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George Washington Carver
Development of Peanut Crops and Products
Hands On Activity: Grow Your Own Peanuts and Make Your Own Peanut Butter and Other Foods


Famous Inventors

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  • George Washington Carver's Inventions and Discoveries

    George Washington Carver on a 1948 US Postage Stamp
    George Washington Carver on a 1948 US Postage Stamp

    George Washington Carver was an African American scientist, botanist, educator, and inventor whose studies and teaching revolutionized agriculture in the Southern United States. He is believed to have been born before slavery was abolished in Missouri in January, 1864.

    Much of Carver's fame was based on his research and promotion of alternative crops to cotton, such as peanuts and sweet potatoes. He wanted poor farmers to grow alternative crops as both a source of their own food as well as a source of other products to improve their quality of life. His most popular bulletin contained detailed peanut growing instructions and 105 existing food recipes that used peanuts. (How to Grow the Peanut and 105 Ways of Preparing it for Human Consumption)

    He also created or disseminated about 100 products made from peanuts that were useful for the house and farm, including cosmetics, dyes, paints, plastics, gasoline, and nitroglycerin.

    In the Reconstruction South, an agricultural monoculture of cotton depleted the soil, and in the early 20th century, the boll weevil (a beetle which feeds on cotton buds and flowers) destroyed much of the cotton crop. Carver's work on peanuts was intended to provide an alternative crop in order to restore nitrogen to their soils by practicing systematic crop rotation, alternating cotton crops with plantings of sweet potatoes or legumes (such as peanuts, soybeans and cowpeas) that were also sources of protein.

    Carver's important accomplishments also included improvement of racial relations, mentoring children, poetry, painting, and religion. He served as an example of the importance of hard work, a positive attitude, and a good education. His humility, humanitarianism, good nature, frugality, and lack of economic materialism also have been admired widely.

    Before carver began his peanut campaign in 1896 the peanut had not even been recognized as a crop, but within the next half century it became one of the six leading crops in the Unites States and second in the south.

    Carver is often incorrectly credited with the invention of peanut butter since he developed hundreds of uses for peanuts helping spread the popularity of peanut crop and peanut butter thus spreading also this common mistake.

    Follow in the Steps of George Washington Carver

    Warning: Take in account that scientific activities could be sometimes very dangerous. In our case, using agriculture tools, fertilizers and cooking an baking activities. If you are a school student, please, consult your parents and teachers before you begin.

    The following activities are taken from the Tuskegee Institute Experimental Station Bulletin 31 from June 1925 written by Carver (mentioned above).

    For science fair projects, class activities and for the science hobbyist it is possible to repeat Carver's peanut growing instructions and to compare peanut yield using original Carver's recommended fertilizers and cultivation techniques to modern ones. The same can apply to peanut butter and other food recipes mentioned in his bulletin.(How to Grow the Peanut and 105 Ways of Preparing it for Human Consumption - George Carver, Director Experimental Station, Tuskegee Institute, 1940)

    Grow Your Own Peanuts

    Peanut specimen collected by Carver
    Peanut specimen collected by Carver

    In the Tuskegee Bulletin, Carver outlines, in the first section, detailed peanut growing instructions, among others: peanut varieties, soil preparetion, fertilizers, planting, cultivation, harvesting, picking, preparation for market, peanut hay and peanut as food for man.

    Resource:
    How to Grow the Peanut and 105 Ways of Preparing it for Human Consumption (First Section)

    Make Your Own Peanut Butter

    Peanut Butter
    Peanut Butter

    In the above mentioned bulletin (recipe No. 51), Carver presents the following peanut butter recipe (don't forget that Carver didn't invent peanut butter):

    Shell the peanuts; roast just enough so that the hulls will slip off easily; remove all the hulls by gently rolling, fanning, and screening; grind very fine in any sort of mill, passing through several times if necessary; pack in cans, bottles, or jars, and seal if not for immediate use. Some manufacturers add a little salt and a small amount of olive oil; others do not, according to taste. For small quantities of butter a good meat grinder will answer the purpose. If the nuts are ground fine enough no additional oil will be necessary.

    Resource:
    How to Grow the Peanut and 105 Ways of Preparing it for Human Consumption (recipe No. 51)

    Peanut Foods Recipes

    George Carver at work in his laboratory
    George Carver at work in his laboratory

    In the Tuskegee Institute Bulletin Carver detailed 105 different food recipes: among others: peanut soup, bisque, puree, peanut bread, rolls, cookies, bars, wafers, muffins, peanut doughnuts, cakes, pudding, peanut butter, ice cream and miscellaneous dishes and sweets made from peanuts.

    Resource:
    How to Grow the Peanut and 105 Ways of Preparing it for Human Consumption (Recipes 1-105)

    Resources

    Iowa State Celebrates Legacy of George Washington Carver George Washington Carver Digital Collection - Iowa State University
    George Washington Carver - Wikipedia

    George Washington Carver Books

        






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