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A Shocking Take on Virginia Peanuts

  • , by Hannah Lee Leidy

The humid air and silty soils of southeastern Virginia make it prime territory for growing peanuts. Peanut production brought a significant boom to the region’s population and economy over the mid-1900s. Towns cropped up throughout this rural area, about an hour inland from Virginia Beach. Still today, traditions from Virginia peanut pie to annual peanut festivals demonstrate that the goober’s legacy continues to shape these communities. 

Virginia Peanuts "shocking" in the field

If you drive through the region, you’ll see acres upon acres of farmland with peanut vines laid out across the ground, the nuts drying in the sunlight for days until the farmer decides it’s time to pick them off the vine. However, one farm—a small one—mounts bunches of peanut vines together on vertical stakes in the ground, leaving them in rows to cure. 

This method, known as shocking, dominated peanut production back in the day. Today, however, Elisha Barnes, a fourth-generation Virginia peanut farmer, is the only farmer, to his knowledge, who actively shocks peanuts. “I want to preserve the history, and I have a passion for the old ways,” he says of this process that his predecessors practiced. 

This highly manual method takes about three to four weeks longer than the conventional process of heat drying the nuts. However, the resulting product’s deeper, sweeter flavor sets it apart. Shocking peanuts also improves product yield. Heat-dried peanuts have an 86 to 87 percent germination rate. Shocked peanuts, on the other hand, have a 99 percent germination rate. “You want everything you put into the field to produce well,” Barnes says. 

Elisha Barnes with Hubs Single Original Red Skin Peanuts

In addition to a quality product, Barnes loves that this process honors his family’s legacy and preserves the tradition. He partnered with Hubs Peanuts to help this practice endure. Each year, around early spring, Hubs releases a collection of single origin redskin peanuts from Barnes, and it’s one of their most sought-after products—2021’s release sold out within 24 hours. 

Barnes hopes his singular style of peanut will inspire people to keep the old history alive. “I want for generations now and generations to come to see they way it’s done now,” he says.

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