For those looking for a super unique, only-in-Virginia activity, digging your own peanuts is a bucket list experience. To that end, Hollin Farms in Delaplane, Virginia is one of the coolest and only places where you can easily dig-your-own peanuts in Virginia’s beautiful farm country– and with mountain views, to boot!
As we wrote in our guide to the 5 Best Places to Go Apple Picking in Northern Virginia, Hollin Farms feels like a hidden gem, nestled on a beautiful Blue Ridge Mountain slope near Sky Meadows State Park. (This is a nice place to hike after a day harvesting peanuts or picking apples at the farm!)
In addition to dig-your-own peanuts, they have a wide variety of pick-your-own apples, potatoes, and veggies available for harvest throughout the Fall. (These include arugula, mustard greens, turnip greens, radishes, tatsoi, bok choi, cabbage, and fresh lettuce, though the harvest changes week to week.) They also sell a selection of beautiful guards, pumpkins, and the largest, weirdest, coolest butternut squashes I have ever seen!
In the summer, they have pick-your-own sunflowers, and the views are serene as they come, overlooking a patchwork of farms and rolling hills that have became synonymous with lush rural Virginia landscape.
Peanut season in Virginia yields a quintessentially “Fall” harvest. Most plants are sowed in May, and harvested between early September and the end of October. If you want to dig your own peanuts in Virginia, you’ll have to wait until autumn. But like pumpkin picking and apple picking, it’s special because it’s seasonal.
Be sure to check the picking schedule at Hollin Farms here, as hours change daily in response to weather and other farm conditions. (It’s a real rugged place in that way.)
How To Get Here
To get to Hollin Farms from DC or Northern Virginia, take Route 66 to Exit 23 (aka Route 17 North, to Delaplane). GPS will then direct you to the rustic, at-times bumpy Leeds Manor Road. At this point, however, you may lose reception.
To get to the farm, just follow the handwritten signs that say “Apples —->” and you’ll be fine. (I know: It’s super charming!) Hollin Farms is located on a lovely hidden drive that’ll make you think you’ve discovered an ancient plot of land. It’s very quaint and quiet up on its hillside perch, even on seemingly busy days.
How to Dig Your Own Virginia Peanuts
Digging your own peanuts takes a second to get ahold of, but once you learn how to identify the plant, it’s easy (and fun!).
First, look for uprooted peanut plants on the plot. If people have picked any peanuts before you, there will no doubt be bunches of roots and uprooted plants laying in the field. Pick one of them up and look at the leaves, handling it gently as the plants can have subtle prickers, like cucumber vines or stinging nettle.
The leaves should look like the image above.
Once you find a tuft of leaves that looks like the above plant, use a shovel or space to dig up the roots. (At Hollin Farms, they leave a shovel in the peanut field so there’s no need to bring your own.) Below ground, you’ll find several shelled peanuts clinging to the roots, like subterranean carrots. Take them off with your fingers, and voila! Your first peanut harvest.
Peanut plants tend to grow in clusters. So, once you successfully dig up a plant, look to the immediate left and right to see if there are others. After a while, you really get the hang of spotting them, and there’s a subtle elation that comes from learning to identify that which previously seemed hard.
Next comes the easy part: curing and roasting.
Remember: all freshly-dug peanuts have to be roasted or boiled before eating!
How To Roast Raw, Freshly-Picked Virginia Peanuts
Make the most of your harvest by roasting your peanuts to perfection.
Step 1: Curing Your Peanuts
A necessary step that ensures great flavor in the finished product is curing your peanuts before roasting– aka let them air-dry for about 1 week.
To cure your peanuts, simply rinse off the excess dirt and place them on a wire backing rack or grill basket so that they can air dry on all sides. (You don’t want to use a plate or sealed dish, because water can accumulate and cause mold. Use something with drainage.)
Then, let them sit for 1 week in a place where dogs, kids, or pests can’t get at them. (We cured ours in a closed sun porch.)
Be sure to check the peanuts daily and keep them dry. Peanuts that cure for too long are prone to mold. If you can’t wait the full week, let them cure for at least 5 days.
Step 2: Roasting Your Peanuts
Once you’re peanuts have completely dried out, they are ready to roast.
In a large bowl, mix your raw peanuts (in the shell or with shell removed) with 1 teaspoon of salt. (I strongly recommend keeping the shell on, as this lets you have the quintessential peanut experience of cracking open the shell. I also think they cook better this way, though they do absorb less of the salt.)
Then, place peanuts in a single layer on a baking pan and roast at 350 degrees F for ~15 to 20 minutes if raw, or 20 to 25 minutes in the shell. Peanuts will continue to cook as they cool, so remove them just before doneness for the best roast. (I’ve found that the sweet spot is about ~23 minutes.)
Step 3: Enjoy!
Peanuts are done when they are aromatic and give off a classic, toasted peanut smell. One whiff from your oven and you’ll know they’re done!
I love Hollin Farms peanuts because they have a gorgeous blond color and delightful, smooth mouthfeel. Virginia peanuts are some of the best in the world, and Hollin Farms peanuts are as fresh as they come. I love them!
You also might notice, upon cracking open a freshly-roasted peanut, that the paper-y skin coating the peanut inside is more tan than brown, almost like wood shavings. This is because the paper inside a peanut shell browns and darkens as the natural oils oxidize.
Most of us are used to eating peanuts that aren’t very fresh. Thus, by the time they get to us, the paper inside the shell is already oxidized and brown. When peanuts are fresh, however, that papery skin is still pale. Super cool!
Once you taste the fresh, blonde peanuts inside your shells, you’ll realize the difference. There is no comparison. After you dig your own peanuts, you’ll never go back!