Tuesday, January 15, 2008


It used to be that all the local Indian markets had snack packages of Spicy Cashews, that is, cashews with chili powder, which make a nice appetizer or snack with a few drops of lemon juice. But lately we cannot seem to find them. It's not like they're hard to make at home, sprinkling some cayenne on roasted cashews, but nuts bought for that purpose never seem to last that long. Fortunately, the supermarket has taken to stocking some Hot & Spicy Peanuts.

A number of fundamental foodstuffs originate in the Americas, such as chili peppers, squash, potato and maize. And a number of foods made their way into the American diet, and particularly the Southern American diet, from being originally the food of slaves from Africa, such as okra, black-eyed peas and, to some extent, sesame seeds. Peanuts are unusual, if not unique, for coming from the New World to North America by way of Africa.

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This post is one of two; it covers texts of European discovery and classification. The second post covers the spread around the world, including back to America.

The peanut originated in South America, probably in what is now Bolivia. It was extensively cultivated in nearby Brazil and Peru, where a fossilized peanut hull dated 7,600 years ago was found. It is nutritious. It does well in otherwise marginal sandy soils, which its pegs need to penetrate, and is good for the soil because as a legume it fixes nitrogen. It had spread north to Mesoamerica before the arrival of Europeans.

The first published European reference to peanuts was by Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo, a Spanish nobleman who traveled to Hispaniola and wrote its official history on his return, in his 1535 La historia general delas Indias:

Del maní, que es çierto género de fructa é mantenimiento ordinario que tienen los indios en esta Isla Española é otras islas destas Indias.

Una fructa tienen los indios en esta Isla Española, que llaman maní, la qual ellos siembran é cogen, é les es muy ordinaria planta en sus huertos y heredades, y es tamaña como piñones con cáscara, é tiénenla ellos por sana: los chripstianos poco caso haçen della, si no son algunos hombres baxos, ó muchachos, y esclavos, ó gente que no perdona su gusto á cosa alguna. Es de mediocre sabor é de poca substançia, é muy ordinaria legumbre á los indios, é hayla en gran cantidad. (Book. VII Chap. 5; p. 274 of the complete 1851 edition; similar, even more modernized text here)

Concerning the maní (peanut), which is another fruit and ordinary food which the Indians have on Hispaniola and other islands of the Indies.

Another fruit which the Indians have on Hispaniola is called maní. They sow it and harvest it. It is a very common crop in their gardens and fields. It is about the size of a pine (piñon) nut with the shell. They consider it a healthy food. However, the Christians do not use it unless they are unmarried males or children, or slaves and common people, who do not pamper their taste. It has a very mediocre taste and little substance. Its consumption among the Indians is very common. It is abundant on this and other islands. (tr. Latham in Hammons, “Early History and Origin of the Peanut,” in Peanuts : Culture and Uses, from what is probably closer to the original text, which does not seem to be online)

Bartolomé de las Casas wrote an earlier account in his Historia de las Indias, a work which was not published until 1875.

Otra fructa tenian, que sembraban y se criaba ó hacia debajo de la tierra, que no eran raíces sino lo mismo que el meollo de las avellanas de Castilla, digo que eran ni más ni ménos que las avellanas sin cáscara, y estas tenian su cáscara ó vaina en que nacian y con que se cubrian muy diferente que las avellanas, porque era de la manera como están las habas en sus vainas cuando están en el habar, puesto que ni era verde la vaina ni blanda, sino seca, cuasi de la manera que están las vainas de las arvejas ó de los garbanzos en Castilla cuando están para cogerlas; llamábase maní, la última sílaba aguda, y era tan sabrosa que ni avellanas ni nueces, ni otra fruta seca de las de Castilla por sabrosa que fuese, se le podia comparar. Y porque siempre se comia della mucha por su buen sabor, es luégo el dolor de la cabeza tras ella, pero no comiendo demasiada ni duele la cabeza ni hace otro daño; háse de comer siempre, para que sepa muy bien, con pan cazabi, ó de trigo si lo hay. (p. 309)

They had another fruit which was sown and grew beneath the soil, which were not roots but which resembled the meat of the filbert nut of Castille. I say, that they were neither more nor less than filbert nut without the shells, and these had thin shells or pods in which they grew and were covered in a different fashion than filbert nuts because they were in a manner similar to how beans are found in the pods, because these pods were not green nor soft but were dried in a manner of the sweet pea or chick pea of Castille at the time they were ready for harvest, they are called maní, with an acute accent on the last syllable, and were so tasty that neither hazelnuts not walnuts, not any other fruit fruit of those in Castille whatsoever could compare for taste. And because still if you ate too much of them for their good taste, then you got a headache from them, but not eating too much does not hurt the head nor cause other damage; it is always eaten, for they know it very well, with cassava bread, or wheat if they have it. (tr. after Latham)

The Taino word mani is still used in American Spanish outside Mexico for 'peanut'. Garcilaso de la Vega, “El Inca,” the son of a Spanish father and noble Inca mother, explains why he uses it as well as the Quechua word inchis in his Comentarios Reales (1609):

De las legumes que se crian debajo de la tierra

Hay otra fruta que nace debajo de la tierra, que los indios llaman inchic y los españoles maní (todos los nombres que los españoles ponen a las frutas y legumbres del Perú son del lenguaje de las islas de Barlovento, que los han introducido ya en su lengua española, y por eso damos cuenta de ellos); el inchic semeja mucho, en la médula y en el gusto, a las almendras; si se come crudo ofende a la cabeza, y si tostado, es sabroso y provechoso; com miel hacen de él muy bien turrón; también sacan del inchic muy lindo aceite para muchas enfermedades. (Lib. VIII, cap. 10; p. 173 in a modern edition; similar text here)

Of the vegetables that they grow beneath the ground

There is another vegetable which is raised under the ground, called by the Indians ynchic. It is very like marrow, and has the taste of almonds. The Spaniards call it maní, but all the names which the Spaniards give to the fruits and vegetables of Peru belong to the language of the Antilles. They have been adopted by the Spaniards, and therefore we speak of them as Spanish words. If the ynchic is eaten raw it causes a headache, but when toasted it is wholesome, and very good with treacle; and they make an excellent sweetmeat from it. They also obtain an oil from the ynchic, which is good for many diseases. (tr. Markham)

The vegetables that grow in the earth

There is another fruit that grows underground which the Indians call inchic and the Spaniards maní [peanuts]—all the names that Spaniards apply to the fruits and vegetables of Peru are taken from the language of the Windward Islands and have now been adopted into Spanish, which is why we give them. The inchic is very like almonds in consistency and taste. It is bad for the head if eaten raw, but tasty and wholesome if toasted. With honey it makes an excellent marzipan. An excellent oil useful for many illnesses is also extracted from inchic. (tr. Livermore p. 501)

Poma's brief mention confirms the inchis = maní identity. José de Acosta, a missionary to Peru, shows the odd mix of source languages for the vegetable words he uses in his Historia natural y moral de las Indias (1590), including maní:

De diuerſas rayzes que ſe dan en Indias

… alla ay tantas, que no ſabre contarlas. Las que agora me ocurren, vltra delas Papas que ſon lo principal, ſon ocas, y yanaocas, y camotes y vatatas, y xiquimas, y yuca, y cochuchu, y cavi, y totora, y mani, y otros cien generos que no me acuerdo. (Book IV Chap 18, p. 242; modernized edition here; also here)

