As a Southerner all my life, I've always loved boiled peanuts—a fall seasonal treat that shows up at tailgate gatherings and bonfires, or that you just, you know, pull over on the side of the road to purchase from a roadside stand. If you've never had them, boiled peanuts are usually simmering in salted water and scooped out "to order," so that they're warm, soft (under their still-crunchy shell), juicy, salty, and absolutely delicious. And because of the way they're cooked, they're higher in healthy antioxidants than raw or roasted peanuts.
I'm often shocked when folks who aren't from these parts disparage my beloved boiled peanuts without ever having tried them (it does happen often). Think of it this way: The peanut is a legume; it's technically not a nut. Peanuts are in the same family as black-eyed peas, lentils, kidney beans, and soybeans. Let's think about that last legume, soybeans: When young and green, they're boiled and served as edamame; when mature and dried, they can be soaked and roasted to serve as soynuts. Y'all, it's the same with peanuts: Young, green, raw peanuts are the ones you use for boiling (you don't use the dried, crunchy peanuts), and they cook up just as tender and wonderful as any other legume. I love to snack on boiled peanuts as is, or shell them and toss into a corn relish, whole-grain salad, or one of my favorite tailgating recipes from sister brand Southern Living, chef Hugh Acheson's Boiled Peanut Hummus.
The season for green peanuts is typically late August through October, so get 'em while the getting's good. If you don't live in a peanut-growing area, you can order online through farms like Hardy Farms in Georgia, or sites like green peanuts.net. Try cooking up a batch for your next gathering; you may just become a believer, too.