The history of peanut butter – A delicious and healthy Canadian food!
It’s a chilly Saturday morning here in Southern Ontario, as I prowl around the kitchen for the umpteenth time, in search of something sweet to enjoy while I sip my coffee. There’s nothing to be had, but wait -there is peanut butter….. I just love peanut butter, but I’m sure it’s bad for me. It’s high in fat after all – and has sugar – but I know it has protein. I sneak a spoonful of peanut butter guiltily – but happily, and then I see in my computer browser a story about peanut butter being good for me. I smile, enjoying my Canadian treat – and grab another spoonful.
Peanut Butter is Canadian
You may think that peanut butter was invented in the United States, but did you know that it was actually invented in Canada (Eh)? That’s right, Canada can claim this delicious food as its own.
Oh I know the Incas and Aztecs ground peanuts to use in food, but modern peanut butter and the way it is made started with a Canadian inventor.
Marcellus Gilmore Edson
The story of the invention of peanut butter begins in the late 1800s with a Canadian named Marcellus Gilmore Edson. Edson was a chemist, pharmacist and food scientist who was born in Bedford Quebec (outside of Montreal) in 1849. He was looking for a way to make food easier to swallow for people who had difficulty chewing. He experimented with various nuts and came up with a paste made from roasted peanuts that was both nutritious and easy to swallow.
Edson’s invention was patented in 1884, making him the first person to patent peanut butter. Peanut butter is often credited to later inventors and manufacturers, but Edson was the first to patent the paste. Edson’s patent – shown above – was for “peanut candy”. Some writers have discounted this invention as not being peanut butter – as it was called a candy or paste, but you can see from the above that his process was for “the finished product from milling roasted peanuts between two heated surfaces”. By grinding or milling the peanuts while they were heated, the patent shows that he was able to create a soft pastelike peanut butter product that “will set into a consistency like that of butter, lard or ointment”. He further describes how the product can be mixed together with sugar to create candy or various confections, but that he doesn’t need to define the sugar mixture required to prepare these treats.
Another justification that was published for peanut butter being invented by Americans is that Edson “did little in the way of promoting or selling his product“. I’m no expert (actually I am a peanut butter taste testing expert) but I’d say Edson still invented peanut butter, he just didn’t market it!
The American Inventors
When researching peanut butter history, I found that the details and claims of all of these inventors are a little sketchy. When I actually read the patents and publications online, instead of just reading the published bios – things were a little clearer! Various histories give credit to John Harvey Kellogg, George A Bayle, Dr. Ambrose Straub and George Washington Carver. These people all contributed to improving the manufacture and popularity of peanut butter!
John Harvey Kellogg
The book, Creamy & Crunchy: An Informal History of Peanut Butter, the All-American Food by Jon Krampner gives physician John Harvey Kellogg, who filed a patent, or snack food entrepreneur George A. Bayle, credit for inventing peanut butter. Both of these individuals followed after Edson’s patent.
John Harvey Kellogg received a patent in 1898 from the US government to protect a manufacturing technique to make peanut butter. Kellogg’s patent filed in 1897 is for an “improved” manufacturing process. He began selling is product after 1897.
Dr. Ambrose Straub
Dr. Ambrose Straub of St. Louis patented a peanut butter-making machine in 1903. His patent is for a grinding tool, as shown below:
George A. Bayle
St. Louis businessman George A. Bayle, “Supposedly seeking to help those who struggled to digest meat properly, Bayle, in conjunction with an unknown medical doctor, began marketing and selling his own nut butter.” in the early twentieth century. He ran a number of ad campaigns in the 1920s stating that his company was the “Original Manufacturer of Peanut Butter”. His Acorn Brand Peanut Butter was patented in 1927, which isn’t exactly first!
George Washington Carver
George Washington Carver has often been credited with the invention of peanut butter as well. This American scientist and inventor created more than 300 products from the peanut plant and is referred to by many as the father of the peanut industry. His agricultural innovations increased the peanut’s popularity. His inventions included chili sauce, shampoo, shaving cream and glue – but not peanut butter. Even if he had invented peanut butter – he did not believe in patenting food. He believed his food discoveries were gifts from God.
One reason I never patent my products is that if I did, it would take so much time I would get nothing else done….But mainly I don’t want any discoveries to benefit specific favored persons.George Washington Carver
BUT – – Carver’s 1917 Publication “How to Grow the Peanut and 105 ways to prepare it for human consumption” includes 105 recipes for peanuts. Number 51 is Peanut Butter:
Shell the peanuts; roast just enough so that the hulls will slip off easily; remove all the hulls by gently rolling, fanning, and screening; grind very fine in any sort of mill, passing through several times if necessary; pack in cans, bottles, or jars, and seal if not for immediate use. Some manufacturers add a little salt and a small amount of olive oil; others do not, according to taste. For small quantities of butter a good meat grinder will answer the purpose. If the nuts are ground fine enough no additional oil will be necessary.George Washington Carver
Please take a look at George Washington Carver’s 1917 publication here. I found it very interesting and I may give some of these recipes a try!
A Canadian Invention but an American food
Despite peanut butter’s Canadian origins it was definitely improved and popularized in American culture. Americans consume more than 700 million pounds of peanut butter every year.
Let’s face it – peanuts are not native to Canada and are not widely grown as a commercial crop due to Canada’s climate. Peanuts require a warm and long growing season, and sandy soil, which is not typically found in most regions of Canada. However, some small-scale farmers and gardeners in Canada may grow peanuts as an experimental crop or for personal use.
