Friday, February 29, 2008

Balinese Long Pepper

Something new appeared not too long ago in the spice aisle at the supermarket: Balinese Long Pepper.

Is this the long pepper of ancients, as the box implies?

Once hailed by Romans as the ultimate peppery spice, wild long peppers soon disappeared into culinary obscurity with the agricultural domestication of their cousin, the modern peppercorn.

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The product page gives more information on its source and confirms that these are Piper retrofractum. The genus Piper has been and continues to be of enormous economic importance, mostly for spices like black pepper, but also traditional drugs like betel and kava. Here is a review of almost 600 bioactive compounds, mostly medicines and pesticides, and which Piper species they were isolated from. The Wikipedia Piper page lists retrofractum and it gets a brief mention on the Long pepper page. As always, a better inventory of the scientific and common names is given by the M.M.P.N.D. and Gernot Katzer’s Spice Pages.

Theophrastus knew both black pepper and long pepper:

Τὸ δὴ πέπερι καρπὸς μέν ἐστι διττὸν δὲ αὐτοῦ τὸ γένος· τὸ μὲν γὰρ στρογγύλον ὥσπερ ὄροβος, κέλυφος ἔχον καὶ σάρκα καθάπερ αἱ δαφνίδες, ὑπέρυθρον· τὸ δὲ πρόμηκες μέλαν σπερμάτια μηκωνικὰ ἔχον· ἰσχυρότερον δὲ πολὺ τοῦτο θατέρου· θερμαντικὰ δὲ ἄμφω· δ᾽ ὃ καὶ πρὸς τὸ κώνειον βοηθεῖ ταῦτά τε καὶ ὁ λιβανωτός. (HP Book IX, Chap. 20, 1)

Pepper is a fruit, and there are two kinds: one is round like bitter vetch, having a case and flesh like the berries of bay, and it is reddish: the other is elongated and black and has seeds like those of poppy: and this kind is much stronger then the other. Both however are heating: wherefore these, as well as frankincense, are used as antidotes for poisoning by hemlock. (tr. Hort)

Dioscorides additionally describes white pepper, and begins a confusion that would persist for some time that all three kinds come from the same plant:

1. πέπερι δένδρον ἱστορεῖται φυόμενον ἐν Ἰνδίᾳ, καρπὸν δὲ ἀνίησι κατ᾽ ἀρχὰς μὲν προμήκη καθάπερ λοβούς, ὅπερ ἐστὶ τὸ μακρὸν πέπερι, ἔχον τὸ ἐντὸς κέγχρῳ παραπλήσιον, τὸ μελλόν ἔσεσθαι τέλειον πέπερι, ὅπερ κατὰ τοὺς οἰκείους ἀναπλούμενον χρόνους βότρυας ἀνίησι, κόκκους φέροντας οἷον ἐρρυσωμένους, τοὺς δὲ καὶ ὀμφακώδεις, οἵτινές εἰσι τὸ λευκὸν πέπερι, εὐτεθοῦν μάλιστα εἰς τὰ ὀμφαλμικὰ καὶ ἀντιδότους καὶ θηριακὰς δυνάμεις.

2. ἔστι δὲ τὸ μὲν μακρὸν διὰ τὸ ἄωρον ἐπιτηδειότερον εἰς τὰς ἀντιδότους καὶ θηριακὰς δυνάμεις, τὸ δὲ μέλαν δριμύτερον τοῦ λευκοῦ καὶ εὐστομώτερον καὶ μᾶλλον ἀρωματίζον διὰ τὸ εἶναι ὥριμον, εὐχρηστότερόν τε εἰς τὰς ἀρτύσεις, τὸ δὲ λευκὸν ὀμφακίζον, ἀσθενέστερον τῶν προειρημένον. ἐκλέγου δὲ τὸ βαρύτατον καὶ πλῆρες, μέλαν, μὴ σφόδρα ῥυσόν, πρόσφατον καὶ μὴ πιτυρῶδες. εὑρίσκεται δέ τι ἐν τῷ μέλανι ἄτροφον, κεκὸν καὶ κοῦφον, ὃ καλεῖται βρέγμα. (Book II, Chap. 159, 1-2)

1. The pepper is said to be a tree that grows in India. It produces fruit, which is at first oblong like pods; this is the long pepper, the contents of which nearly resemble millet; it will eventually become mature pepper. Unfolding at the right time, it makes clusters that bear peppercorns like the ones we know; some of them are even like unripe grapes, which are the white pepper, highly useful for eye medications, antidotes, and preparations for poisonous bites.

2. The long pepper, when it is unripe, is more suitable to use in antidotes and for medications against poisonous bites; the black pepper, on the other hand, is sharper than the white, tastier, and more aromatic, because it is ripe. It is also more useful in dressings. The white pepper, being unripe, is weaker than the one mentioned before. Choose that which is very heavy, full, black, not very wrinkled, fresh, and not bran-like. Among the black pepper, one finds something that is devoid of nutritional value, empty, and light. It is called bregma. (tr. Beck)

Likewise Pliny, who also notes the relative prices of the three pepper spices and moralizes on their use:

26. … Passim vero quæ piper gignunt junipiris nostris similes, quanquam in fronte Caucasi solibus opposita gigni tantum eas aliqui tradidere. Semina a junipiro distant parvulis siliquis, quales in faseolis videmus. Hæ, priusquam dehiscant decerptæ tostæque Sole, faciunt quod vocatur piper longum: paulatim vero dehiscentes maturitate, ostendunt candidum piper, quod deinde tostum Solibus colore rugisque mutatur.

27. Verum et iis sua injuria est, atque cœli intemperie carbunculantur, fiuntque semina cassa et inania, quod vocant brecma, sic Indorum lingua significante mortuum. Hoc ex omni genere asperrimum est, levissimumque, et pallidum. Gratius nigrum: lenius utroque candidum.

28. Non est hujus arboris radix, ut aliqui existimavere, quod vocant zingiberi, alii vero zimpiberi, quanquam sapore simili. Id enim in Arabia atque Trogodytica in villis nascitur, parvæ herbæ, radice candida. Celeriter ea cariem sentit, quamvis in tanta amaritudine. Pretium ejus in libras VI. Piper longum facillime adulteratur Alexandrino sinapi. Emitur in libras X. XV. Album X. VII. nigrum X. IV.

