Peanut Boil Celebrates the State’s Favorite Salty Wet Legume

Plus: Eat at the Latin Festival

By Eva Moore
Wednesday, August 20, 2014

What’s more South Carolinian than boiled peanuts? Not much, actually. Raw green peanuts boiled in salted water have been part of South Carolina cuisine for several hundred years, ever since peanuts began arriving here on slave ships from Africa. Boiled peanuts were a common food for African slaves in South Carolina — and, as Robert Moss documented in a 2013 Charleston City Paper story, “[a]s with other African culinary staples like okra and black-eyed peas, peanuts eventually became part of the diets of white Carolinians, too.” From the Midlands and Lowcountry, boiled peanuts eventually spread to neighboring states.

Today, of course, boiled peanuts are the quintessential South Carolina snack — so much so that they are actually the state’s official snack. The state Legislature passed a bill in 2006 defining boiled peanuts as “peanuts that are immersed in boiling water for at least one hour while still in the shell” and reifying them in state law, right up there with sweet tea (the State Hospitality Beverage), milk, (the State Beverage), collards (the State Vegetable) and barbecue (the State Picnic Food, whatever that means. Free Times has previously reported on some of the possibly-inaccurate history that made its way into the 2014 barbecue bill, but that’s a topic for another day.)

We’ve all had some great examples of boiled peanuts — and some truly mediocre ones. What’s the right balance of salt? How slimy should the peanuts be? Should boiled peanuts have spices blended in, or just be plain? And then there’s the Ham Hock Controversy — does meat belong in your nuts? These are questions that will be decided by the judges (including yours truly) at the 7th Annual Palmetto Peanut Boil, when teams of peanut boilers compete to come up with the winning batch.

The Publick House hosts the Peanut Boil this Saturday, Aug. 23, from 2 to 7 p.m. Tickets are $5 at the door, with the proceeds going to the Ronald McDonald House. Teams will have their peanuts ready for snacking by the time the gates open, so come hungry. (Naturally, there will be beer for sale, and bands, and other fun stuff.) Official judging starts at 3:30 p.m., and the winners will be announced at 6 p.m. You can weigh in on your favorite peanuts, too: There’s a People’s Choice Award. For more information, visit

Eat at the Latin Festival

The Main Street Latin Festival is this Saturday, Aug. 23, on the 1400 block of Main Street. And let me tell you, that festival has really stepped up its food game over the last few years. Admission to the festival is free; tasty Puerto Rican, Mexican and other Latin American foods are not free, so bring some cash. Gates open at 11 a.m.

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