The Spanish word for peanut, cacahuate, comes from the Nahuatl language and is a contraction of the word tlalcacahuatl, meaning “cocoa beans from the land;” maní (from the language of the Caribbean’s Taino people) is its name in many parts of the world; it is known as mandubi in Guaraní; chocopa in Aymara; inchic in Quechua, and, interestingly, in British English peanuts can be called groundnuts, equating the legume to a nut that grows underground.
The peanut (Arachis hypogaea) belongs to the legume family and is descended from two wild species Arachis Arachis ipaënsis and duranensis. The Ñanchoc culture, originally from northern Peru, domesticated the peanut in areas that are now southern Bolivia and northern Argentina some 10,000 years ago.
The peanut plant is a fibrous, annual shrub, sown in spring and harvested just before winter (October to November). It features small yellow flowers and fruit encased in shells or woody pods bearing two to five seeds covered in a thin, filmy skin. Stems linking the fruit to the stalk grow and carry the fruit to the ground, where it ends up buried because of external agents such as wind or rain.
The peanut is a source of fiber, protein and vitamins A, E and K. Today it grows in the North Pacific region (Sinaloa), the Central Pacific (Guerrero), Northern Highlands (Chihuahua), Southern and Central Highlands (Puebla).
Mexicans use every part of the peanut plant. The pods are toasted and seeds subsequently extracted to obtain a particular smoked flavor, or are cooked in vinegar as an escabeche (in the Central Highlands); the seeds can be roasted and salted for enchiladas or garapiñadas (nuts covered in a sugary mix), and are eaten as a snack, roasted and fried. Peanuts are an important ingredient in moles, pipianes (they are the base of encacahuatado) and other sauces; are an ingredient in atole, tamales, cookies, palanqueta brittles (bound with honey or brown-sugar syrup) and marzipan; they complement capirotadas (a dish made with day-old bread and brown-sugar syrup) or are candied as a traditional Christmastime confection.
After the peanut fruit is harvested, the greens serve as fodder for livestock and are put to industrial use; the seeds are used to manufacture oil, flour, peanut butter, inks, lipsticks, dyes and soap, among other products.


Enchiladas de molito