On a recent Saturday, I strolled through the Grandin Village Community Market on my weekly search for fresh, local food.
I stopped under the vendor tent of Lick Run Farm, an innovative, three-acre farm located at 10th street in Northwest Roanoke. This place has grown from a weedy, junk-filled lot to an organic producer, providing food for market-goers and top area restaurants in four short years.
I began to peruse the table: kale, butternut squash, radishes, peppers, peanuts.
Wait. My eyes stopped. Peanuts?
In my mind peanuts grow in the sandy soil of Eastern Virginia and North Carolina or Coastal Georgia. I think peanuts and boiled and beach all in the same breath.
But here they were, harvested not only in my own city but just a few miles from my house.
I, of course, bought some. They were dirty and raw and in the shell. I scooped them into an old berry box I had brought with me. Of course, once I got home, I had no idea what to do with them.
Lick Run’s Michael Grantz had told me I could roast them in the shell or, he said with a yum on his lips, I could throw them in a big ol’ pot with a bunch of garden herbs and boil them.
I had never tried either. But when I found a simple recipe for roasted peanuts from the Food Network’s Alton Brown, I felt ready to give that a go.
Thirty minutes in a 350 oven made my whole kitchen smell like summer at the ballpark. These nuts had a crunch unlike any I’d ever had. This must be how fresh tastes.
I called Lick Run to ask a few questions but I got some tongue-depressing news instead. It seems that once South Roanoke’s River and Rail Restaurant found out about the local peanuts, they purchased every last one.
No seconds on local peanuts for me. At least until next year. Lick Run founder and manager Rick Williams told me the peanuts had been such a hit that they saved some for planting in the spring.
Maybe this week I’ll have to try Lick Run’s bike-milled corn meal.
Keep reading for recipes on how to roast or boil peanuts, even if they don’t come from your local urban farm.
Alton Brown’s Roasted Peanuts
2 pounds in-shell raw peanuts
2 Tbsp. peanut oil
1 to 2 Tbsp. kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Rinse the peanuts under cool water to remove excess dirt. Pat dry and place in a large bowl and toss with the peanut oil and salt until well coated.
Place on 2 half sheet pans, making sure to spread them out into a single layer. Roast in the oven for 30 to 35 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through cooking. Once you remove the peanuts from the oven, let them cool slightly before eating. They will continue to “cook” and become crunchy as they cool.
Alton Brown’s Boiled Peanuts
2 pounds in-shell raw Virginia or Valencia peanuts
3 ounces kosher salt
3 gallons water
Wash the peanuts in cool water until the water runs clear. Soak in cool water for 30 minutes to loosen any remaining dirt.
Drain and rinse the peanuts. Add the peanuts to a 12-quart pot along with the salt and 3 gallons of water. Stir well. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours. Check the texture of the peanut at this point for doneness. When done, boiled peanuts should have a similar texture to a cooked dry bean. It should hold its shape, but not crunch when bitten. Add more water throughout the cooking process, if needed. If necessary, continue cooking for 3 to 4 hours longer.
Drain the peanuts and store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
*Cook’s note: The cooking time can vary greatly depending on how fresh the peanuts are. The fresher the peanut, the less time it will take to cook.