Of the different roots that grow in the Indies

… but there so many exist that I cannot count them. Those that occur to me now, in addition to potatoes, which are the chief roots, are ocas and yanaocas and yams and sweet potatoes and jícama and yucca and cochuchu and cavi and totora and peanuts and a hundred other kinds that I cannot recall. (tr. López-`Morillas)

Maní even enjoys a marginal existence in English; it is in the OED mostly because of early translations from Spanish, starting with Grimeston's version of Acosta:

Of divers Rootes which growe at the Indies

But in those countries they have so many divers sortes, as I cannot reckon them; those which I now remember besides Papas, which is the principall, there is Ocas, Yanococas, Camotes, Vatas, Xiquimas, Yuca, Cochuha, Cavi, Totora, Mani, and an infinite number of other kindes, as the Patattres, which they eate as a delicate and toothsome meate. (pp. 260-261; preview; EEBO)

In South America, there are a number of closely related / borrowed peanut words: Taino maṉu´u̯i, variously spelled mandobi, manobi, mandowi, mundubi, munui; Guaraní manubi; “Chiriguano” (that is, Argentinean Guaraní) manduvi; Pilagá mandovi. Antonio Krapovickas, in a paper “The origin, variability and spread of the groundnut (Arachis hypogaea)” in The domestication and exploitation of plants and animals, from 1969 (and so before heavy-duty genetics), lists (snippet) these and some unrelated terms like Aymara cho'kopa (“Choccopa”) and Tucano yatubu. He suggests that insight on the spread can be gained by comparing the common words with linguistic affiliations, though I wonder whether there aren't too many extraneous factors involved. Much of the wordlist comes from a trio of papers by Auguste Chevalier in Revue Internationale de Botanique Appliquée et d'Agricolture Tropicale from 1933-1936 titled, “Monographie de l'Arachide,” and in particular the section, “Noms de l'Arachide Dans les Differents Pays” (pp. 740-747), which list hundreds of peanut words. It would be a valuable resource, but I haven't tracked down any copies yet.

Ulrich Schmidl, a German mercenary in the service of Pedro de Mendoza up the Río de la Plata, describes the peanut in his account of 1542 from his Weltbuch (1567):

unnd khamen erstlich zu einer nazion, die heist Suruchakuiss; diese hatten vonn dem türchischenn khornn unnd mandeoch, auch ander wutzeln, als mannduies, its einer hazelnuß gleich, item fischs unnd fleischs. (from the 1889 edition; there does not seem to be an older facsimile scanned online)

They came first to a people called Surukufers, who had Turkish corn, manioc, and other roots, such as mandues, which resemble hazel-nuts, and also fish and meat. (tr. Dominguez for the Hakluyt Society 1891)

These therefore in the beginning come to a Nation, called Surucusis, having Maiz, Mandeoch, and other Roots of that kind, and Mandues also (which are like our Filbirds) and fish and flesh. (from a reprint of the 1625 translation in Purchas his Pilgrimes)

So too Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, the governor of Río de la Plata, in his 1555 Comentarios:

los quales les dan en trueque de lo que traen, mucho maiz y mandioca e mandubis, que es una fruta como auellanas o chufas, que se cria debaxo de la tierro; (p. 231 of a later edition)

These give them, in exchange for their commodities, maize, manioc, and mandubis; these last are like hazel nuts or chufas, and grow near the ground; (tr. Dominguez for the Hakluyt Society 1891)

Chufa is Spanish for Cyperus esculentus.

Jean de Léry was a Huguenot missionary in the colony founded by de Villegaignon in Rio de Janeiro bay. His Histoire d'vn voyage fait en la terre dv Bresil, avtrement dite Amerique, first published in 1578, included a more detailed description:

Les ſauuages ont ſemblablement vne ſorte de fruicts, qu'ils nomment Manobi, leſquelles crioſſans dans terre comme truffes, & par petits filemens s'entretenans l'vn l'autre, n'ont pas le noyau plus gros que celuy de noiſettes franches, & de meſme gouſt. Neantmoins ils ſont de couleur griſaſtre, & n'en eſt pas le crioſe plus dure que la gouſſe d'vn pois: mais de dite maintenãt s'ils ont fueilles & graines, combien que i'aye beaucoup de fois mangé de ce fruict, ie confeſſe ne l'auoir pas bien obſerué, & ne m'em ſouuient pas. (p. 192)

The savages have likewise a kind of fruit that they call manobi, which grows in the earth like truffles, and are connected to each other by little filaments; the kernel is no bigger than that of our hazelnuts, and has the same taste. They are of a grayish color, and the husk is no harder than the shell of a pea; but as to whether they have leaves and seeds, even though I have eaten of this fruit many times, I must confess that I didn't observe it well enough, and I don't remember. (tr. Whatley p. 110)

The first mention in Portuguese was written by the Jesuit Fernão Cardim around 1584. Cardim was captured by corsairs in 1601 and his work was actually published in English translation in 1623 by Samuel Purchas; the Portuguese was finally published 1881 as Do principio e origem dos indios do Brasil. He mentions:

e certa fruita como amendoas q̃ chamaõ mendubis (snippet from Dicionário histórico das palavras portuguesas de origem tupi)

and a certaine fruit like Almonds which they call Amendnins (Purchas His Pilgrimes, Vol. XVI, p. 440)

Not only are almonds similar to peanuts, but the word amendoa is similar to mendubi, leading to the form amendoim, the ordinary Portuguese word for 'peanut'.

A full description is given by Gabriel Soares de Sousa in Notícia do Brasil (1587):

Em que se declara a natureza dos amendões, e o para que serve.

Dos amendões temos que dar conta particular, porque he couza, que se não sabe haver sanão no Brazil, os quaes nascem debaixo da terra, onde se plantão á mão, hum palmo do outro, as suas folhas são como as dos feijões de Hespanha, e tem os ramos ao longo do chão. Cada pé dá hum grande prato d'estes amendões, que nascem nas pontas das raizes, os quaes são tamanhos como bolotas, e tem casca da mesma grossura, e dureza, mas he branca e crespa, e tem dentro de cada bainha tres e quatro amendões, que são de feição dos pinhões com casca, e ainda mais grossos. Tem huma tona parda, que se lhe sahe como a do miolo dos pinhões, o qual miolo he alvo. Comidos crus tem sabor de hervanços, mas comem-se assados, e cozidos com casca como as castanhas, e são muito sabrosos, e torrados fóra da casca, são melhores. De huma maneira, e outra he esta fruta muito quente em demazia, e cauza dór de cabeça, a quem come muitos, se he doente della. Plantão-se estes amendões em terra solta, e humida, em a qual planta, e beneficio della não entra homem macho, só as indias os costumão plantar, e as mistiças, e nesta lavoura não entendem os maridos, e tem para si, que se elles, ou seus escravos os plantarem, que não hão de nascer. Tambem as femeas os vão apanhar, e segundo seu uzo hão de ser as mesmas, que os plantarem, e para durarem todo o anno curão-nos no fumo, onde estão até vir outra novidade. D'esta fruta fazem as mulheres portuguezas todas as castas de doces, que fazem das amendoas, e cortados os fazem cobertos de assucar de mistura como os confeitos. E tambem os curão em peças delgadas, e compridas, de que fazem pinhoadas; quem os não conhece por tal a come se lha dão. O proprio tempo, em que os amendões se plantão, he em Fevereiro, e não estão debaixo da terra mais que até Maio, que que he o tempo, em que colhem a novidade, o que as temeas vão fazer com grande festa. (Chap. 47; 1825 edition, p. 153; more modern spelling here)

In which is stated the nature of the Amendois (peanut) and their use.

