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Heymatt:

Yesterday when I was driving real fast I found a peanut shell that had four individual peanuts it! Crazy huh? Anyway, I tried to explain to the CHP officer why I was speeding (late or something) and he wasn't having any of it. I showed him the peanut and he himself could not believe it. He told me that he gets shells with three peanuts in them all the time but he had never seen four before. Amazingly, the peanut bond that we had just established did not get me out of the ticket but I think he'll remember me next time he's chowing down on some peanuts. My question, how rare is four peanuts to a shell? What's the most ever, does anyone bother to keep records of these things? Can you genetically engineer a peanut plant to deliver four peanuts per shell every time?

-- Jay, the net

I guess if you can't flash cleavage to get out of a ticket, you have to use what you got. But peanuts were a long shot, you have to admit, even a four-banger like you found. I assume you sensed you weren't really on the brink of a legume breakthrough and finally ate them rather than saving them for the Peanut Museum (in Georgia, natch). Wise choice. Depending on the variety of peanut you're eating, four seeds won't raise an eyebrow. Call 'em up when you have six or seven.

Any crop we human beans have been cultivating for 4000 years could hardly avoid some tinkering. From the wild original in Argentina and Bolivia, we've jiggered four varieties and several dozen cultivars. But since U.S. consumption of peanuts is measured in billions of pounds, wasting time coaxing a plant to reliably produce four seeds per shell rather than three or two has got to seem a little silly, even to you. The wow factor just isn't there. Especially since only a small fraction of U.S.-grown peanuts are eaten whole.

If I had to guess-- and, actually, I do-- I'd say you were eating the Valencia variety of peanut. Small, possibly red-skinned, sweet, bought them at the ballpark, yes? Valencias produce at least three, often four seeds per pod. It's just what they do. Nothing special, unless you're trying to distract a highway patrolman, I guess. They're grown only in New Mexico and are generally sold roasted in the shell. That's in contrast to at least half the U.S. peanut crop that ends up smashed into butter.

So, Jay, thanks for letting us know that we can't distract a Chippie with some nuts. Please write back if you find something that works.

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