Why peanuts are a lie

The other day I was digging through my nut storage box (yes, we have enough nut varieties for cooking and baking to hand to give them their own box). I was looking for pine nuts to use in a pasta dish and came across a peanuts pack. Easily amused as I am I thought “oh well, if I can’t find pine nuts, I’ll just use peanuts. Their names are close enough!”

However, then I started wondering about the difference between peanuts and pine nuts, especially as my boss is allergic to nuts but keeps emphasising how he can eat peanuts because….Because what?

So I decided to do some research on this and share it here. Maybe I’ll introduce a new category called “Everyday Botanical Problems”.

Pine nuts

Pine nuts are the seeds of pine trees and are harvested from pine cones.


In Europe these mainly come from the Stone Pine, Pinus Pinea.

Pinie irgendwo toscana

Maybe you have wondered why pine nuts are so expensive. The reasons for this are that not only is the harvesting process very labour-intensive, as you might imagine looking at the harvesting photo above, but also that the world-wide supply is less than the demand for them.


Peanuts are a lie – that is, their name is. Botanically speaking, peanuts are legumes and are therefore more closely related to peas and beans than to pine nuts. They are the seeds of the plant family Leguminosae. “Leguminosae” – doesn’t that sound like a spell from Harry Potter? LEGUMINOSAE!

What might such a spell do? I like to think that it could enclose its victim in a pod, since legume seeds are protected by a pod. Botanically speaking, pods are fruits and if you were mean, you could serve a bean and pea salad as dessert and announce it as “fruit salad”.

Owoce Orzech arachidowy


Summarising my research: Pine nuts grow on trees. Peanuts grow underground. If you want to be very posh, you could make yourself a pine nut butter jelly sandwich. But personally I feel that “Pine Nut Butter Jelly Time” isn’t as catchy as the original.

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3 comments for “Why peanuts are a lie

  1. January 24, 2012 at 20:46

    We also have a large box of multiple types of nuts, kept in the freezer. Sadly, only the walnuts are collected (from the trees on the campus in Leicester), then shelled with lots of work.
    Meanwhile, where can anyone get decent jelly for PNB&J sandwiches? My introduction to the wonders of Concord Grapes came from the late George Agrios’ (eg http://www.umass.edu/psis/alumni/memorium/agrios_memorial.html) course on plant pathology, where the labs. I took constituted visits to abandoned farms where we financially poor but intellectually fulfilled students could feast on everything that had ever been planted in Massachusetts, while learning about every possible plant disease, selection for resistance, and crop persistence. Now whenever I am in the US, I hope to get some grape jelly, but end up with purple-colored corn-fructose with no flavour!

  2. Anne
    February 14, 2012 at 21:41

    Thanks for your comment, Pat. I have no idea where to get decent jelly from!

  3. June 6, 2012 at 14:38

    Hi there! This is my first comment here so I just wanted to give a quick
    shout out and say I truly enjoy reading your blog posts.
    Can you suggest any other blogs/websites/forums that go over the
    same topics? Thanks!

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