We have to pay special attention to the peanut because it is known only in Brazil, which sprout under ground where they are planted by hand, a hand's breadth apart, the leaves are similar to those of the Spanish beans and have runners along the ground. Each plant produces a big plate of these peanuts, which grow on the ends of the roots and are the size of acorns, and has a hull of similar thickness and hardness, but it is white and curled and has inside each shell 3 or 4 peanuts, which have the appearance of “pinhões” (pine nuts), with the hulls, but thicker. They have a brownish skin from which they are easily removed as with the “pinhões”, the inner part of which is white. Eaten raw, they have the same taste as raw chickpeas, but they are usually eaten roasted and cooked in the shell, like chestnuts and are very tasty, and toasted outside of the shell they are better. In one manner or another, this fruit is excessively hot, and produce headache to anyone eating too many of them if they become sick from them. These peanuts are planted in a loose, humid soil the preparation of which has not involved any male human being, only the female Indian and halfbreed females plant them; and the husbands know nothing about these labors, if the husbands or their male slaves were to plant them they would not sprout. The females also harvest them, and as is the custom, the same ones that planted them; and to last all year they are cured in smoke and kept there until the new crop.

Portuguese women make all the sweet things from this fruit which are made from almonds, and which are cut and covered with a sugar mixture as confections (Street Urchin's Foot). And also they are cured in long, thin pieces, from which are made “candied pine nuts”, and those that are not familiar with them will eat them as that (will not recognize that they are not “pine nuts”, but peanuts). February is the right time to plant peanuts, and they are not beneath the ground any longer than May, which is time to harvest the crop, which the females do with a much celebration. (tr. Stewart in Hammons)

In Nahuatl, peanut is tlalcacahuatl 'earth cacao-bean'. The second part gives Castilian and Mexican Spanish cacahuete, whence French cacahuète. From the written record, peanuts do not appear to have been very important in early Mexico. Bernardino de Sahagún's Florentine Codex only mentions their medicinal use:


çan tlanelhoatl, ololtontli, in jeoaio tliltic, auh in jtic iztac, in jxiuhio xoxoctic, çan iaoaltotonti: vmpa mochioa in xaltenco.

Itech monequj in aqujn motlevia, atle moneloa, çã mjxcavia: moteci, atl ipan conj, in cocoxquj, in conjc caxixa in cocolli.

It is just a root, small and round. Its skin is black and its interior white; its leaves are green, small and round. It grows there at Xaltenco.

He who has a fever requires it. Nothing is mixed in; only it alone [is used], ground up. The sick one drinks it in water. When he has drunk it, he expels the ailment in the urine. (Book XI, Chap. 7, Para. 5, Sect. 9, p. 143 of the translation)

Francisco Hernández even suggests that the Spanish were responsible for bringing it, although the archeological record indicates that this was not the case:

De tlalcacahoatl, seu Cacahoatl humili.

Ita vocant Mexicanses herbam, cujus fructum Haitini Manies nuncupant, ob similitudinem, quam habet cum Tlalcacahoatl, sed praecipue radicibus, quae tamen huic sunt strobilis, et figura, et nucleorum gustu similes; neque aliter saccharo condiri solent, venerem excitare, gustuque dulci, et jucundo placere, et, si intemperanter edantur, caput afficere dolore. Nascitur apud Quauhnahuacenses, etsi Haitinae insulae fuerit tantum antea incola. (Book VI. Chap. 89)

To this herb, whose fruit the Haitians call manies, the Mexicans give the name tlalcacahoatl because they are similar to those that are called the second type of tlalcacahoatl. This similarity is especially seen in the roots. These are similar to pine nuts not only in shape but also in the taste, which is like almonds. These are also prepared with sugar and excite the sexual appetite. They are pleasing because of their sweet and appetizing taste. If they are eaten in excess, they produce headaches. They grow in the lands of Cuernavaca even though they were previously found only on the island of Haiti. (tr. Varey)

The earliest mention of peanuts having made it to Europe appears to be Nicolás Monardes' 1574 Historia medicinal de las cosas que se traen de nuestras Indias Occidentales, which was translated into English in 1577 by John Frampton as Ioyfvll nevves ovt of the newe founde worlde:

De la fruta que se cria debaxo de tierra.

EMbiaron me del Peru vna fructa muy gracioſa, que ſe cria debaxo de tierra, y muy hermoſa de ver, y muy ſabroſa de comer, eſta fructa ni tiene rayz ni produze planta alguna, ni planta la produze a ella, ſino que ſe cria debaxo de tierra como ſe crian las turmas que llaman de tierra: ella es del tamaño de medio dedo, redonda, retorcida toda ella, con muy linda labor, el color es vayo: tiene dentro vna pepita que quando ſeca ſuena: la qual es como vna la mendra, que tiene la caſcara leonada y es blanca, partida en dos partes como vna almendra. Es fructo ſabroſo y de buen guſto, comiendola parece que ſe comen auellanas.

Naſce eſta fructa debaxo de tierra, en la coſta del rio Marañon, yno la ay en otra parte de todas las Indias: comeſe verde y ſeca, y lo mejor es toſtar la: daſe ſobre meſa como fructa de poſtre, porque enxuga mucho el eſtomago y lo dexa con contento: pero ſi ſe come mucho della da peſadumbre a la cabeça. Es fructa tenida en mucho aſsi entre los Indios como entre los Eſpañoles, y cõ razon porque yo he comido delas que me han traydo y tienen buen guſto: parece fructa templada. (p. 104)

Of a fruite which groweth vnder the ground.

THey ſent me from the Peru, a fruite very good, that groweth vnder the earth, and very faire to beholde, and of a very good taſte in eating. This fruite hath no roote, nor doeth produce any plante, nor plante doth produce it, but that it groweth vnder the ground as the Turmas doe grow vnder the earth, which are called the Turmas of the earth. It is of the greatneſſe of halfe a finger rounde, and rounde about it is wrought with a very fayre worke, it is of a bay colour: It hath within it a little kernel, which when it is dry, maketh a ſounde within, lyke to an Almonde: the rinde of it is tawny, and ſomwhat white, parted into twoo partes lyke vnto an Almonde. It is a fruite of goood ſauour and taſte, and eating of it, it ſeemeth that you eate Nuttes.

