It’s not conventional, but it sure is crunchy.

By Matthew Kassel
October 10, 2019
Francesco Carta fotografo/Getty Images

Peanut shells have a number of practical uses, at least according to the website

of the National Peanut Board. You can, for one, repurpose them as mulch or kitty litter. In lieu of salt, you can scatter crushed peanut shells over a slick sidewalk come wintertime. Formed into briquettes, they can serve as an alternative to charcoal. You can also use peanut shells to pack fragile items.

Me, I like to eat them.

Not alone, of course, but with the peanut inside. I don’t know exactly when it was that I started eating peanuts with the shell on, but I have been doing it for quite some time now, at least for the past 15 years. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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That may sound strange to those of you who regard the peanut shell as off-putting and perhaps even inedible. Most people who have witnessed me eating peanuts whole have either shuddered in revulsion or wondered incredulously if I am actually serious.

I am serious, alright. I like to pop the peanut into my mouth, husk and all, for a bunch of reasons.

A few are practical. For one, eating the peanut whole saves time and makes no mess. Also, it requires very little work and is a lot less frustrating than the tedious process of cracking open one peanut shell after another. I realize that such mindless repetition may be soothing for some, but I have always found it annoying: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve fumbled over a shell trying to pry loose the nut inside. Eating it shell and all, you never lose the legume.

Then there are the gustatory reasons. I simply like the way the shell tastes when it is accompanied by the peanut—and particularly when the shell is salted. I have never understood why anybody would care whether or not a whole peanut is salted or unsalted, unless they are going to eat the shell. The peanut inside is going to taste the same either way, it seems to me. But when you eat a salted shell, it is like an explosion of sodium. It’s not for everyone, but I like it. (Unsalted shells have their own earthy appeal, but in my opinion are not as good.)

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Finally, I enjoy the texture of the bite. When you pop a whole peanut into your mouth, first you get the crunch and then you hit the smooth nut inside. It’s a kind of reward for having gotten past the hard exterior, which would not be appealing on its own.

I should add that I do not eat whole peanuts all the time. It’s not as if I am mainlining shells every chance I get. But on certain occasions—parties, baseball games, at bars—I do enjoy whole peanuts.

I have never met anyone else who eats them this way, and perhaps there are good reasons for that. Peanut shells do not aid digestion, to say the least. I have read that peanut shells may contain pesticides. They are quite dry. And really, there is not much nutritional value to a peanut shell.

Still, I am sure there are others out there. The National Peanut Board, for its part, endorses this somewhat unconventional snack.

And if you haven’t tried eating a peanut whole, I would suggest giving it a shot at least once. Should you dislike it, you can always remove the shell and save it for your litter box or sidewalk.

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