29. Usum ejus adeo placuisse mirum est. In aliis quippe suavitas cepit, in aliis species invitavit: huic nec pomi nec bacæ commendatio est aliqua: sola placere amaritudine, et hanc in Indos peti. Quis ille primus experiri cibis voluit? aut cui in appetenda aviditate esurire non fuit satis? Utrumque silvestre gentibus suis est et tamen pondere emitur ut aurum vel argentum. … (Book XII, Chap. 14 / 7)

26. … In every part we meet with trees that bear pepper, very similar in appearance to our junipers, although, indeed, it has been alleged by some authors that they only grow on the slopes of Caucasus which lie exposed to the sun. The seeds, however, differ from those of the juniper, in being enclosed in small pods similar to those which we see in the kidney-bean. These pods are picked before they open, and when dried in the sun, make what we call “long pepper.” But if allowed to ripen, they will open gradually, and when arrived at maturity, discover the white pepper; if left exposed to the heat of the sun, this becomes wrinkled, and changes its colour.

27. Even these productions, however, are subject to their own peculiar infirmities, and are apt to become blasted by the inclemency of the weather; in which case the seeds are found to be rotten, and mere husks. These abortive seeds are known by the name of “bregma,” a word which in the Indian language signifies “dead.” Of all the various kinds of pepper, this is the most pungent, as well as the very lightest, and is remarkable for the extreme paleness of its colour. That which is black is of a more agreeable flavour; but the white pepper is of a milder quality than either.

28. The root of this tree is not, as many persons have imagined, the same as the substance known as zimpiberi, or, as some call it, zingiberi, or ginger, although it is very like it in taste. For ginger, in fact, grows in Arabia and in Troglodytica, in various cultivated spots, being a small plant with a white root. This plant is apt to decay very speedily, although it is of intense pungency; the price at which it sells is six denarii per pound. Long pepper is very easily adulterated with Alexandrian mustard; its price is fifteen denarii per pound, while that of white pepper is seven, and of black, four.

29. It is quite surprising that the use of pepper has come so much into fashion, seeing that in other substances which we use, it is sometimes their sweetness, and sometimes their appearance that has attracted our notice; whereas, pepper has nothing in it that can plead as a recommendation to either fruit or berry, its only desirable quality being a certain pungency; and yet it is for this that we import it all the way from India! Who was the first to make trial of it as an article of food? and who, I wonder, was the man that was not content to prepare himself by hunger only for the satisfying of a greedy appetite? Both pepper and ginger grow wild in their respective countries, and yet here we buy them by weight--just as if they were so much gold or silver. … (tr. Bostock & Riley)

The word for pepper in many European languages is derived from Latin piper or Greek πέπερι. For example, French poivre, German Pfeffer, Russian пе́рец (explanations of that derivation by Aronson and Vasmer). For P. longum a qualified form based on its size is used, like long pepper; and for P. retrofractum a further geographical qualification like Javanese long pepper. (Russian, which has длинный перец 'long pepper' and яванский перец 'Javanese pepper', also has колосковый перец 'spike pepper', which Gernot Katzer's Spice Page lists for P. officinarum, now a synonym of P. retrofractum. Also see comments.) In some languages like English, pepper is also used for the unrelated chili pepper.

After quoting the passage given above from Theophrastus, Athenaeus' Deipnosophists deduces that πέπερι must be a foreign word:

τοῦτο δ᾽ ἡμᾶς τηρῆσαι δεῖ, ὅτι οὐδέτερον ὄνομα οὐδέν ἐστι παρὰ τοῖς Ἕλλησιν εἰς ι λῆγον εἰ μὴ μόνον τὸ μέλι. τὸ γὰρ πέπερι καὶ κόμμι και κοῖφι ζενικά. (Book II, Chap. 73)

But we must recollect that, properly speaking, there is no noun of the neuter gender among the Greeks ending in ι, except μέλι alone; for the words πέπερι, and κόμμι, and κοῖφι are foreign. (tr. Yonge)

(μέλι 'honey', κόμμι 'gum', κοῖφι 'incense' (< Egyptian k3p.t). An Aldine Press edition of the Deipnosophistarum is included in the Swann sale early next month, but the combination of gastronomic and gay interest drives the price pretty high.)

The source is an Indian word for 'long pepper', such as Sanskrit पिप्पलि pippali / पिप्पली pippalī. The latter version occurs in the Atharvaveda, the earliest text dealing with Indian medicine, as some kind of berry, possibly the pepper-corn:

पिप्पली क्षिप्तभेषज्य उतातिविद्धभेषजी ।
तां देवाः सम अकल्पयन्न इयं जीवितवा अलम ॥१॥

pippalī kṣiptabheṣajy utātividdhabheṣajī |
tāṃ devāḥ sam akalpayann iyaṃ jīvitavā alam ||1|| (Book VI, Chap. 109)

1. The pepper-corn cures the wounds that have been struck by missiles, it also cures the wounds from stabs. … (tr. Bloomfield)

1. The berry, remedy for what is bruised, and remedy for what is pierced — … (tr. Whitney)

Unicode does not do a complete enough job of encoding Vedic accent yet. For those with the Sanskrit 2003 font installed, which uses Private Use Characters, here it is again:

पि॒प्प॒ली क्षि॑प्तभेष॒ज्यु॒३ताति॑विद्धभेष॒जी ।
तां दे॒वाः स॑मकल्पयन्नि॒यं जीवि॑त॒वा अल॑म् ॥१॥

pippalī́ kṣiptabheṣajy ùtā́tividdhabheṣajī |
tā́ṃ devā́ḥ sám akalpayann iyáṃ jī́vitavā́ álam ||1||

Its use is also described in the Suśruta Samhita, an important work of Ayurvedic medicine:

तेषां गुर्वी स्वाटुशीता पिप्पल्यार्द्रा कफावहा ॥
शुष्का कफानिलघ्नी सा वृष्य पित्ताविरोधिनी ॥२२३॥ (Sūtra-sthāna, Chap. XLVI)

teṣāṃ gurvī svāṭuśītā pippalyārdrā kaphāvahā
śuṣkā kaphānilaghnī sā vṛṣya pittāvirodhinī

Of them, fresh long pepper is heavy, spicy and cold, and causes phlegm;
Dry removes phlegm, it is an aphrodisiac, and dispels bile.

An Ayurvedic cure-all is त्रिकटु trikaṭu 'three pungents', a equal mixture of पिप्पली pippalī 'long pepper',  मरिच marica 'black pepper' and शुण्ठी śuṇṭhi 'dried ginger'.

