Even though they are called a pea-nut, peanuts are not nuts, if we go by the proper definitions.
According to the term’s definition, nuts are fruits that have hard shells and seeds, and can usually be eaten. The proper examples of nuts are walnuts, hazelnuts, and chestnuts. However, most of the foodstuff we know as “nuts” are actually not nuts either, and it’s not just peanuts. They actually fall under the category of drupes.
A drupe is a fruit with a fleshy layer and an inner pit or shell carrying a seed. Examples are pistachios, coconuts, cherries, cashews, almonds, and peaches. However, like nuts, they also grow on trees. In fact, the 6 tree nut allergies that are most common are pistachios, cashews, pecans, hazelnuts, almonds, and walnuts.
The True Identity Of Peanuts
But then what is a peanut? Peanuts are not drupes either! They are legumes. Legumes are plants whose fruits are produced in pods. To that effect, peanuts fall in the same category as lentils and peas.
Unlike drupes and nuts, peanuts do not grow on trees – they grow underground. It is also unique as the plant of the peanut grows flowers above the soil while the fruit – the peanut – grows underground. The process is called geocarpy. On reaching a height of about 1 foot, purple vines known as pegs or peduncles grow from the faded flowers. They then sink into the soil and form peanuts.
For nutritional and culinary purposes, peanuts are still referred to as “nuts”. After all, the definition of nuts according to culinary standards includes botanical nuts, seeds, and drupes. So that bag of “mixed nuts” at our local grocery does not actually have as many nuts.
Feature Image Credits: Mental Floss