This fruite groweth vnder the earth, in the coaſt of the Riuer of Maronnon, and it is not in any other part of al the Indias. It is to be eaten greene and dry, and the beſte way is to toſte it. It is eaten alwaies after meates, as fruite eaten laſt of all, becauſe it dryeth much the ſtomacke and leaueth it ſatiſfied, but if you eate much of it, then it bringeth heauineſſe to the head. It is a fruite in great reputation, as wel amongſt the Indians, as the Spaniardes, and with greate reaſon, for I haue eaten of them, which they haue brought mee, and they haue a good taſte. It ſeemeth to be a temperate fruite. (Fol. 93-94)

The peanut was of course included in the herbals and botanical works that emerged at the start of the 17th century. In 1605, Charles de l'Écluse (Clusius) published his Exoticorum libri decem. It includes a Latin translation of Monardes; for the section given above, it has:

Fructus ſub terra naſcens.

Missus eſt ex Peru fructus ſub terra naſcens, pulcher admodum aſpectu, qui radice caret, & nullam plantam profert, nec ab ulla planta producitur, ſed ſub terra dumtaxat gignitur tuberum inſtar: dimidii digiti magnitudinem æquans, rotundus, & affabrè elaboratus, ſpadicei coloris, nucleum in ſe continens, ſtrepitum, dum movetur fructus ſiccus, facientem, amygdalæ ſimilem, fuſco cortice, intùs album, & in duas partes diviſum, veluti amygdala. Grati ſaporis eſt, & avellanam guſtu refert.

Nusquam per univerſam Americam inveniri dicitur, præterquam apud flumen Marañon: recens & reſiccatus editur, torreri autem præſtat: adponitur ſecundis menſis bellariorum loco, quoniam ventriculum valdè exſiccat & roborat: ſed ſi liberaliùs edatur, capitis gravedinem generat.

Magno æſtimant eum Americani & Hiſpani, nec immeritò: nam eos qui ad me mittebantur deguſtans, grati ſaporis eſſe deprehendebam.

Temperatus eſſe videtur. (Chap. 60, p. 344)

To this Clusius adds a note suggesting that the plant is the same as de Léry's manobi, whose description (see above) he also translates:

* An is fructus quem Lerius Americana Hiſtoria cap. XIII. deſcribit his verbis?

Habent præterea Braſiliani fructus quoſdam ſub terra, Tuberum mode, naſcentes, Manobi ab illis appellatos, tenuibus filamentis ſimul cohærentes, & nucleum continentes domeſtica avellana haud maiorem, eiuſdémque ſaporis, tenero ut piſorum ſiliqua cortice, cineracei coloris: an verò folia vel ſemen proferant, ignorare me fateor, licet fructum frequenter ederim.

* Note: Is this the fruit which de Léry described in his American History Chap. 13 with these words:

In his original content, he pictures what may be a peanut seed (Book II, p. 57, fig. V), with the following description

Quintus, nucleus dumtaxat erat ſuo putamine exemptus, firmus, tenui membranâ fuſcâ & multis venis diſtinctâ, firmiterq́ue ipſi nucleo inhærente, tectus: ipſa ſubſtantia firma erat, candida, pulpæ nucis Indicæ ſive cocci, ſimilis, nullo quidem odore prædita, ſed ſatis grato ſapore.

Hunc nucleum anno M.D.XCVIII deprehendebam ejus nucis eſſe, quæ Tertio loco, ſive pro Tertio hujus capitis fructu deſcripta eſt: nam multi ſimiles nuclei, partim ſui putaminis fragmentum adhuc retinẽtes, maxima autem ex parte nudi, & à ſuo putamine liberi, nonnulli etiam integrum corticem adhuc habentes adferebantur nave quadam ex inſula Divi Thomæ advecta, quibus Luſitani quidam eâdam nave vecti, ſua mancipia cum radicis cujuſdam farina commixtis aluerant in itinere. Eſt autem fructus Palmæ Adil nuncupatæ.

Fifth, the kernel has merely been removed from its shell, a strong covering distinguished by its dark thin membrane and many veins, and cleaving firmly to the kernel; the substance itself is firm, shining white, as if the flesh of the Indian nut is baked, endowed indeed with no odor, but filled with a pleasing taste.

In 1598 I understood this kernel to be of the nut in the third place, or the fruit that is described in the third number of this chapter: now there are some very similar kernels, partly retaining pieces of their shell here, however for the most part bare, and freed from their shell, but some having the whole shell, brought from a certain ship from the island of São Tomé; certain Portuguese were carried by the same ship, whose slaves ate them on the journey mixed with some meal of certain roots. There was also a fruit by the name of the Adil Palm. (tr. after Smith in Hammons, who omits the second paragraph)

This last paragraph clarifies a passage in his earlier (1601) Rariorum plantarum historia: in a chapter on yams, on a page already referred to in the potato post, there is a section titled
Natales 'origin' that briefly mentions what are presumably peanuts and emphasizes the horrible situation that underlies this stage of their spread:

D. Thomae inſulanos eâ aſsâ & elixâ veſci intelligebam, ejúſque rei gratiâ Luſitani quidam, qui multos iſtic cum viros, tum feminas & pueros emerant, ut Vlyſipone pro mancipijs venderent, iſtas radices in naves intulerant in miſerorum alimentum, praetera nuces quaſpiam, quibus cum radicis cujuſdam farinâ veſcerentur. Omnes autem illae naves eodem anno in Walachriam deletae. (Book IIII, p. lxxix)

I understood that the islanders of São Tomé ate these roasted or boiled, on account of this circumstance: there were some Portuguese who had bought many men, besides women and children, so that they might sell them as slaves in Lisbon. They carried these roots in their ships as food for the wretches, besides some nuts, which they ate with meal of certain roots. But all those ships were destroyed in Walcheren that year.

Caspar Bauhin's Pinax (1623) quotes (Book III, Sect. I, Radices Variae Quibus 'various roots [by which]', p. 90) Acosta's list, which includes Mani; and Schmidl's (in Latin, Ulricus Faber) which includes Mandu[r]is; and includes (Para. XV, p. 91), “Mandues, Carios populi edunt” 'the Carios people eat [them]'.

Joannes de Laet, a director of the Dutch West India Company, published the first edition of Nieuwe Wereldt ofte Beschrijvinghe van West-Indien in 1625. This edition is online in the Internet Archive. However, it is the second Dutch edition of 1630, and the 1633 Latin and 1640 French editions which have an more recognizable illustration of a peanut fruit and remarkably none of them is.

John Parkinson's Theatrum Botanicum (1640) illustrates and describes the peanut, giving an early form of its scientific name:

3. Arachus ὑπόγαιος Americanus, Vnderground Cicheling of America or Indian Earthnuts.

The Indian Earth-nuts (the figure whereof I give you, together as they are termed to us by them that have brought them us) are very likely to grow from ſuch like plants as are formerly deſcribed, not onely by the name but by the ſight and taſte of the thing it ſelfe, for wee have not yet ſeene the face thereof above ground, yet the fruit, or Peaſe-cods (as I may ſo call it) is farre larger, whoſe outer huſke is thicke and ſomewhat long, round at both ends, or a little hooked at the lower end, of a ſullen whitiſh colour on the outſide, ſtriped, and as it were wrinckled, bunching out into two parts, where the two nuts (for they are bigger than any Filberd kernell) of Peaſe doe lie joyning cloſe one unto another, being ſomewhat long, with the roundneſſe firme and ſolide, and of a darke reddiſh colour on the out ſide, and white within taſting ſweet like a Nut, but more oily.

