The cultivated peanut Arachis hypogaea originates along with chilli, chocolate and tomatoes from South America. They’ve probably been eaten for at least 7000 years. It’s not exactly a nut, more an underground bean. Weight for weight peanuts contain more nutrition and can be compared head to head with that other ubiquitous pea, the Oriental soybean (Glycine max). Unlike soy, peanuts behave like nuts, they are available in their raw form more abundantly and I’m going to tell you the easiest way to enjoy them. They truly are a whole food, fairly nutritionally complete and one of the simplest, cheapest and environmentally friendly options for your menu or as an ideal party snack with your friends.
You can compare the nutritional breakdown between peanuts and soy from Wikipedia or a similar site. Raw soy is largely water but raw peanuts have comparatively little water. In the raw peanut the nutritional breakdown is (with soy values is brackets): 48% (0.18%) good fat, a staggering 25% (3%) protein and 21% (6%) carbs. Dried soybeans have about 23% protein (and by the way raw peas have around 5% protein). Weight for weight the protein content of peanuts is huge, better than soy. Finally peanuts do have a great many vitamins and minerals. Peanuts are ideal as a snack especially if you prefer a vegetarian diet: rich in protein. In this context they also represent an environmentally friendlier option than say having to eat something like pork raised on soybean (a lot of animal protein is raised on agricultural grains that could instead have been eaten directly).
The easiest and sometimes best way to eat peanuts is without anything added, but they are tastier when cooked (you can eat them raw). Buy yourself a large bag of peanuts and if you can’t find the raw stuff, buy a bag designed as garden bird food (my latest batch was ostensively for birds and it was OK for me, you can buy large bags in Asian or Indian shops for human consumption). Place a small quantity in a bowl and put it in the microwave on high until some of the nuts start gently browning and are roasted. Take it out at shortish intervals to give it a stir (you’ll get the hang of it). For a small bowl, three minutes may be fine. You can scrunch up the nuts and winnow away the thin husks blow them away if you wish. This way of cooking is very similar to the “dry roasting” in a wok practiced in many Asian countries, only cheaper and faster. They taste better roasted and you get more fiber if you eat the husks. Peanuts done like this are extremely good as a snack in parties and popular. They are definitely the healthier option compared to nuts with added oil, salt or sugar.