Hardly a day goes by when I don’t eat peanut butter. My first memory of eating it was when our babysitter used to make me mashed bananas with peanut butter as a special treat, and I just gobbled it up. Now I love peanut butter on my whole wheat toast, in my ice cream, covered in chocolate, with carrots or apples, and stirred into my Asian noodles and marinades. (I even enjoy licking it off a spoon.) Fortunately, this is a healthy indulgence (well maybe not so much when it’s mixed into ice cream), as peanuts are powerful nutrients, full of healthy monosaturated fats, antioxidents, vitamin E, manganese, protein and fiber.
I was in fourth grade in Glencoe, Illinois, when I first learned about the famous African American inventor and scientist, George Washington Carver, who popularized peanuts as a crop in the U.S. and created more than 300 products made from peanuts.
George Washington Carver was born into slavery in Missouri, probably in 1864. After slavery was abolished in 1865, George was raised by his former owners and encouraged to pursue his education, as he was clearly intellectually curious. Carver traveled in pursuit of an education, and eventually became the first African American student to enroll at Iowa State University, where he studied horticulture. He later became the first African American faculty member there.
In 1896, Booker T. Washington recruited Carver to become the Director of the Agriculture Department at Tuskegee Normal and Industrial School in Tuskegee, Alabama. There he revolutionized agricultural research, and helped farmers in the south turn peanuts into a lucrative crop after most of their cotton plants had been destroyed by boll weevils. Fast forward to 2012—we now have George Washington Carver to thank for the popularity and wide availability of peanuts in the U.S.
Many of the foods we enjoy today can be traced back to inventions by African Americans in the U.S. Without refrigerated trucking, invented by Fred Jones, and food preservation methods created by Lloyd Hall, food might not be so widely available in supermarkets across the country.
February is Black History Month, and it’s an important time to recognize some of the countless contributions African Americans have made to our lives throughout our nation’s history. To learn more about George Washington Carver, visit:
Here’s a wonderful book to teach your kids more about Carver:
George Washington Carver: The Peanut Wizard
By the way, if you have a child with a peanut allergy, Sunbutter (made from sunflower seeds) makes an excellent substitute for peanut butter in recipes.
What is your favorite way to enjoy peanut butter (or other nut butters)?