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Published April 27th 2016
Peanuts and Beans at Kingaroy
It's not only peanuts that are grown at Kingaroy in the South Burnett region of Queensland. It is also known as the Navy Bean Capital. We Aussies know the bean as 'baked bean' – usually bought in cans in the supermarket, but the history of the Australian bean growing industry is most interesting.
"Navy bean production began in Australia during World War II when it became necessary to find an economical way of supplying a nutritious food to the many troops - especially American troops - based in Queensland. The United States military maintained a large base in Kingaroy and had many bases and camps throughout south-east Queensland. It actively encouraged the widespread planting of the beans. Navy bean" is actually an American term. It was coined because the US Navy has served the beans as a staple to its sailors since the mid-1800s. Most Australians know these beans as the familiar "baked bean".
Kingaroy is also known as the Baked Bean Capital of Australia. We can probably thank our lucky stars that the bean's other popular name at the time ("the Yankee bean") didn't catch on."
There are other beans grown in the region. You can read about them here.
Peanuts feature very strongly in Kingaroy history – and there's much to see at the Kingaroy Historical Museum. Some of the old machinery from the early days of peanut growing is on display, and one of the Volunteers will be happy to explain the various machinery and history.
The Museum is very close to the huge peanut silos that look over the town of Kingaroy, and in the surrounds you will probably see peanuts growing, but as the nuts themselves form underground there's not a lot to see.
Peanuts arrived in Australia in the 1870s with the gold rush. Chinese prospectors near Cooktown appear to have laid down the first domestic crops using seeds and clippings they'd bought with them from China. Surprisingly, though, Australia took very little interest in peanuts at first. In fact, the total amount grown in the country by 1900 was estimated at less than 11 acres. Over the next 20 years, however, peanut crops slowly began to expand. By 1920 they occupied 272 acres of Queensland farmland and total annual production had risen to 123 tonnes per year. From The Peanut Van's website.
The Famous Peanut Van
The Peanut Van is famous – and a great place to purchase locally grown nuts in a variety of flavours. It is on Kingaroy St, Kingaroy, and there is another one at Childers, and the Peanut Van appears at a number of markets around Brisbane. Check their website for details. You can also order online.