**Thanks to a comment from Glen of Justabitfurther.wordpress.com I am updating this post below!**)
In Southern Ontario’s Norfolk County, which has warmer temperatures and sandy soil, the Picard family began peanut farming in 1979. They opened retail stores across Ontario as well as having an online store selling their all Canadian peanut products – including peanut based candies and snacks. The Picard company, (still family owned) split into two competing companies in 2012 (Picard Foods, and Picard Peanuts). Picard Peanuts operates six retail locations in Windham Centre, Arva, Morriston, Fonthill, Woodstock and Fort Erie as well as an online store. Picard Foods operates stores in St. Jacobs, Talbotville, Niagara On The Lake, Waterdown and Vaughan as well as its own online store.
Another peanut farmer emerged in Vittoria – also in Norfolk County in 1982. Kernal Peanuts states that it is the largest peanut grower in Canada, and has a gift shop, and online store and sells its’ peanut products – (including peanut butter) – across Ontario in country markets and grocers.
Most of the peanuts consumed in Canada are imported from other countries, primarily the United States. According to the Canadian Peanut Bureau “More than 85% of the peanuts consumed in Canada are obtained from a choice of 25,000 growers from the United States.” Thank you neighbours!
By the way, the majority of the world’s peanuts are grown in Asia and Africa!
Peanut Butter Nutrition
Peanut butter is a good source of protein, healthy fats, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, including vitamin E, magnesium, and potassium. It also contains flavonoids and resveratrol, which have antioxidant properties that can protect the body from oxidative stress and inflammation.
However, peanut butter is also high in calories and fat, as I suspected. A tablespoon of peanut butter typically contains around 90-100 calories, 7-9 grams of fat, and 3-4 grams of protein depending on the brand and variety. It’s important to note that different brands and varieties of peanut butter may vary in their calorie and fat content.
Opting for natural peanut butter, which is made from 100% peanuts and has no added sugar or hydrogenated oils, is a healthier choice compared to commercially processed peanut butter that may contain added sugars, salt, and unhealthy fats. Now – it may just be my uncultured taste buds – but I don’t enjoy natural peanut butter at all!
So the next time you enjoy a spoonful of peanut butter or a PB&J sandwich, remember that this delicious food has Canadian roots. April 2 is Peanut Butter and Jelly Day, while January 24th is Peanut Butter Day, but we can eat peanut butter all year round!
We use peanut butter often in an emergency dessert – the famous three ingredient cookie – (recipe below) when we need a gluten free treat for guests – or our vegan peanut butter cookie when our vegans are home. Our daughter has been known to create her signature “student noodles’ recipe with peanut butter, and I make peanut butter squares and bars for family treats. For now I’m just sipping my coffee and enjoying peanut butter on a spoon!
Below is a printable recipe card from RecipesGenerator. Please give it a try!
If the peanut butter used is made with only peanuts and does not contain any added ingredients, then it is typically gluten-free. Similarly, if the sugar used is plain granulated sugar, it should also be gluten-free. However, if any of the ingredients contain gluten or are processed in facilities that also process gluten-containing ingredients, then the cookies may not be gluten-free.
Thanks for reading and happy eating!
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24 thoughts on “As Canadian as Peanut Butter”
Thanks for the history lesson. Our favorite peanut butter was Kraft No Salt No Sugar peanut butter, homogenized just enough that the oil did not separate. Kraft no longer makes it (boo-hoo). I do not like peanut butter that has been adulterated with salt, sugar and whatever else manufacturers throw into it. But then, each to his/her/its own.
You are welcome Margaret! As per the peanut butter, even in our house there are three kinds – my daughter and I like the low fat variety because it tastes better (I think sweeter for my sweet-tooth), my husband is all about the crunchy kind, and then the regular! We did have the Kraft kind – I know it’s better for me but I have my weakness! I didn’t know that they have stopped making it, that’s no fair.
Cool George Washington Carver taught the world to grow peanuts better
He certainly did! I really enjoyed going through some of his publications especially the peanut guide that I linked in the post. It’s quite cool!!
Interesting article. Although not widely grown in Ontario as you mention in your post, the Picard family in south-western Ontario have been successfully growing peanuts for 40+ plus years, and creating a number of peanut related products – snacks mostly. Their store in St. Jacobs(north of Waterloo) was often a go-to stop when in that area. But, nothing is much easier or tastier, than peanut butter on toast!
Thank you Glen – I am updating the post to include this info – with a link to you if that’s ok! Much appreciated information! I have seen those big blue Picard’s stores around Ontario and it should have occurred to me to include them! Now I want to plant peanuts in my garden!
No problem. We haven’t been in one of their stores in a number of years.
Who would have thought peanut butter had such an interesting history! Thanks for the lesson!!
I’m glad you liked it!
Wow I did not know that. Great shared 👌👌
Thank you so much!
Thanks a lot for this article, full of delicious history 😉😘
Thank you Luisa!
My pleasure 💙
Oh Goodness! Thank you!
I had no idea – how interesting! I was a kid in Georgia – prime peanut growing country. Always loved peanut butter. I think I need a spoonful now!
I had no idea – until I had a spoonful of peanut butter and started researching! We always bought peanuts in stands on our way through Georgia when I was a kid!
I do love peanut butter. In fact last night, I ate some on a banana. Enjoyed the history lesson and looking forward to a fishing trip in Ontario this September.
BTW – I have a granddaughter named Lilly (slightly different spelling).
Oh – my husband fishes from May through October! I hope you have a wonderful time. Peanut butter and bananas were made for each other!
Well, this was great, you taught us a lot about the origins of peanut butter. I like peanut butter too.
The WP reader makes us go to your website to read the post. While there tried to leave a msg. It wanted me to fill in name/email, etc. I tried to click just WP, not sure if comment went through. Letting you know. It’s nice if we don’t have to add email, etc. I can comment here, but cannot read your entire post here.