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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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When you add it all up, peanuts aren't just peanuts-they're quite an important crop. The United States produces between 3 and 4 billion pounds of peanuts annually, and about 40 percent of these go into processed foods, from salted peanuts, candy, crackers, and cookies to peanut butter. They're a major source of vegetable oil too.

peanuts have been the object of scientific study since George Washington Carver's day. ARS scientists have worked to improve peanut flavor and quality both by breeding better peanuts and by finding better ways to process them. Success came with the discovery of ways to extend the shelf life of peanut products, since unstable fatty acids in peanuts can cause unpleasant flavor changes. We've also found ways to remove part of the oil from the peanut without serious loss of flavor. Partially defatted peanuts are now sold by several companies, and the market is growing.

With the help of precision lab instruments and the sensitive noses of volunteers, ARS chemists have pinpointed chemicals that are crucial to that unmistakable peanutty flavor. This work reveals that roasted peanuts probably owe their rich, nutty aroma to a blend of about a dozen natural compounds. The findings could be used to enrich the flavor of roasted peanuts by adding back compounds that are sometimes lost in processing.

Photo by Scott Bauer.

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Last Modified: 7/14/2017
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