Since a word for long pepper was borrowed, it is supposed that this was the first kind of pepper traded and so the first known to Europe. The same word is borrowed into Persian: فلفل filfil 'pepper', دار فلفل dār-filfil 'long (lit. wood) pepper'; and these into Arabic. There is an entry on long pepper in Al-Muwaffak's كتاب الأبنية عن حقائق الأدوية Kitāb al-abniyah ʻan ḥaqāʼiq al-adwiyah 'Book of the foundations of the realities of remedies', the first Persian materia medica, but this seems to only be online in the German translation. The critical edition of the original is snippets, which is confusing because it was published in 1859 and useless, since Google Books does not do OCR of Arabic script.

And into Chinese. Many terms for pepper involve 椒 jiao1, originally some sort of native Chinese pepper plant: 秦椒 or 蓁椒 qin2jiao1 'Chinese pepper', 花椒 hua1jiao1 'flower pepper', 山椒 shan1jiao1 'mountain pepper' and 蜀椒 shu3jiao1 or 川椒 chuan1jiao1 'Szechuan pepper' are varieties of Chinese or Szechuan pepper. 胡椒 hu2jiao1, black pepper, and 番椒 fan1jiao1, Capsicum annuum (hot or not), both literally mean 'foreign pepper', 胡 hu2 being a foreigner from the North and 番 fan1 a foreigner from the South, such as the Malay archipelago. Along these lines, 長椒 chang2jiao1 is literally 'long pepper'. But long pepper is also known as 蓽撥 bi4bo1 (simplified 荜拨), particularly in materia medica; this is also spelled 蓽茇 bi4ba2. The Bencao Gangmu entry for 蓽茇 bi4ba2 additionally lists 畢勃 bi4bo2, all of which suggests that the word is borrowed. And in fact, the entry says that in the language of 摩伽陀 mo2jia1tuo2 (Māgadha; in other words, in Māgadhī Prākrit), it is called 蓽撥梨 bi4bo1li2. Which is to say, पिप्पली pippalī. (At least in Pāli, this is pipphalī, with unetymological aspiration, which Geiger says is not rare: the word occurs, for instance, in the “Godha-Jātaka” 'Iguana Birth-Story', where the future Buddha has been reborn as a lizard and meets a wicked ascetic who has developed a taste for lizard meat, which he means to so season; text; translation.) It also says that in 拂林 fu2lin2 (Constantinople), it is called 阿梨訶陀 a1li2he1tou2. The entry further mentions the derivative medicine 蓽勃沒 bi4bo2mo4, which is presumably पिप्पलीमूल pippalī-mūla, literally 'long pepper root'.

It is hard to overestimate the importance of spices, and pepper in particular, in long-distance trade, exploration, and imperialism. So Persius:

Mercibus hic Italis mutat, sub sole recenti,
Rugosum piper, et pallentis grana cumini: (Sat. V, 55-56)

The greedy merchants, led by lucre, run
To the parch'd Indies, and the rising sun;
From thence hot pepper and rich drugs they bear,
Bart'ring for spices their Italian ware; (tr. Dryden)

In Sanskrit, यवनप्रिय yavanapriya 'dear to Yavanas (literally, Ionians, that is, Greeks, that is, Western foreigners)' refers to pepper and यवनेष्ट yavaneṣṭa 'liked by Yavanas' to onion, garlic, neem and lead as well as pepper. In the sense of pepper, the latter appears in Tamil as இவனட்டம் ivaṉaṭṭam. The Periplus of the Erythrean Sea, from the mid 1st century, lists long pepper among the products available from northwest India around Barygaza (Βαρύγαζα; 49, 16; sort-of translation) and black pepper from southwest in Muziris and Nelcynda (Μουζιρίς / Νέλκυνδα; 56, 18; translation). A poem in the Tamil Akanāṉūṟu of about the same time describes the vessels of the Yavanas (யவனர் yavaṉar) in Muziris (முசிறி muciṟi), “பொன்னொடு வந்து கறியொடு பெயரும் poṉṉoṭu vantu kaṟiyoṭu peyarum 'arriving with gold, returning with pepper'” (149, 10; a similar image is in the புறநானூறு Puṟanāṉūṟu 343, 3-5, translation).

When Vasco da Gama arrived in Calicut on May 20, 1498, he sent ashore one of the recently converted convicts brought for that purpose, who being asked by some Moors why they had come so far, responded, “Vimos buscar cristãos e especiaria 'we came in search of Christians and spice'.” (Diário; translation; the conversation supposedly actually took place in Castilian; strangely enough, a number of works related to perfume report that da Gama's men called out “Christos e espiciarias” in the sense of 'for Christ and spices', but that seems suspect to me). Later, when it was time for a hasty departure before the regular arrival of some Arab ships that posed a threat, he makes sure to take some pepper. According to Camões' Os_Lusíadas:

Leva alguns Malabares, que tomou
Por força, dos que o Samorim mandara
Quando os presos feitores lhe tornou;
Leva pimenta ardente, que comprara;
A seca flor de Banda não ficou,
A noz, e o negro cravo, que faz clara
A nova ilha Maluco, com a canela,
Com que Ceilão é rica, ilustre e bela. (Canto IX, 14)

He taketh eke some Malabars aboard
    parforce, the fellows by the Samorim sent
    when were the Factor-pris'oners restor'd:
    Of purchased stores he taketh hot piment:
    Nor is of Banda the dried flow'er ignor'd,
    nutmeg and swarthy clove, which excellent
makes New Malucan Isle, with cinnamon
the wealth, the boast, the beauty of Ceylon. (tr. Burton)

On Jan. 28, 1793, Britain entered into a “Pepper Contract” with the Rajah of Travancore, which mostly amounted to a regular trade of pepper for guns and ammunition.