The Names

The firſt is truely taken from Bellus, aforeſaid, to be the Arachidna (or Arachydna as Columna hath it) or τῶ ἀράχω ὁμοίος, Aracoides, or Araco ſimilis of Theophraſtus mentioned in his firſt Booke and eleventh Chapter, no other plant yet knowne, agreeing ſo rightly thereunto, and deſcribeth it, but the fruit groweth as much neere under the ground joyning to the ſmall fibers thereof as above : and yet he there ſaith alſo, that neither of them beare any leafe, nor any thing like leaves : which how this can ſtand with ſence and reaſon I know not, and therefore many doe ſuſpect the text to be faultie, or elſe he is contrary to himſelfe, for he ſaith they beare no leſſe fruit under ground then above, and then they muſt beare fruit above ground, which how it can be without leaves I ſee not, for never read, heard, or ſaw, that any plant bore fruit above ground without ſtalked and leaves; the compariſon unto Aracus alſo carrying the more probabilitie : but ſurely he was miſinformed by thoſe that gathered the rootes with the fruit on them when the ſtalkes and leaves were withered and gone, he never ſeeing the plant, as it is likely, or gathering it himſelfe : the etimologie alſo of the name being compoſed of Ἀράχος and ὗδνον, Aracus and hudnon, which is tuber, confirmeth a ſuppoſall in me, that he meant this underground fruit was like the fruit of the foregoing Aracus above ground, and ſuch like is the under ground fruit hereof in cods with peaſe in them : but Columna maketh the Terræ glandes before declared to be rather this Arachydna, both from the ſolid rootes under ground, and the likeneſſe of the plant under Aracus : and ſurely it may be that both theſe were meant by Theophraſtus, for he maketh two ſorts, and both alike in bearing fruit under g[r]ound, that is, Arachidna and Araco ſimilis, or Aracoides : and we have alſo two plants, as I here ſhew you, Aracus before this, and Arachus after it, unto which they may be referred : the other two ſorts are entituled as I thinketh it fitteſt for them : the Candiots, as Bellus ſaith, call the firſt ἀγριόφακι, Agriophaci; the ſecond was ſent me by the name of Lathyrus ſub terra ſiliquifera; the laſt is generally called by our Engliſh Sea-men that goe into thoſe parts Earth-nuts, erroniouſly enough, as they doe moſt other things that they meete with. (Chap. XI, pp. 1069-1070 in EEBO)

Georg Marcgrave's 1648 Historia Naturalis Brasiliae includes (Book I, p. 37) a illustration (nicely colored in the botanicus copy), incorrectly showing the pods growing on the roots, with the following description:

Mvndvbi Braſilienſibus Herba, in pedalem aut bipedalem altitudinem adſurgit, caule quadrato aut ſtriato, ex viridi ruffeſcente, & piloſo. Hinc inde enaſcuntur ramuli primo quaſi caulem amplectentes & foliolis anguſtis, acuminatis ſtipati; mox habent nodum ac trium vel quatuor digitorum longitudine extenduntur; continetq; quilibet ramulus quatuor folia, duo ſemper ſibi oppoſita, paulo plus quam duos digitos longa, ſeſquidigitum lata, ſuperne læte viridia, inſtar trifolii, inferne paulum caneſcentia, nervo conſpicuo & ſubtilibus venulis quaſi parallelis dotata, raris quoque pilis veſtita. Ad exortum ramulorum qui folia gerunt prodit pediculus ſeſquidigitum circiter longus, tenuis, floſculum gerens flavum & per oras rubentem, duobus foliolis conſtantem, more viciorum aut trifolii. Radix illius haud longa, tenuis, contorta, filamentoſa, cui adnaſcuntur folliculi ex albicante gryſei, figura minimæ cucurbitæ, oblongæ, magnitudine Myrobalani, fragiles: quilibet autem continet in ſe duos nucleos, pellicula ſaturate purpurea veſtitos, carne intus alba, oleaginoſa, ſapore piſtaceorum, qui comeduntur cocti & inter bellaria apponuntur. Multum tamen comeſti capitis dolores cauſare ajunt. Fructu integro quaſſato nuclei intus ſtrepunt.

Confer Monard. cap. LX. Anchic Peruvianis, Hiſpanis ibi Mani vocatur, uti traditum lib. X. cap. 2 Deſcriptionis Americæ.

Mandubi — A Brazilian herb rising to a foot or two feet in height, stem quadrangular or striate, from green becoming reddish, and hairy. From different directions branchlets are sprouted forth, at first as if enclosing the stem and accompanied by narrow, acuminate leaflets (folioles); soon they have a node and are extended three or four inches (digits) in length; in a row; four leaves on any branchlet, two always opposite each other, a little more than two inches long, an inch and a half broad, a pleasing green above, like trefoil (“trifolii”), becoming a little whitened below, finished with almost parallel, conspicuous nerves and fine veinlets, covered also with scattered hairs. Near the coming forth of the branchlets which bear the leaves, a pedicel appears about an inch and half long attenuated bearing a little yellow flower, reddish along the edges, consisting of two leafletes (folioles) in the manner of vetch or trefoil. The root of this (plant) by no means long, attenuated, intricate, filamentous, from which pods are grown from somewhat whitish (to) grey, of the form of the smallest cucurbits, oblong, fragile, of the size of a balsam fruit (“myrobalanus”): any one contains also two kernels, covered with a rich dark red (dark brown or purple) skin, the flesh within white, oleaginous, tasting of pistachio nuts, which are recommended baked and are served during dessert. They say that consuming many, however, causes pains of the head (headaches). The whole fruit being shaken, the seeds rattle within.

Compare Monardes cap. LX. Anchic of Peru, the same is called Mani in Spanish, as reported lib. X. cap. 2 of the description of America. (tr. Smith)

The 1658 De Indiae Utriusque Re Naturali et Medica, which combines Historia Naturalis Brasiliae and Willem Piso's De Medicina Brasiliensi, which were issued bound together in 1648, into a single work, also includes Marcgrave's description, together with an improved illustration that adds in de Laet's pods and an open three-seed pod. Based on online indices, this work used to be in Gallica, but is no longer available. Since it is 450 years old, I'd like to think that the problem is technical and not legal, but I bet it isn't.

Johann Bauhin's Historia Plantarum Universalis (1650) doubts Clusius' identification of the plant de Léry described as the one Monardes received:


Fructum quendam Syluestribus Manobi appelatum, ait, Lerius Amer. Hist. sub terra Tuberum modò nasci, tenuibus filamentis simul cohærere, nucleum non esse maiorem domestica Auellana, euisdemque saporis, cinerei coloris, cortice non duriore, quàm Pisorum siliquae: an verò folia, semen[q]ue proferat ignorare se fatetur, licet frequenter fructum ederit. Clus. Lerium intrepretatus, vertit aliter quàm nos: Fructum nucleũ continere, ac Manobi sibi videri idem cum fructu Amygdaloide. Nos dubitamus an Monardes bene descripserit suum fructum, qui nobis videtur potius arboreus: fortè Manobi erit Trasi genus aliquod. Trasi autem sunt veluti fructus & nuclei Auellanarum. (Vol. I, Book III, Chap. 31,  p. 292)

A certain fruit called by the natives Manobi, de Léry's American History says is born under the earth in the fashion of a tuber, at the same time held together by thin filaments, the kernel is no bigger than a domestic hazelnut, and of the same taste, of gray color, with a shell no harder, than pea pods: in truth he confesses that he does not know how the leaves and seeds form, though he has eaten them often. Clusius explained de Lery other than we do: a fruit contains the kernel, and Manobi itself seems to be the same as an almond-like fruit. We doubt perhaps that Monardes described his fruit well: which seems to us more likely to be tree-like: perhaps Manobi will be some kind of Trasi? Moreover Trasi are like the fruit and seed of hazelnuts.

