Description and Cultivation
Like the garden pea, the groundnut plant is a member of the family Leguminosae. It is an annual, herbaceous plant growing approximately 30-60 cm high, with hard, angular stalks. The flowers are brilliant yellow, develop rapidly and bloom for only a few hours. The seeds are packed in twin layers. The seedpods are yellow with a wrinkled surface, each containing 1-4 seeds the size of hazelnuts. The yellow-white nuts are enclosed in thin, red-brown shells that are easily opened when the seeds are dry and ripe. Like those of the soy bean, groundnut seeds are sown in rows in harrowed soil. Some tall varieties must be ridged like other root vegetables. During a period of 2-6 weeks the level and seeds are air-dried, which lowers their moisture content from 40 to 10 %.
The seeds will thus keep longer and are easier to shell. Groundnuts are mainly exported unshelled since the shells prevent transport damage.
Today the most important areas of cultivation are China, India, West and North Africa and the USA. The main export countries for groundnut oil are Argentina, Sudan and Senegal. The EU imports 0.6 million tonnes of groundnuts.
Groundnuts contain 40-50 % fat and 24-35 % proteins. Groundnuts are pressed to derive the oil. The protein-rich press residues are used as animal feed.
Groundnut oil has a moderate content of polyunsaturated fatty acids. It has a good heat stability and was earlier a popular frying oil.