Like many other farms in Norfolk County the farm began growing tobacco but when the government stepped in with new regulations many farmers sought out other crops to grow instead. In the case of Ernie and Nancy Racz they wanted something that would grow well in their area, would be unique, and would also be something that others in the area were not growing to avoid saturation or competition.
Today, they have 100 acres of peanut plants; or more specifically, Valencia peanut plants. Valencia peanuts grow well in sandy soils and have been known to be one of the best tasting peanuts.
Like potatoes, peanuts grow underground. As they foliage matures, small yellow flowers form and once pollinated they eventually turn downward and make their way into the ground, where they complete their development. In the Fall when the peanuts are harvested the entire plant, including the roots is removed from the soil, at which point the nuts are separated from the plant itself.
Did you know that peanuts aren't actually nuts? They're legumes. In fact, until they are dried they taste like peas.
Yes, peanuts must be dehydrated (dried). After they've been harvested, they're cleaned and then put into large vats and dried for seven days. That's one of the things that they had to experiment with when they first began growing peanuts. Traditionally, in the Southern U.S. states peanuts are simply harvested and then left to dry on the ground for two weeks. In Canada, this is not possible because of the likelihood of rain and damp weather in October.
Once the peanuts are dried they are then de-shelled and sorted - the small immature peanuts are used as bird food, the medium or broken ones are used for peanut butter and the others end up in the roaster. You want to know what happens to the waste (i.e, the peanut shells)? They are burned along with wood to power the dehydrator, which saves them around $30,000 in natural gas that they would need to shell out otherwise. Another way that they use their waste is by using peanut oil in their diesel-powered tractors. Pretty cool, eh?
Once the peanuts have been sorted they are processed and packaged on site and then shipped to specialty food stores throughout Canada, such as Picard Peanuts (http://www.picardspeanuts.ca/). They have peanuts of all different flavours - garlic, barbeque, sour cream and onion, cajun, salted, unsalted, dill pickle, etc.. In addition to the regular red-skinned peanut they also have the black-skinned peanut as well. If you're looking for something sweet, they also have chocolate covered peanuts, peanut briddle, fudge, etc.. There's peanut butter too! Their peanut butter is all-natural; nothing but the peanuts. Apparently since the Valencia peanut is a sweeter peanut it naturally adds sweetness to the peanut butter without having to include any additional sugar.
When I first started my journey with sourcing out local foods I never imagined that there was such a thing as a peanut farm. To tell you the truth I didn't know where peanuts came from; I had assumed that they came from California or Mexico. Then, when I saw that Picards Peanuts had Ontario peanuts a couple of years ago I knew that I'd have to make my way out to Vittoria to check out Kernal Peanuts. It took a while but I finally made it!
Be honest,...did you know that Ontario grew peanuts?