With exploration came greater knowledge of the pepper plants themselves. In 522, Cosmas Indicopleustes visited the Malabar Coast. (Overzealous linking in Wikipedia had confused Cosmas' calling Malabar Male with Malé in the Maldives.) He writes:

Τοῦτο τὸ δένδρον ἐστὶ τὸ τοῦ πιπέρεως·
ἕκαστον δὲ δένδρον ἑτέρῳ ὑψηλῷ ἀκάρπῳ δένδρῳ ἀνακλᾶται διὰ τὸ λεπτὸν εἶναι πάνυ καὶ ἀσθενές, ὥσπερ καὶ τὰ κλήματα τῆς ἀμπέλου λεπτά·
ἕκαστος δὲ βότρυς δίφυλλον ἔχει σκέπον·
χλωρὸν δὲ πάνυ ἐστίν, ὥσπερ ἡ χρόα τοῦ πηγάνου.
(Topographia Christiana, 11, 10)

This is a picture of the tree which produces pepper. Each separate stem being very weak and limp twines itself, like the slender tendrils of the vine, around some lofty tree which bears no fruit. And every cluster of the fruit is protected by a double leaf. It is of a deep green colour like that of rue. (tr. McCrindle)

The work of a 10th century herbalist who wrote under the name of Macer Floridus published as De viribus herbarum in 1477 continues to recognize three kinds:

Virtutis siccæ piper asseritur calidæque,
Tertius esse gradus conceditur huic in utroque.
Tres sunt huic species : album, longumque, nigrumque; (1477 edition; later with more legible scan)

Pepper claims dry and hot virtue,
It is accepted to be both of the third degree in both these.
There are three kinds: white, long and black;

The Anglo-Saxon medical text known as Bald's Leechbook includes a remedy with both pepper and long pepper, indicating how broad the trade was in Europe:

ı ſcal ƿıð aaoum maan · ním hunı ⁊ c oæ mn ⁊ bann pıpo l ón monn cucl uln nahnıum nyı ſcapa ıncna· ⁊ ma· ⁊ æ baþ mı ſınop nı ⁊ mƿ. l hím ác nahnıum þı · nım c ƿıþ lænan mn hƿæthƿa ⁊ lan pıpo .x. con oþþ coppan ⁊ ſnp mn all oæ · ⁊ ıolı l nıhnſıum an cucl mæl · þnc ðu þonn hƿæþn  all þa æ nmnan læcoma ⁊ þa æ ƿınan n ſculon ón an þa o lan bón o on ác ſculon æc habban bonum ⁊ ſ · hƿılum n aaſ hƿılum ƿy · ⁊ þonn hım món blo læ ón æ ón þam aúm n o hím mon nann oþn læcóm o · nymþ ymb .v. nıh oþþ ma. (Book II, Chap. 7; I am using the Junicode font for the MUFI PUA, even though its philosophy is somewhat un-Unicode)

This shall apply for a deadened maw; take some honey and vinegar mingled together, and pepper beaten up, give in the morning a spoon full of it to the man after his nights fast, let him employ sharp drinks and meats; and at the bath let him rub and smear himself with mustard. Give him also, after his nights fast, this: take vinegar mingled with somewhat of gladden, and of long pepper ten corns or clusters, and mustard; mingle all together, and triturate; give him after a nights fasting, one spoon measure. Then consider thou, notwithstanding, that all the aforenamed leechdoms and the after written ones, shall not be to be done at one too long season, but must have space and rest between them, whilom two days, whilom three; and when one lets him blood on a vein, on those days let none other leechdom be done to him, except about five days later or more. (tr. Cockayne)

Simon Januensis, a lexicographer and court physician to Nicholas IV, wrote a dictionary of medicine titled Clavis Sanationis or Synonyma medicinae in 1292; it was first printed in 1473. He lists synonyms for longum piper, Greek macropiper and Arabic darfulfel.

Sir John Mandeville has much to say that is interesting, if not credible. From an early English translation (in a Midlands dialect; none of the French versions seems to be readily available):

And ȝee schulle undirstonde, þat þe Peper groweþe, in maner as doþe a wylde Vyne, þat is planted faste by þe Trees of þat Wode, for to susteynen it by, as doþe þe Vyne. And þe Fruyt þereof hangeþe in manere as Reysynges. And þe Tree is so þikke charged, þat it semeþe þat it wolde breke: and whan it is ripe, it is all grene as it were Ivy Beryes; and þan men kytten hem, as men don þe Vynes, and þan þei putten it upon an Owven, and þere it waxeþe blak and crisp. And þere is 3 maner of Peper, all upon o Tree; long Peper, blak Peper, and white Peper. Þe long Peper men clepen Sorbotyn; and þe blak Peper is clept Fulfulle, and þe white Peper is clept Bano. Þe long Peper comeþe first, whanþe Lef begynheþe to come; and it is lyche þe Chattes of Haselle, þat comeþe before þe Lef, and it hangeþe lowe. And aftre comeþe þe blake wiþ þe Lef, in manere of Clustres of Reysinges, alle grene: and whan men han gadred it, þan comeþe þe white, þat is somdelle lasse þan þe blake; and of þat men bryngen but litille into þis Contree; for þei beȝonden wiþ holden it for hem self, be cause it is betere and more attempree in kynde, þan þe blake: and þerfore is þer not so gret plentee as of þe blake. In þat contree ben manye manere of Serpentes and of oþer Vermyn, for þe gret hete of þe Contree and of þe Peper. And sūme men seyn, þat whan þei will gadre þe Peper, þei maken Fuyr, and brennen aboute, to make þe Serpentes and Cokedrilles to flee. But save here grace of alle þat seyn so. For ȝif þei brenten abouten þe Trees, þat beren, þe Peper scholden ben brent, and it wolde dryen up alle þe vertue, as of ony oþer þing: and han þei diden hemself moche harm; and þei scholde nevere quenchen þe Fuyr. But þus þei don; þei anoynten here Hondes and here Feet wiþ a juyce made of Snayles and of oþere þinges, made þerfore; of þe whiche þe Serpentes and þe venymous Bestes haten and dreden þe Savour: and þat makeþe hem flee before hem, because of þe smelle; and þan þei gadren it seurly ynow. (p. 168 of Halliwell's 1839 reprint of the 1725 edition, with z restored to ȝ and th to þ, per Vogel; edition with modernized spelling; there don't seem to be any actual facsimiles of Cotton Titus C. xvi around)

As outlined above, all three kinds of pepper from one tree was what the ancients believed. Of sorbotin, fulful, and bano, only the second is recognizable as the word for pepper; I have not seen any theories for either the literary source or the intended source language of the other two.