Trasi is Italian for Cyperus esculentus; so Gerard, “Cyperus Eſculentus, Italian Traſi, or Spaniſh Galingall” (Herbal, Book I, Chap. 25, p. 32 of the 1633 edition; galingale < Arabic/Persian قولنجان qūlanjān / خلنجان ḫulunǧān, Sanskrit कुलञ्ज kulañja < Chinese 高良薑 gao1liang2jiang1 'Gaoliang ginger' means two kinds of rhizomes: galangal and, as here, Cyperus).

Joannes Jonstonus' 1662 Dendrographias collated the descriptions in many of the earlier works and thereby served as a basis for some later ones. It does not appear to be online yet.

John Ray's Historia Plantarum (1686) is another book that apparently used to be in Gallica but has been removed; it is still in EEBO, though, so I hope they aren't the ones responsible. Following Parkinson, he describes the peanut in “De Leguminibus supra infráque terram fructum ferentibus, seu Arachydna. … 3. Aracus ὑπόγαιος Americanus Park. Mundubi Braſilienſibus Marggr.” and also relates other descriptions (Vol. I, Book XVIII, Chap. 4, pp. 918-919)

Leonard Plukenet, who collaborated with Ray on later volumes of Historia Plantarum, published his own Phytographia in 1691. He classifies the peanut as Senna, listing those earlier descriptions under Sena tetraphyllas (pp. 341-342 and Plate 60, Fig. 1).

In 1703, Charles Plumier, returning from the last of his several trips to the New World, published Nova plantarum Americanarum genera. He classified the peanut as Arachidna quadrifolia (p. 49 and Plate Plate 37).

In fact, the 17th century saw a new generation of naturalists journeying to America. Bernabé Cobo, as Jesuit who lived most of his life in Spanish America, completed a work in 1653 which was eventually published in 1890 as Historia del Nuevo Mundo. He writes:

Del Maní

El Maní es una raíz muy diferente de todas las demás de Indias; la mata es baja y muy aparrada con la tierra; produce muchos tallos y hojas, de manera que se viene á hacer muy cerrada. Son los tallos de dos tercias de largo, y son más los que se extienden por el suelo que los que suben hacia arriba; son redondos y tan gruesos como juncos, de color rojo, pero no lisos, sino algo vellosos y con mucha hoja, la cual en talle y grandor se parece á la del lentisco, salvo que es más delgada y un poco mayor y de un verde escuro. La fruta desta mata son unas raicitas cada una del tamaño del dedo meñique, algo más corta, con una cascarilla blanquecina muy arrugada y tan delgada y sutil, que apretada ligeramente entre los dedos se quiebra; dentro della tiene cada raíz dos ó tres pepitas muy parecidas en todo á los piñones, cubiertas de un hollejico rojo muy sutil, como el de la almendra, que quitado, queda la pepita muy blanca como piñón mondado, la cual se divide en dos partes como la haba. Cómese esta raíz por fruta regalada y de muy buen sabor, cocida y tostada; pero comida cruda, causa dolores de cabeza, vaguidos y jaqueca. Hácense della muy buenos turrones, confitura y otros regalos. El modo como esta planta produce su fruto es asido á unas venillas delgadas ó barbas como la Batata, y para desenterrarlo, se arranca la mata, en la cual salen asidas muchas destas raicillas de Maní, aunque muchas más quedan soterradas, las cuales se sacan cavando toda la tierra al rededor.

Las zorras son muy golosas desta fruta, la cual se comen escarbando la tierra y desenterrándola. La leche del Maní, que se saca como la de las almendras, sirve para almendradas, y mezclada con la que se saca de las pepitas de melón ó calabaza, agrava blandamente el celebro y causa sueño en los faltos dél; y si á la almendrada, en lugar de azúcar se le echa miel de abejas, es contra la itericia y purgazón de riñones. Llámase Maní esta raíz en la lengua de la Isla Española; los mexicanos le llaman Cacaguate, y los indios peruanos Ínchic, en la lengua quíchua, y Chocopa, en la aymará. (Vol. I, p. 359-360)

The maní is a root different from all the other of the Indies, the plant is very short and very close to the ground. The fruit of this plant are small roots, each are the size of the small finger somewhat shorter, with a whitish skin very wrinkled and are thin and slender that when slightly pressed between the fingers it breaks; inside of it each root has 2 or 3 seeds very much resembling the pine nuts, covered by a red skin very slender, like that of the almond, which when removed leave the seed very white like the husked pinenut, it divides into two parts like the beans. This root is eaten as a fruit, it has very good taste cooked or toasted; but when eaten raw, it produces headaches, dizziness, and headache (megrim).

It makes good nougat (candies), confection, and other gifts (treats).

The way this plant produces fruit is by having thin ‘veins’ or slender roots (the pegs?) as in sweet potato (Batata) and to uproot it, the plant is pulled and comes out with many little rootlets (pegs?) of maní (peanuts). Quite a few are left in the soil but these are gathered by digging around in the soil.

Foxes are very fond of this fruit, and seen digging in the ground and getting the fruit. Peanut milk (leche del maní), which is obtained as in almonds, can be used much as milk of almond, which mixed with milk obtained from melon or gourd seed causes sleep when there is no sleep. As with milk of almond, if in place of sugar honey is added, it works against jaundice and for purging the kidneys. This root is called Maní (peanut) in the language of Hispaniola. Mexicans call it Cacaguate, and Peuvian Indians call it Ínchic in the Quichua language and Chocopa in the Aymara language. (tr. after Latham and del Valle in Hammons)

Jean-Baptiste du Tertre's Histoire générale des Antilles (1667-1671) also includes a more careful description:

Nous avons encore une autre plante, dont les fruits croiſſent dans la terre, comme celle des Patates, mais qui en eſt bien differente: on l'appelle Piſtache, à cauſe de ſa forme & ſon gouſt, c'eſt une petite plante qui rampe ſur la terre, & pouſſe de ſes petites tiges qui ſont fort deſliées, rouſſes & veluës, de petites queuës fort drües, qui portent chacune quatre petites fuëilles aſſez ſemblables à celles du Mélilot; il ſort de la jointure de ces rameaux de petites fleures jaunes & rougiſsantes par le haut, comme celles de Citiſus: cette plante produit ſous la terre de petites gouſses griſes, qui ſont du bruit lors qu'on les caſſe: elles contiennent chacune deux ou trois fruits gros comme des Avelaines, l'eſcorce en eſt rouge, & le dedans en eſt blanc, oléagineux & de meſme gouſt que nos Piſtaches de l'Europe; on les preſente au deſsert, mais ils font mal à la tête de ceux qui en mangẽt trop; l'on en fait des cataplaſmes qui gueriſsent les morſures des ſerpens &, l'huile que l'on en tire eſt eſtimée comme l'huile d'amande douce. (p. 121 and plate)

