Picking peanuts reminds me of growing up in eastern North Carolina. My nephew Barney and I loved to play hide-and-seek in the peanut fields. Back then, the peanuts were dug and stacked on poles to dry. We loved to hide behind these stacks and to climb them, much to the dismay of my parents. All the children in the neighborhood joined us and we stayed out until way after dark. Sadly, the peanut stacks are gone.
Peanuts Drying in the Fields in eastern North Carolina
These days, farmers dig the peanuts from the ground and leave them in the fields to dry. Then they come through with the Peanut Pickers that pick up the peanuts — vines and all. Out of the back of this Peanut Picker will come the dried vines that have been separated from the peanuts. Later, another machine will come along and bale this peanut hay.
Folks often ask me what is upstairs in the Pack House loft. Well, it used to be full of peanut hay that was used all year to feed the mules. I remember the sight and smell of it as if it were yesterday. And, truthfully, sometimes you can still smell the peanut hay; just like you can still smell curing tobacco on hot August nights.
Young, just-dug peanuts are called green peanuts. Here in the South, we boil these peanuts in the shell with a lot of salt. In late August or early September, you can find these green or boiled peanuts at farm stands and some grocery stores like Piggly Wiggly.
• 2-3 pounds raw, green peanuts in the shell (this is about 12 cups peanuts with shells) The peanuts are not green, just raw
• ½-1 cup of salt
• 3-4 quarts of water or enough to cover the peanuts - add more water as they cook
"Green" peanuts are not green; they are just young, raw peanuts.
Wash the peanuts, still in the shells, several times until the water has no grit in it. Pick over and remove any bad peanuts and discard.
Put the peanuts still in shells into a large cooking pot. Cover with water at least 2 inches above the peanuts. Add the salt and stir.
Bring to a boil. Lower heat and boil slowly for 1-3 hours, depending on how mature or old the peanuts are. If the nuts are really young and pink, it will only take about 1 hour of cooking. If they are older, it can take up to 3 hours. You might also have to add water to keep the water level above the peanuts. Keep cooking until the peanuts are soft inside. Cooking time varies according to how old the peanuts are.
After they are done, they will continue absorbing the salt. If the salt taste is like you want it, then remove the peanuts from the salty water. They will keep in the refrigerator for several days.
Refrigerate or freeze after cooking.
It is much easier if you eat the peanuts outside. You can just spit out the shells.
Calling all watermelon lovers!! This Watermelon Salad is a beauty. I adapted this recipe from one in the June, 2017 issue of “Our State Magazine,” the same magazine that did a wonderful story about Big Mill in their August issue.
1 sweet onion like Vidalia or 1 red onion, cut into very thin rings
4 ounces of Feta Cheese (or goat cheese), crumbled
Juice of 1 lime (about 3 Tablespoons)
2 Tablespoons honey
¼ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
This is a “make now and eat now” salad. If you dress it, you eat it. You can cut the parts of the salad early, but do not amalgamate it until you are ready to eat it.
Cut the watermelon into large chunks and lay it out on a plate lined with paper towels to remove some of the excess water. I do that when I am making watermelon skewers for my B&B guests. It keeps the watermelon from weeping into the dish.
Cut watermelon again into cubes about 1½" large. Put cubes of watermelon, pepper strips and onion rings into each salad bowl. Add crumbled cheese. For each salad, cut 1 basil leaf and 1 mint leaf into very thin strips and place on top of each salad.
Wisk together the lime juice, honey, salt and pepper.
Garnish with an edible flower like a begonia or nasturtium. Dress salad just before serving.
Instead of individual salads you can make one large salad if you prefer. Also do not dress this until just before serving.
This salad recipe is adapted from a Watermelon Salad in "Our State" magazine.
In eastern North Carolina, we do many things with watermelon. We also are very picky about where we buy our watermelons. Folks around here swear by Rocky Hock watermelons and cantaloupes. Rocky Hock is a small, rural area of the Chowan River – folks say the sandy soil is the reason these melons are so good.
I heard about this new gardening idea – it is called the Rain Gutter Grow System (RGGS). Being a real southern farm girl, I love farming and gardening. Once I read about this innovative growing system, I couldn’t wait to start.
Folks in eastern North Carolina love Purple Martins and I am one of those folks. My dad taught me to treasure these special birds. Every spring he watched for his Martins to return. And now I do the same thing.
A Family Squabble
In March, a Purple Martin scout would come and sit on the bird house – these are special houses or gourds. Then in mid-April, if the scout approved of the accommodations, the “family” of Martins would arrive. By this time, you had better have your Martin houses or gourds ready!
The houses must be built to certain specifications – my Martins seem to prefer painted white gourds. They demand a clear flight path and a water source. Of course, they like to have a good supply of bugs. If the Martins arrive early and we have a late freeze, they will suffer because there won’t be any bugs. Click to read more about these spectacular birds.
• 1 large sweet onion or 2 small onions, peeled and chopped
• 4 Tablespoons butter
• 2 cups fresh, tender okra (about a double hand full)
• 6 large ripe tomatoes (or a 28-ounce cans whole, peeled tomatoes - canned tomatoes are fine)
• 3-4 ears of fresh, mature corn
• 1 teaspoon sea salt or regular salt
• Pepper, if desired
• ½ cup water
Melt butter in a large saucepan. Cook chopped onion for a few minutes until transparent, not browned.
While the onions are cooking, blanch the tomatoes for half a minute. Drain and cool tomatoes. Peel, remove the cores and cut into chunks, making sure that you save the juice. If using canned tomatoes, cut the tomatoes into large pieces, saving the juice.
Wash the okra. Cut stem ends off and cut into ½ inch round pieces.
Shuck corn and cut corn off the cob. Older or mature corn works best for this recipe.
Add the tomatoes and juice, okra, corn, salt, pepper and water to the cooked onions. Cook covered over medium to low heart for one hour or until the ingredients are all done.
I have always wanted to write a cookbook that told the stories behind the recipes.
Sign up to get the free cookbook with your email address below
One time, I took a month off and house-sat for my friends in the Florida Keys. Well, as usual, I was sidetracked with the beauty of the area. I would make a recipe and spend all my time taking photos of the food. I do love to photograph food – it doesn’t whine or wiggle or complain that the picture makes it look fat.
Friend Jody has helped me FINALLY produce a wee digital cookbook that features some of my favorite Southern recipes; we call it Chloe Ann’s Farm Life Recipes. My folks grew up in an area very close to Big Mill B&B called Farm Life, so that seemed like a lovely homage.
While we were pulling this book together I was happy that I took the pictures. I’m guessing all these recipes will hold memories for those of us who grew up in the South.
I hope you enjoy it and I promise there are more to come.
Big kids and little kids like to dig in the dirt. When I was growing up on the farm here in eastern North Carolina, if we dug deep enough we could find a fossil. It was so exciting to get those remnants from the past and to know that right where we were digging was once under water. Click to read more about Fossils and the Fossil Museum in Aurora, NC
One of the great things about late summer is that we have luscious figs. And when they ripen, they all ripen. I have 8 little fig trees so I am always looking for new fig recipes. Friend Nancy gave me this recipe for dried figs. I fiddled with it and came up with Candied Figs.