Must we hire thousands of chipmunks to solve this problem for us?
Must we hire thousands of chipmunks to solve this problem for us?
Photo: Frank Cezus (Getty Images)

While baseball fans across the country are no doubt delighted to learn that the 2020 season hasn’t been entirely canceled, COVID-19’s war on summer fun has also been impacting the many industries inherently connected to America’s Pastime. That includes the folks who produce that most traditional of ballgame treats: whole roasted peanuts.

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As reported by The New York Times, thanks to the baseball season being delayed, roasted peanuts destined for eager stadium fans are literally piling up with nowhere to go, and this is a big problem for the peanut industry. Around one-fifth of all Virginia peanuts (the name of the variety that can grow large enough, and look nice enough, not to get ground into peanut butter) are sold to concession stands. That’s a substantial proportion, and because Virginia peanuts are harvested in October and sold to peanut roasters far in advance of the actual baseball season, by the time it was clear just how impactful the pandemic would be, the roasting and packaging process was already well under way.

Now, with a mountain of product sitting in their warehouses, peanut roasters, distributors, and even the voice of the industry, the National Peanut Board, aren’t entirely sure what to do. Bob Parker, the Peanut Board’s CEO, is quoted as saying that while peanuts can be refrigerated for at least some degree of time, cold storage is not a good long-term solution, and as such the Peanut Board is exploring different ways to promote their products, including team-specific branding and grocery store promotions.

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Really, though, it seems like there isn’t a clear game plan for how to deal with the surplus, particularly as the premium price of these peanuts makes it economically infeasible to process them into peanut butter. Beyond electing them to office, what does one do with a bunch of aging nuts?

Jacob Dean is a food and travel writer and psychologist based in New York. He likes beer, less traveled airports, and is allergic to grasshoppers (the insect, not the mixed drink.)

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