We have another plant, whose fruits grow in the earth, like those of the [sweet] potato, but it is very different, called Pistache, because of its shape and taste. It is a little plant that runs along the ground and produces from its small red hairy stems, which are very slender, some short thickened ‘pegs’ (queuës), and four leaflets, similar to sweet clover, and from the juncture of these shoots it sends out bright little yellow-and-russet flowers like those of broom. This plant produces small grey underground pods, which pop when squeezed; each contains two or three large fruits like a filbert nut, the seed coat is red and the inside is white, oily and of the same taste as the European Pistachio. They are used for dessert, but will cause headaches if overindulged; they are also used for making poultices to heal snake-bite and the expressed oil is considered to be equal to sweet almond oil. (tr. after Cutler in Hammons)

Since it has come up before elsewhere, it is also worth mentioning here that this work is one of the earliest to give an etymology of French requin (Littré) 'shark' from requiem:

Ce Poiſſon eſt appellé par les Eſpagnols Phiburon, par les Holandois Haye, & par les François, Requiem, parce qu'il dévore les hommes, & fait chanter Requiem por eux. (p. 202)

This fish is called by the Spanish [T]iburon, by the Dutch Haai, and by the French Requin, because it devours men and so necessitates singing the Requiem for them.

Jean Baptiste Labat, a Dominican missionary, published Nouveau voyage aux isles de l'Amerique in 1722, with a second edition in 1742. He has a quite detailed description of peanuts, which will be the last one quoted here. The older edition is in Gallica, but the scan is defective because of a fold-out plate and so missing the first page of the following description. There is a scan of the second edition in GDZ, but I cannot figure out how to deep-link to pages in it; the description starts on page 366 (391 : 366 in the drop-down list).

Pendant que je ſuis ſur le chapitre des fruits ſauvages, il faut que je parle d'un qu'on n'a pas tant de peine à cüeillir que le précédent, puiſqui'il vient dans le terre, au lieu qu'il faut aller chercher l'autre dans le moyenne région de l'air. On l'appelle piſtache très - improprement: car il n'a rien qui approche des véritables piſtaches, ni pour le goût, ni pour le couleur, ni pour le coque qui le renferme, ni pour le maniere dont la nature le produit.

Il y a apparence que mon Confrere le Pere du Tertre n'avoit jamais vû de véritables piſtaches, & n'en avoit jamais mangé lorſqu'il a écrit, que celles des Iſles avoient le même goût que celle d'Europe. Cela lui eſt pardonnable, ce n'eſt pas une choſe qu'on trouve chez les Religieux où il étoit entré fort jeune, & il peut s'être trompé auſſi bien que ce jeune Marchand Hollandois dont parle M. Tavenier dan ſes Mémoires qui les prenoit pour des féves vertes.

Les véritable piſtaches ne croiſſent qu'en Aſie. L'arbre qui les porte a douze à quinze pieds de hauteur. Ses feüilles ſont preſque rondes, & aſſez ſemblables à celles du Thérebinte. Il porte des fleurs qui ne ſont que des bouquets de petites étamines commes des franges, après leſquel es les fruits paroiſſent auſſi par bouquets. Il ſont couverts de deux enveloppes. Le premiere eſt verte, mêlée de quelques pointes & lignes rouges, à peu près de la conſiſtence du deſſus des noix communes: celle-ci renferme une coque blanchâtre, dure & forte, quoi qu'aſſez mince, qui couvre une amande longuette, ronde, pointuë par les deux bouts, dont le deſſus eſt verd & rouge, & le dedans extrémement verd. Cette amande eſt fort agréable au goût, ſoit qu'on la mange cruë ou cuite. On prétend qu'elle eſt fort chaude.

Les fruit qu'on appelle piſtaches aux Iſles viennent d'une plante qui ne s'éleve guéres plus d'un pied hors de terre, elle rampe ordinairement, parceque ſa tige eſt trop foible pour le ſoutenir. Elle pouſſe quantité de jets déliez, rougeâtres & velus, accompagnez de petites queuës, qui portent des feüilles preſque comme celles du mélliot & des capucines qui ſont jaunes avec un peu de rouge aux bords & à l'entrémité. Elles durent peu, & leur délicateſſe eſt cauſe qu'elles ſont bien-tôt brûlées & conſomées par l'ardeur du Soleil. Le fruit ſe trouve en terre où il faut le chercher. Il eſt attaché à des filets & aux chevelures que la racine pouſſe, & que la tige répand ſur la terre, dans laquelle ils entrent, & produiſent des gouſſes ou coſſes de douze, quinze & juſqu'à dix-huit lignes de longeur, ſur quatre, cinq & ſix lignes de diamétte. Elles n'ont guéres plus d'épaiſſeur qu'un bon parchemin, ou comme celles des amandes tendres. Le dedans eſt revêtu d'une petite peau blanche, unie & luſtrée: le dehors eſt de couleur de biſtre avec des rayes plus blanches, élevées au-deſſus de fond, qui vont d'un bout de la coque à l'autre, & qui ſont unies enſemble par d'autres petites lignes moins élevées, qui partagent toute la ſuperficie en quantité de petites lozanges. Le fruit qui eſt renfermé dans ces coſſes a la figure d'une olive, quand il eſt ſeul, mais pour l'ordinaire il y en a deux ou trois chaque coſſe, dont ils rempliſſent exactement la capacité, ce qui leur fait prendre différentes figures. Ces fruits ou amandes ſont couvertes d'une pellicule rougeâtre, quand on les tire de terre, dont la couleur change & devient griſe lorſque le fruit eſt ſec. Cette peau eſt peu adhérente quand le fruit eſt nouveau, on n'a qu'à le preſſer entre les doigts pour l'en dépoüiller. Elle eſt plus adhérente lorſqu'il eſt ſec. La ſubſtance qu'elle couvre eſt blanche, compacte & peſante, & a peu l'odeur & le goût du gland. Quand le fruit eſt rôti dans ſa coſſe, cette pellicule s'en va en pouſſiere, & la ſubſtance blanche qu'elle renfermoit devient griſe, & acquiert le goût & l'odeur des amandes roties. Nos Eſculapes prétendent que ces amandes ſont bonnes pour l'eſtomach. Je n'en ſçai rien. J'ai ſeulement remarqué qu'étant mangées cruës, outre leur mauvais goût, elles ſont indigeſtes, & échauffent beaucoup. C'eſt peut-être en cela ſeul qu'elles reſſemblent un peu aux véritables piſtaches. Elles ſont moins mal faiſantes étant roties, elles ouvrent l'appétit, elles excitent à boire; on en fait des dragées, des maſſepains, on les met dans les hachis & dans les ragoûts en guise de marons: on s'en ſert encore pour donner au roſſolis une odeur & un goût d'amandes roties qui n'eſt pas déſagréable. Cependant il faut convenir qu'à quelque uſage qu'on les employe, elles ſont toujours indigeſtes & peſantes, & qu'elles echauffent beaucoup.

