This article was originally published under the same title in the Metro Plus supplement of The Hindu newspaper, Coimbatore, on 21 Sep 2018
The pleasure of harvesting groundnuts and eating them fresh has few equals
I remember my first season of farming, when I ambitiously attempted growing groundnuts organically. The sight of mounds of groundnut plants on the harvested field, of women plucking the nuts and filling them in sacks, is still fresh in my mind. I had not realised back then, that growing this simple crop would drive us nuts.
When the plants needed water to grow, we had a dry spell, and when the harvest needed the sun, we had copious rains. But the harvest couldn’t wait, so we worked in between spells of rain, bringing the groundnuts into the farm house: 15 women working on our two acres of crop. The women toiled hard at harvesting, drying and preparing stacks of the plant residue to be used as nutritious cattle fodder. Most of the groundnuts were dried and sent for making oil. Some of it went into making peanut candy.
Every waking moment was filled with nuts, and when I dropped into bed exhausted, I dreamt about more rains, nuts and snakes in the fields. We baby-sat the groundnuts for two weeks, which meant lugging a huge tarpaulin sheet full of drying nuts (easily weighing 100 kilograms, if not more) into the sun when it emerged, and dragging it all back at the first sign of rain. That was a particularly bad year of harvesting.
Every evening, after a hard day’s work, the women collected their share of fresh nuts, put them into their bags and left for home. I realised then that fresh groundnut was a favoured food, eaten in plenty during the short harvest season. They told me to boil the groundnuts in the shell before eating them. So in the evenings, we settled down on the farm house veranda, and as dusk fell, we cracked open the shells with our discoloured fingers and popped the nuts into our mouths. I learnt that boiling groundnuts in their shell is the most nutritious and wholesome way to consume it, as it is rich in antioxidants and fibre.
Groundnut cultivation opened my eyes to the hard work that goes into my food before it reaches my plate. Knowing where our food comes from and being involved in the growing process gives us a better appreciation of it. The delicate taste and aroma of the groundnut oil, the flavour of the peanut butter, and the crunch of the peanut candy always reminds me of my nutty season.