As for serpents guarding the pepper, the use of fire to chase them away and heat causing black pepper to turn black, much of it is in Odoric, Mandeville's primary source:

Now in this country they get the pepper in this manner. First, then, it groweth on plants which have leaves like ivy, and these are planted against tall trees as our vines are here, and bear fruit just like bunches of grapes; and this fruit is borne in such quantities that they seem like to break under it. And when the fruit is ripe it is of a green colour, and 'tis gathered just as grapes are gathered at the vintage, and then put in the sun to dry. And when it is dried it is stored in jars [and of the fresh pepper also they make a confection, of which I had to eat, and plenty of it]. And in this forest also there be rivers in which be many evil crocodiles, i.e. serpents. [And there be many other kinds of serpents in the forest, which the men burn by kindling tow and straw, and so they are enabled to go safely to gather pepper.] [And here there be lions in great numbers, and a variety of beasts which are not found in our Frank countries. And here they burn the brazil-wood for fuel, and in the woods are numbers of wild peacocks.] (tr. Yule)

Yule's translation is a synthesis of several originals: a Latin MS in the BNF, included as Appendix I; an Old Italian MS in the Biblioteca Palatina, included as Appendix II; another Latin  text published by Hakluyt; and Cordier's edition of an Old French MS. The appendices are in the same volume (II) of the Indian reprint (similar to one I have) as the above preview, but they are also in a separate volume of an older edition with full view, which is where those links go, though the English volume of that set does not seem to have been scanned. Google's scan of the Old French only has the introductory section, either because it was separately bound in the set scanned or because the scan's pagination is messed up; there aren't enough pages in the scan to account for the number given in the Google Books meta-data, either. Yule's footnotes 3 and 4 are backwards: the first text, mentioning “forest,” is from Hakluyt and the other one from Palantina. Anyway.

All the texts have crocodiles, variously cocoldrigae, crocodili, cocodrilli, cochodrillos, and cocolgrilli. The Italian mentions the candy and lions and peacocks:

E del pepe ricente fanno composto e io ne mangiai, ed ebbine assai. … e leoni in grande moltitudine, e diverse bestie che non sono in Franchia. Qui si arde il verzino per legne, e tutti i boschi son pieni di paoni salvatichi. (preview)

And the Hakluyt Latin burning the forest:

In isto autem nemore sunt flumina multa in quibus sunt Crocodili multi, & multi alii serpentes sunt in illo nemore, quos homines per stupam & paleas comburunt, & sic ad colligendum piper secure accedunt. (here)

The basic outline of this process of gathering pepper into the three kinds was well known; for instance, the encyclopedist Bartholomaeus Anglicus:

Piper est semen vel fructus arboris ut fruticis in meriodionali parte caucasi montis crescentis contra fervidum aestum solis. ut dicit Isidorus liber xvij cuius folia junipero sunt similia / cuius siluas serpentes custodiunt; sed incole regionis illius cum silue maturae fuerint / eas incendunt, et serpentes ignis violentia effugantur & ex huius combustione grana piperis que naturaliter erant alba / effiaunt nigra accidentaliter & rugosa. Cuius triplex est species ut dicit idem. Nam est piper longum species quod est imaturum & piper album species quod ab igne incorruptum. & piper nigrum quod torrido calore ignis nigrum est in superficie & rugosum. (Book 17)

Pepir hyghte piper: and is a ſede other the fruyte of a tree that growyth in the ſouth ſide of the hyll mount Caucaſus, in the ſtronge hete of the ſun, as Dyaſcorides ſayth. .li xvij. /  The leuys therof ben lyke to leuys of Juniperus. And ſerpentes kepe the wodes that pepyr growyth in. And whan the wodes of pepper ben rype: men of that countree ſettyth them on fyre, & chacyth awaye ſerpentes by vyolence of fyre/ And by ſuche brennyng the greyne of pepyr yͭ was white by kynde is made blacke and ryuely. And of pepyr ben thre manere kyndes as he ſayth / for ſome pepyr is longe: and that is not rype. Some is whyte: and that is not corrupt by fyre ne blemyſhed wyth fyre. And ſome is blacke and ryvelyd wythout wyth perchynge & roſtynge of the hete of yͤ fyre. (tr. Trevisa in EEBO)

Which is essentially the same as Bartholomaeus' named source, Isidore_of_Seville's Etymologies, which also proposes an etymology of piper / πέπερι:

Piperis arbor nascitur in India, in latere montis Caucasi, quod soli obversum est, folia iuniperi similitudine. Cuius silvas serpentes custodiunt, sed incolae regionis illius, quum maturae fuerint, incendunt, et serpentes igni fugantur; et inde ex flamma nigrum piper efficitur. Nam natura piperis alba est, cuius quidem diversus est fructus. Nam quod inmaturum est, piper longum vocatur, quod incorruptum ab igni, piper album; quod vero cute rugosa et horrida fuerit, ex calore ignis trahit et colorem et nomen. Piper si leve est, vetustum est; si grave, novellum. Vitanda est autem mercatorum fraus; solent enim vetustissimo piperi humecto argenti spumam aut plumbum aspargere ut ponderosum fiat. (Book XVII, Chap. 8, p. 87 of an early printed version; also etext)

The pepper tree (piper) grows in India, on the side of the Caucasian range that faces the sun. Its leaves are like the juniper's. Serpents protect the pepper groves, but the inhabitants of that region, when the peppers ripen, burn them, and the serpents are put to flight by the fire - and from this flame the pepper, which is naturally white, is made black. In fact there are several kinds of pepper fruits. The unripe kind is called 'long pepper'; that unaffected by fire, ‘white pepper’; but that which has a wrinkled and bristly skin takes both its color (i.e. ‘black’) and its name (cf. πῦρ, “fire”) from the heat of the fire. If a pepper is light in weight it is old; if heavy, it is fresh. But the fraud of the merchants should be guarded against, for they are wont to sprinkle litharge or lead over very old, moistened pepper to make it heavy. (tr. Barney)

A less fanciful traveler's account is given by Rabbi Benjamin of Tudela:

הַפִּלְפֵּל שֶׁהֵם נוֹטְעִים הָאִילָנוֹת שֶׁלָּהֶם עַל פְּנֵי הַשָּׂדֶה כָּל הָעִיר וְכָל אֶחָד וְאֶחָד מֵהֶם יוֹדֵעַ פַּרְדֵּסוֹ וְאִילָנוֹת קְטַנּוֹת הֵן וְהַפִּלְפֵּל לָבָן הוּא אֲבָל כְּשֶׁלּוֹקְטִין אוֹתוֹ מְשִׂימִין אוֹתוֹ בָּאַגָּנוֹת וְנוֹתְנִין עָלָיו מַיִם הַמִּים וּמְיַבְּשִׁין אוֹתוֹ לַשֶּׁמֶשׁ כְּדֵי שֶׁיִּתְחַוֵּק וְיִתְקַיֵּים וְהוּא חוֹזֵר שָׁחוֹר (p. 91.1)

hapilpēl šehēm nōṭʻīm hāʼīlānōṯ šellāhem ʻal pənēy haśśāḏeh kāl hāʻīr wəḵāl eḥāḏ wəʼeḥāḏ mēhem yōḏēʻa pardēsō wəīlānōṯ qəṭannōṯ hēn wəhapilpēl lāḇān hūʼ ăḇāl kəšellōqəṭīn ōṯō məśīmīn ōṯō bāʼagānōṯ wənōṯənīn ʻālāyw mayim hammīm ūməyabšīn ōṯō laššemeš kəḏēy šeyīṯəḥawēq wəyiṯqayēym wəhūʼ ḥōzēr šāḥōr

The pepper grows in this country; the trees, which bear this fruit are planted in the fields, which surround the towns, and every one knows his plantation. The trees are small and the pepper is originally white, but when they collect it, they put it into basins and pour hot water upon it; it is then exposed to the heat of the sun and dried in order to make it hard and more substantial, in the course of which process it becomes of a black colour. (tr. Asher)

The idea of burning was widespread enough that it had to be addressed by Ibn Battuta:

والعامة ببلادنا يزعمون أنّهم يقلونه بالنار وبسبب ذلك يحدث فيه التكريش وليس كذلك وإنما يحدث ذلك فيه بالشمس ولقد رأيته بمدينة قالقوط يصبّ للكيل كالذرة ببلادنا (Voyages, Vol. IV, p. 77)

wa-ʼl-ʿāmmah bi-bilādinā yazʿumūna ʾannahum yaqlūna-hu bi-ʼl-nnāri wa-bisababi ḏālika yuḥdiṯu fī-hi al-takrīša wa-laysa kaḏālika wa-ʾinnamā yuḥdiṯu ḏālika fī-hi bi-ʼl-ššamsi wa-laqad raʾaytuhu bi-madīnahi qāliqūṭ yaṣubba li-l-kayli ka-ʼl-ḏḏurahi bi-bilādinā

Most people in our country suppose that they roast them with fire and it is because of that they become crinkled, but it is not so since this results only from the action of the sun upon them. I have seen pepper grains in the city of Qāliqūṭ being poured out for measuring by the bushel, like millet in our country. (tr. Gibb)

And Jordanus in his Mirabilia Descripta:

Piper est fructus herbæ quæ est ad modum hederæ quæ ascendit super arbores, et facit semen ad modum lambruscæ, quasi uvam; quod est primò viride; deindè cùm pervenit ad maturitatem, efficitur totum nigrum et rugatum, prout potestis videre. Sic etiam nascitur piper longum; nec credatis quod ignis ubi est piper, vel quod coquatur, sicut aliqui volunt dicere mendosè. (Recueil de voyages, Vol. IV, p. 49)

Pepper is the fruit of a plant something like ivy, which climbs trees, and forms grape-like fruit like that of the wild vine. This fruit is at first green, then when it comes to maturity it becomes all black and corrugated as you see it. 'Tis thus that long pepper is produced, nor are you to believe that fire is placed under the pepper, nor that it is roasted, as some will lyingly maintain. (tr. Yule)

Niccolò Conti's account of Malabar gives a rapid account of all kinds of social and natural facts (including a mention of durian), and now the only fire involved is some ashes:

Linteis vestiuntur et tela serica genu tenus. Uxores plures ducunt, domos depressas habent ad evitandum solis aestum. Idololatrae omnes. Pipere reliquo majore, et item longo pipere, comphora et auro plurimo abundant. Piperis arbor persimilis est ederae, grana ejus viridia ad formam grani juniperi, quae modico cinere aspersa torrentur as solem. Fructum viridem habent nomine durianum, magnitudine cucumeris, in quo sunt quinque veluti malarancia oblonga. varii saporis instar butyri coagulati. (p. 40)

Their garments are made of linen and silk, and hang down to their knees. The men marry as many wives as they please. Their houses are extremely low, in order to protect them against the excessive heat of the sun. They are all idolators. In this island pepper, larger than the ordinary pepper, also long pepper, camphor, and also gold are produced in abundance. The tree which produces the pepper is similar to the ivy, the seeds are green and resemble in form those of the juniper tree: they dry them in the sun, spreading a few ashes over them. In this island there also grows a green fruit, which they call duriano, of the size of a cucumber. When opened five fruits are found within, resembling oblong oranges. The taste varies, like that of cheese. (tr. Jones)

The mix of ancient science and medieval folklore was the basis for the early printed herbals. Among English herbals, the one known as Banckes' Herbal (1525) after the publisher and one claiming to be a translation from Latin of Macer Floridus (1543), but clearly derived from it or a common source:

Piper. This is called Peper. Is is hote and dry in the .iiii. degre. There be .iii. maner of Pepers, blacke, whyte & lõge Peper. Diaſcorides and Conſtantyne ſaye that they be fruytes of trees growynge in Inde. And ſome ſay that Peper is made blacke with brennynge in yͤ fyre/ for whã it is gadered ther be great multytude of ſerpẽtes about it therefore they put it in the fyre to brenne the ſerpẽtes that be aboute it. The Saracyns dry it in an Ouen/ bycauſe it ſhall not encreaſe in another lande. But of all yͤ Pepers the blacke is the beſt & the moſt holſome. (EEBO)Pyper. Piper this is called Peper, it is hote and drye in the fourth degre. There be thre maner of Pepers, blacke, whyte, and longe Peper. Diaſcorides and Conſtantyne ſaye, that they be fruytes of trees growynge in ynde, and ſome ſaye that Peper is made blacke with brennynge in the fyre, for whan it is gathered there be great multytude of ſerpẽtes aboute it, and therfore they put it in the fyre, to brenne the ſerpentes that be aboute it, the Saraſyns dry it in an ouen, bycauſe it ſhall not encreaſe in another lande, but of al yͤ Pepers the blacke is beſt, and the moſte holſome. (EEBO)

And the Grete Herball (1526):