Le Pere du Tertre dit qu'elles font mal à la tête à ceux qui en mangent beaucoup, que l'on en fait des cataplaſmes qui guériſſent les morſures des ſerpens, & que l'huile que l'on en tire, eſt eſtimée comme l'huile d'amandes douces.

Je n'ai point experimenté ou entendu dire que ce fruit ait cauſé mal à la tête à perſonne. Je ſuis très-certain qu'on n'a jamais penſé à guérir les morſures des ſerpens avec un pareil reméde; & pendant le grand nombre d'années que j'ai demeuré aux Iſles, je n'ai jamais entendu dire, qu'on ſe ſoit aviſé de tirer de l'huile des piſtaches, quoique nous en ayons eu aſſez ſouvent en beſoin preſſant.

Quand cette plante a été une fois dans la terre, on peut compter qu'elle s'y conſervera long-tems. Car quelque ſoin qu'on ſe donne en foüillant les fruits, il n'eſt pas poſſible qu'on les enleve tous, ou du moins, qu'il ne reſte en terre quelques filets, ou quelque chevelure de racine, & cela ſuffit pour en perpétuer la race à l'infini.

Before I get to the chapter on wild fruits, it is necessary that I speak of one which does not work so hard to pick as the preceding, since it comes in the ground, instead it is necessary to go find the other in the middle of the air. One calls it ‘pistachio’ very inappropriately: because it does not in any way approach true pistachios, neither in taste, nor in color, nor in the shell which contains it, nor for the manner in which nature produces it.

It appears that my comrade Father du Tertre have never seen real pistachios, and never eaten then, since he writes, that those of the islands have the same taste as those of Europe. That is forgivable, since it is not a thing which one finds among religious men where he entered when he was very young, and he was perhaps also fooled by the young Dutch merchant of whom M. Tavenier spoke in his Memoirs who took them for green beans.

True pistachios only grow in Asia. The tree which bears them is a dozen to fifteen feet in height. Their leaves are almost round, and close enough to those of terebinth. It has flowers which are only bundles of small stems like fringe, after which the fruit also appear as bundles. They are covered by two envelopes. The first is green, mixed with some red points and lines, a little like the consistency of the bottom of common nuts: it encloses a white shell, hard and strong, relatively thin, which covers a long almond, round, pointed at both ends, whose bottom is green and red and the top very green. This almond is very agreeable in taste, so that one can eat it raw or cooked. One supposes that it is very hot.

The fruit which one calls ‘pistachios’ in the islands came from a plant that is hardly a foot high and which is ordinarily a running (creeper), because its stem is too feeble to support it. It puts out a lot of slender stems, that are red and velvety, accompanied by little ‘pegs’ (queuës=tails), which carry leaves almost like sweet clover and nasturtium-colored flowers, which are yellow with red at the edges and at the extremities. The flowers are delicate and their short life is due to the fact that they are grilled and shriveled up by the heat of the sun. The fruit is formed in the earth where it must be looked for. It is attached by filaments to hairs that the roots put out (sic) which come from stems distributed on the surface of the earth, where they enter and produce pods or hulls 12, 15, and 18 ‘lignes’ long which are 4, 5, or 6 ‘lignes’ in diameter. [ligne = 0.0888 inch.] The pods are not much thicker than a good parchment, or tender almond. The interior is covered with a fine white skin that is smooth and lustrous; the outside is bister (brown) colored with white streaks, and ridges go from one end of the shell to the other and these are totally connected by a network of lines which divide the surface into a number of small areas. The fruit (seed) which is contained in these pods has the shape of an olive when it is single, but ordinarily there are two, or three, in a pod where they take up the entire space so tightly that they take on different shapes. The fruits, or kernels, are covered with a reddish seed coat when they comes out of the earth, but the color changes to gray when the fruit is dry. The skin adheres lightly to the fruit, when it is fresh and one has only to squeeze it between the fingers to remove it. When dry it is difficult to remove. The meat that it covers is white, compact and dense and it has the odor and taste that resembles an acorn. When the fruit is roasted in its pod the seedcoat (pellicle) becomes powdery and the white meat which it surrounds turns a greyish color and acquires the taste and aroma of roasted almonds. Our ‘Esculapes’ believe that the fruit is good for the stomach. I don't know anything about that. I have only noticed that eating them raw exaggerates their bad taste and that they are indigestible and that they cause great heating (échauffent beaucoup). It is perhaps in that way alone that they resemble real pistachios. They produce less undesirable effects when roasted, since they stimulate the appetite and thirst: people use them to make sugar peanuts, marzipan, and they are put into hash and stews as a substitute for chestnuts: it is used still to give to rossolis an odor and taste of roasted almonds which is not disagreeable. While it is necessary to point out the various uses of the peanut, they are always indigestible and heavy, and they heat up greatly (échauffent beaucoup).

Father du Tertre says that they are bad for the head for those who eat too many, that one makes poultices which heal snakebites and that the oil which one presses is esteemed as much as sweet almond oil.

I have not experimented at all, nor have I heard tell that this fruit caused anyone headaches. I am very sure that no one has ever thought to cure snakebite with such a remedy, and, during the many years that I spent in the islands, I have not heard of anyone recommending expressing the oil from these ‘Pistaches’ even though we might often enough have an urgent need for it.

When this plant has been planted in the earth a single time, one can be sure that it will remain there for a long time. Because whatever care is taken rummaging for the fruit, it is not possible that they are all removed, or at least, a few filaments or some root hairs, and that is to perpetuate the race to infinity. (tr. after Cutler)

In 1737, Linnaeus coined the generic name Arachis by shortening Arachidna and published it in Critica Botanica (pp. 42, 114; translation snippets). Arachis hypogaea was included in Species Plantarum in 1753 (Vol II, p. 741) and Genera Plantarum in 1764 (p. 377). Arachidna (ἀράχιδνα) is Lathyrus amphicarpos or some other species of Lathyrus, a wild vetch. It is described by Pliny (Book XXI, 15, 52, Sect. 89; the scan of Bostock and Riley's translation in Google Books seems to be missing the relevant page 349; but it's in the Internet Archive and Perseus: of additional interest is that œtum, perhaps just another Egyptian variety of colocasia, in the immediately preceding sentence, is footnoted by them “The Arachis hypogæa of Linnæus, the earth pistachio.” — 1855 is quite late for someone to think it could have been known to Pliny) and Theophrastus (1.1.7; translation; 1.6.12; translation) — these passages were referred to in the potato post, since they concern fruit which grows underground. ἄρακος and ἄραχος, which is Vicia sibthorpii or some other vetch, are also referred to by Galen  (De alimentorum facultatibus, Kühn 6.541: strangely only a few other volumes of Kühn are in Google Books, but here is another edition; translation). Since many different theories seem to be given in books and on the Web for the generic name Arachis, it is worth summarizing:

  • arachis is a back-formation from arachidna.
  • It does not mean ἀ-ῥάχις 'no rachis'.
  • It is only indirectly related to ἄραχος, ἄρακος and ἀρακίς, in as much as these are the same root as ἀράχιδνα and also influenced Parkinson, who classified them together.
  • It is not related to ἀράχνη 'spider's web'.

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Елизавета said...

As an Alabamian, I was always taught that okra originally came from north Africa, imported by slaves. (There is a story about okra seeds being intentionally transported in the hems of skirts.) Maybe this is all just legend.