’ Day (yes, this is an actual thing), when we celebrate our love of the stuff.

How much do we love peanut butter? For starters, we eat a lot of it: the average American consumes more than six pounds of peanuts and peanut butter products each year, and Americans spend almost $800 million/year on peanut butter. That’s a lot of nuts!

peanut_butter_jarHow that stacks up: Because we can’t let that kind of number go without a data visualization, consider this: according to the National Peanut Board (yes, this is also an actual thing), the amount of peanut butter eaten in a year could wrap the earth one and one-third times, in a ribbon of 18-oz peanut butter jars.

More data visualization. There are enough peanuts in one acre to make 30,000 peanut butter sandwiches. Also, it takes about 540 peanuts to make a 12-ounce jar of peanut butter. There’s a math story problem in there somewhere, probably.

Lunchtime staple. That six pound, average annual consumption number is probably skewed heavily by children’s peanut butter consumption, peanut butter being a staple of the weekday school lunch.  An average American child will eat 1,500 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches before he/she graduates high school.

That’s a lot of PB&J’s. And also pretty boring.

Beyond the PB&J. Peanut butter can do so much more than just be the backdrop for grape jelly in a school child’s lunch box.  Peanut butter is also a key ingredient in a vast number of dishes, ranging from cookies to Asian noodle dishes to southern (US) soups and more.

We’ve got lots of dishes and desserts that call for peanut butter. Check out the full list here. Recipes range from simple peanut butter cookies (and not so ordinary PB cookies with bacon!), to peanut sauces for dipping and drizzling, to noodles, soups, and meaty entrees.

Found a peanut, found a peanut, found a peanut. Little-known fact: there are six cities in the U.S. named Peanut — three of which are in Pennsylvania (Upper Peanut, PA; Lower Peanut, PA; and Peanut, PA).*

Crunchy or smooth? Marketing research shows that women and children tend to prefer creamy peanut butter, while most men opt for chunky. Not as contentious as the East Coast – West Coast, Biggie vs Tupac rivalry, people living on the East Coast prefer creamy peanut butter, while those on the West Coast prefer the crunchy style.

Some dishes that require a smooth texture, such as some sauces, may be better suited to a smooth peanut butter. Other foods, like cookies, are improved with the use of a crunchy/chunky peanut butter. Some folks just don’t like lumps in their food, and for them, smooth peanut butter works well in most recipes.

If you are texture-neutral, and just like peanut butter, you may want to opt for the crunchy kind: the chunky peanut butter is higher in healthy unsaturated fats than the smooth kind. Whichever you use, look for a peanut butter without hydrogenated fats or corn-based sweeteners. As with many foods, the fewer the number of ingredients on the label, the better it probably is for you.

What’s your favorite use for peanut butter?

*The other Peanuts are in Tennessee, California, and West Virginia.