Brits awed by giant mutant peanuts from N.C.
February 21, 2012 by Lew Powell
“In March 1959, scientists, government officials and lesser worthies assembled for a dinner party at the Royal Commonwealth Society, London.
“Unbeknownst to them, one course was a strange strain of American peanuts: ‘NC 4x… North Carolina 4th generation X-rayed’ peanuts, produced from seeds that had been exposed to 18,500 roentgen units.
“The irradiated peanuts were big as almonds, outshowing the British groundnuts served alongside. Their inventor, Walter C. Gregory of North Carolina State College, had sent them to Muriel Howorth, enthusiast for all things atomic.
“Disappointed that her guests were less than appreciative of the great scientific achievement present at table, Muriel afterwards ‘began inspecting [the] uncooked nuts wondering what to do with them all…I had the idea to…pop an irradiated peanut in the sandy loam to see how this mutant grew.’
“The ‘Muriel Howorth’ peanut (for she had already named it after herself) germinated in four days and was soon 2 feet high.
“Almost immediately there were interviews and television appearances and sightseers peering into the glasshouse to get a look.
“Garden writer Beverley Nichols came to call:
” ‘Yesterday I held in my hands the most sensational plant in Britain.
It holds in its green leaves the promise of victory over famine.
” ‘It is the first “atomic” peanut.’ “
— From “Atomic Gardens” at the Garden History Girl blog (Dec. 2, 2010)