Peper is hote in the begynnynge of the fourthe degre/ & drye in yͤ myddes of the ſame. There is thre ſortes of it for there is longe peper/ yͭ is called macropyper And there is whyte peper yͭ is called malano peper. Some ſay that they be fruyte of dyuers trees. But Conſtantyne and Dyaſcorides ſay that they be all thre of a tre growynge in ynde/ and ſome ſay that peper is made blacke by brennyng. For whan it ſholde be gadred for yͤ grete multytude of ſerpẽtes thereabout/ they ſet fyre about the trees yͭ the vermyn may be brent and go away. But yf that were trewe the trees ſholde be brẽt. And therfore this auctour ſayth yͭ they ben they ben fruytes all of one tree but whan it bereth floures/ thoſe floures gadre on the hepe & ſtretcheth alonge as the floure of haſyll & that is longe peper/ and than it bereth an other maner of lytell fruyte yͭ is called whyte peper & therof haue we none. But in ſtede of it is put catapuce or ſpourge of beyonde the ſee/ whiche is no peper/ for it is bygger and is not ſharpe as peper. And yf it be put in medycyne the ſubſtaũce win muſt be takẽ and not the huſkes Blacke peper is gadred whan it is rype/ and the ſaracyns bake it in an ouen for two cauſes. The fyrſte to kepe it longe/ & the ſeconde that it bere no fruyte nor growe in other coũtrees/ & the blacke peper is of more vertu thã yͤ whyte or longe peper/ (EEBO)

For a more comprehensive list, see The Old English Herbals (Dover reprint). The corresponding French herbals, and in particular those titled Le Grant herbier, of which the Grete Herbal is a translation, do not seem to be scanned yet. There is Giulio Camus' analysis of two manuscripts, one evidently the translation of the other, linking the Salernitan Circa instans with the Grant herbier.

Something of a challenge to the illustrated herbals was that Europeans only knew the dried fruits and that plants, even if they could be had, could not grow in Europe. So, Rembert Dodoens in his 1554 Cruijdt-boeck:


Die oude meeſters ſcrijven dat Peper dryerhande es/ lanck wit ende ſwert/ diemẽ nu ter tijt oock noch in die huyſen van droghiſten ende in die Apoteken te coope vint.


Van fatſoene van den boome daer dat Peper op groeyet/ en kunnen wy anders niet gheſcrijven/ dan dat wy by den ouders oft by den ghenen die in die landen ontrent Indien ende Calekouten verkeert hebben beſcreven vinden/ aengheſien dattet een vremt ſaet es dat ontrent deſe landẽ niet en groeyet. Ende daer om en ſelẽ wy hier af anders niet ſcrijven dã by dẽ ouders/ oft die corts in die landen verkeert hebbẽ gevondẽ wordt/ die nochtãs niet gelijck en ſprekẽ.

(Chap 66; Chap. 60 of the 1557 French translation)

The Kinds

The old masters write that pepper is of three kinds: long, white and black, which one now also finds for sale in the druggists' houses and in the apothecaries.

The Shape

Of the shape of the plant on which pepper grows, we do not know what else to write, other than what we find written by the ancients or by those who have traveled in the lands around India and Calicut, seeing that it is a strange seed that does not grow around these lands. And there about we shall write here anything other than what can be found written by the ancients or those who traveled in the lands, who nevertheless do not speak alike.

Pietro Andrea Mattioli, in his Commentarii on Dioscorides, Chapter CLIII: Piper (1554 edition; 1562 edition, essentially the same), notes that Portuguese and Spanish travelers to India and the Americas, do not always agree with ancient accounts of pepper. After reviewing Theophrastus, Dioscorides and Pliny; and efforts to grow plants that were supposed to be pepper in Italy, he concludes, “Quo sit, mirum non sit, si piperis historia variant auctores” 'So it is, and no wonder, that authors vary on the story of pepper'.

A somewhat authoritative answer came from Garcia de Orta's 1563 Colóquios dos simples e drogas da India. On whether black pepper and long pepper come from the same plant, he writes:

E por aqui vereis como sam defrentes estes tres arvores, scilicet, pimenta longa, e preta, e branca; a qual pimenta longa se chama em Bengala, pimpilim, e o arvore d'ella nam tem mais semelhança com o da preta, do que tem as favas com os ovos: as outras duas arvores da branca e da preta sam muyto semelhantes uma com outra, e nam se conhece, senam da gente da terra, asi como nós nam conhecemos as videiras pretas das brancas, senam quando tem uvas. (here)

And now you will see how the three trees are different, namely, long pepper, and black, and white; which long pepper is called pimpilim in Bengal, and its plant does not have any more resemblance to the black, than do beans to eggs; the other two trees, the white and the black, are very similar to one another, and cannot be distinguished, except by people from the country, just as we cannot distinguish black and white vines, except when they have grapes.

Orta has gone too far: black and white pepper do come from the same plant. He later relates how he had a discussion with a druggist who said that while long pepper was a distinct plant, black and white were not; and the governor who was present related how he had seen a shipment of black pepper in Mozambique which contained some white pepper, presumably because the black part had gotten rubbed off (which is more or less correct, although white pepper is not picked at the same time), which Orta again attempted to refute. The matter was “settled” by writing the King of Cochin, who sent a sack of white pepper and said that they had many white pepper trees there. Orta also rejects pepper being called barcamansi as unlike any such word there, though I am not clear who actually claimed that.

The 1567 edition of Clusius's Aromatum Historiae has a single illustration of peppercorns on a stem (Chap. 22). The 1605 Exoticorum libri decem has a recognition of Garcia de Orta:

Plantam quæ longum Piper profert, ab eâ in qua nigrum naſcitur, longè diſſimilem eſſe ſcribit Garcias ab Orta in ſua Aromatum hiſtoria: ſed (quod eius viri pace dictum volo) plurimum fallitur, meâ quidem ſententiâ. (Chap. 20)

The plant which produces long pepper, is far different from the one on which black [pepper] grows, writes Garcia de Orta in his history of spices: but (which I want said to that man in peace) he is most wrong, in fact, in my opinion.

But it does now have a clear illustration of a long pepper plant, as does the preceding black pepper chapter. The bound-in edition of Aromatum Historiae has those new illustrations for black and long pepper, though the text is not changed, and the old illustration now relabeled as white pepper (Chap. 22).

A similar development can be seen in comparing the editions of John Gerard's Herbal. The 1597 edition says:

The kindes

There be diuers ſorts of Pepper, that is to ſay, white and blacke Pepper, long Pepper, one greater and longer than the other, and alſo a kinde of Ethiopian Pepper.

