Decades before salty-sweet desserts became trendy, Texans went nuts for these iconic treats
By Mary O. Parker
Describe it with any other shade—
magenta, salmon, rose—and a pink peanut patty still tastes as sweet.
But don’t let the demure color fool you. Texans enamored with these pretty-in-pink goodies don’t always behave.
“We squabble over them,” jokes Tina Saxon, a supervisor at Brookshire’s World of Wildlife Museum in Tyler. “We sell the broken pieces from Tyler Candy’s jumbo patties in our gift shop, and when we get down to just a bag or two, we all pitch in to buy them. And then we go on a diet.”
While no one’s really sure who came up with the very first rosy round, most people agree that two Texas candy makers have consistently ruled the grocery aisle. Goodart’s Candy in Lubbock and the Tyler Candy Company share the throne—albeit a sticky one—for having made peanut patties longer than any others in the state.
Charlie Fogg of Paige, who’s bewitched by both Tyler’s and Goodart’s nutty noshes, says, “I’ve been chomping on them since they cost a nickel each. When I was a kid, that was the cheapest candy you could buy.”
Since 1941, when Anthony George founded the Tyler Candy Company, the confectionary has created its signature candies by cooking red-skinned peanuts in sugary syrup. Today, to meet demand throughout the United States, six employees create 22,000 of the 2 inch patties—their best-selling item—every day, along with a varying number of six-inch jumbos. And they still use the same machine George invented and patented more than half a century ago to do it.
The factory doesn’t offer tours, but you can visit the Smith County Historical Society to learn more about George and his family, who were part of a group of Lebanese immigrants who arrived in Texas during the 1890s. Then head to Brookshire’s World of Wildlife Museum & Country Store for your very own bag of broken bits. Be sure to check out the museum’s 450 dioramas representing wildlife scenes from Africa to the Arctic, a collection created by Wood T. and Louise Brookshire, founders of Brookshire’s grocery chain. Travel the world, then enjoy your treats outside on the playground, surrounded by a restored railroad caboose, a 1952 LaFrance fire truck, and a 1926 McCormick-Deering farm tractor.
For a special taste sensation, pop into Goodart’s retail shop to get fresh peanut patties right off the assembly line.
Goodart’s Candy in Lubbock, established in 1939, has its own share of admirers. “We do a huge amount of mail-order business with Texans who’ve left the state and can’t find the patties in stores. Peanut patties represent ‘home’ to them,” says Ron Harbuck, Vice President and partner of the 73-year-old Lubbock-based business.
For a special taste sensation, pop into the Panhandle candy maker’s retail shop to get fresh peanut patties right off the assembly line (ask for a warm piece). While there, don’t miss the chance to try Goodart’s fiery green-chile peanut brittle. Harbuck says, “My joke to customers is that brittle samples are free, but I want $1.75 for a cup of water, and you might want two!”
But pink peanut patties consistently garner the most requests; the company sells more than 250,000 three-inch rounds per month. Try one bite of this slightly buttery, sweet-and-salty goodie and you’ll understand why. During the holidays, the company’s 10-inch, Texas-shaped patties tickle folks especially pink, even though they’re available year-round.
So who decided to make peanut pat- ties pink in the first place? After all, why not yellow or orange? Ron Sumicek, Tyler Candy’s National Sales Manager, explains, “Spanish and Valencia peanuts both have red skins. When the peanuts are cooked in the syrup, the candy naturally takes on a pinkish hue. But we add red dye so the color is consistent.”
A rise in commercial peanut production in East Texas occurred around the turn of the 20th Century, which helped push the patties to popularity. Today, according to Shelly Nutt, Executive Director of the Texas Peanut Producers Board, peanuts are grown throughout the state, with Gaines County the largest producer.
Years ago, to pay homage to its nutty heritage, the Frio County town of Pearsall erected a five-foot-wide, wire-and-concrete peanut along with a sign proclaiming: “55,000,000 lbs. marketed annually.” (It’s now outside Pearsall’s H-E-B store.)You can spot another peanut homage at the Wilson County Courthouse square in Floresville, where a shapely metal peanut sculpture has greeted visitors since 1970.
Since the 1980s, according to Robbie Blount of the Western Peanut Growers Association, 70 percent of the state’s peanuts have come from West Texas. Until last year’s drought, Texas held the Number Two spot (behind Georgia) for 25 years in terms of production based on total tonnage. “Our largest crop in state history was 2008,” says Blount, “when we produced 860 million pounds of peanuts statewide, all of which came from family-owned farms.”
Texas is the only state to grow all four peanut varieties: the runner, Spanish, Valencia, and Virginia. With four types to choose from, does it matter what’s put into a peanut patty? “Absolutely!” exclaims Harbuck. “We use Spanish peanuts because they make for a tastier candy.”
Sumicek says that while the hearty snacks didn’t appear commercially in Texas until just after the turn of the 20th Century, they played an important role in the south during the Civil War. “Peanut patties were popular with Southern troops since they last a long time and travel well,” he notes.
“With peanuts, you definitely get plen-ty of bang for your nutritional buck,” adds Blount. A one-ounce serving of peanuts packs in 30 essential nutrients and roughly eight grams of protein, and each small peanut patty typically includes at least an ounce of peanuts.
Harbuck recalls tight times past when folks put Goodart’s to good use: “When they didn’t have much money, they’d have a peanut patty and an RC Cola for lunch. They could get a lot of horsepower out of that!”
Peanut-patty fan Charlie Fogg shares a similar pairing—but with a twist: “Get you a soda and pour you a pack of peanuts into it. Enjoy that with your peanut patty. Now there’s a treat.”