The deſcription

The plant that beareth Pepper, whether we may call it a tree or an herbie plant, it is diſputable; ſome holding it for a tree, ſome a kinde of Vine, and others for an herbe like vnto the Conuoluuli, or Bindweedes, whereupon we will not diſpute: but yeelding the cenſures of thoſe learned that haue written thereof, leauing the reſt that might be ſaid to a further conſideration.

The plant that beareth the black Pepper as alſo the white, groweth vp like a Vine among buſhes and brambles where it naturally groweth; …

The plant that bringeth white Pepper is not to be diſtinguiſhed from the other plant, but onely by the colour of the fruite, no more than a Vine that beareth blacke Grapes, from that which bringeth white: and of ſome it is thought, that the ſelfe ſame plant doth ſometimes change it ſelfe from blacke to white, as diuers other plants do. …

The tree that beareth long Pepper, hath no ſimilitude at all with the plant that bringeth blacke and white Pepper: ſome haue deemed them to groweth on one tree, which is not conſonant to truth: for they growe in countries far diſtant one from another; and alſo that countrie where there is blacke Pepper, hath not any of the long Pepper: and therefore Galen following Dioſcorides, where togither both ouerſeene in this point. This tree, ſaith Monardes, is not great, yet of a woodie ſubſtance, diſperſing here and there his claſping tendrels, wherewith it taketh holde of other trees, and ſuch other things as do growe neere vnto it. The branches are many and twiggie, whereon doth grow the fruite, conſiſting of many graines growing vpon a ſlender footeſtalke, thruſt or compact cloſe togither; greene at the firſt, and afterwarde blackiſh; in taſte ſharper and hotter than common blacke Pepper, yet ſweeter, and of better taſte. …

Mathioluſ hath ſet foorth a figure of Pepper, condemned of moſt to be faigned; neuertheleſſe it agreeth with the firſt deſcription in diuers points; it differeth from the others in the cloſe and round bunches of fruit. The which figure we haue likewiſe inſerted among the reſt, vntill further certaintie may be knowen hereof. (Chap. 146)

The illustrations are the earlier one of Clusius', the one from Mattioli, and one each for his two kinds of long pepper: piper longum maius and piper longum minus, which resemble one another except in the length of the spike. These have nothing to do with the disctinction between two kinds of Asian long pepper, Indian and Javanese. The key is the mention of Nicolás Monardes, who describes an American long pepper, which he calls pimienta luenga, which is another Piper species, matico; he also illustrates it with a woodcut similar to all of Gerard's (Historia medicinal de las cosas que se traen de nuestras Indias Occidentales, p. 86).

The 1633 edition of Gerard's Herbal, revised by Johnson, (the one with a Dover reprint; Chap. 152) deletes the first paragraph of the description which hedges bets about whether it is a vine and starts with the statement that it is, adding:

We are beholden to Cluſius for this exact figure and deſcription, which he made by certaine branches which were brought home by the Hollanders from the Eaſt Indies. The curious may ſee more hereof in his Exotickes and notes vpon Garcias.

And, to the comparison with black and white grapes:

Neither Cluſius, nor any other elſe that I haue yet met with, haue deliuered vs any thing of certaine, of the plant whereon white Pepper growes: Cluſius only hath giuen vs the manner how it growes vpon the ſtalkes, as you may ſee it here expreſt.

And, to the long pepper:

For this figure alſo I acknowledge my ſelfe beholden to the learned and diligent Cluſius, who cauſed it to be drawne from a branch of ſome foot in length, that he receiued from Dr. Lambert Hortenſius, who brought it from the Indies. …

And it deletes the paragraph about Mattioli and his illustration. In place of his two different sized long pepper fruits, are Clusius' woodcuts of black, white and long pepper.

So too the 1644 edition of the Cruidt-boeck, still bearing Dodoens' name — he had been dead for half a century, but the brand lived on, has a chapter (31) on various peppers, taking the separate woodcuts from Clusius. Also included in this chapter are other pepper-like plants that Clusius had separately, such as fagara of Avicenna, which is probably Szechuan pepper.

Gaspard Bauhin's Pinax (1623) separates out Piper longum orientale, Piper longum Occidentale dimidii pedis longitudine and Piper longum angustissimum ex Florida. (p. 412, III - V). The last two (which cover some New World peppers, but not chili peppers, Piper indicum, which are elsewhere), each include an entry not previously discussed here. “Piper longum incolis Chiabe dictum Linscot. 4. par. Ind. orient. fig. 20.” refers to Jan Huyghen van Linschoten's narrative in Pars qvarta Indiæ Orientalis, edited by Theodor de Bry. This work itself does not appear to be online, though there are translations of Linschoten in English and French. Still, the reference is to an illustration and there is a dealer catalog selling that print separately: search for item #538 and click View. (The whole book only costs $2K, so I'm afraid there is probably a good profit in cutting one up.) Some hot chili peppers were put into cultivation in Java, and the existing word cabé for Javanese long pepper adopted. (When necessary to distinguish, Javanese long pepper can be cabé jawa, in exactly the same way that other African groundnuts whose name was taken over by peanuts came to be called X-peanut, even by the inhabitants of X.) This crude illustration might be a foreign long hot pepper from America or the native Javanese long pepper. Second, “Piper longum, Felfel, Alpino.” refers to Prospero Alpini's work on Egyptian plants and medicine, published posthumously in two volumes, which are scanned into GDZ, which unfortunately does not support deep linking. Alpini does report a piper longum, saying in the first part, “Habent & plantam quam piper longum appellant, quae piperis acrimoniam majorem in foliis habet, usumque aliquando habet in exigua quantitate piperis loco in ciborum condimentis” 'They also have a plant which they call long pepper, which has much of pepper's pungency in the leaves, and has use sometimes in small quantities in place of pepper as seasoning for food' (page 181:159) and describing it further in the second part, in De Plantis Aegtypi, chapter XXX (page 116 : 46). But the reference picked  up by Bauhin with the native name must be to the note by Johann Vesling, titled “Felfel tavil”, with an illustration on the facing page (page 310 : 190). That is, فلفل طويل fulful tawīl literally 'long pepper'. But this turns out to be an entirely different plant, which Linneaus classified as Euphorbia viminalis and which now seems to be known as Euphorbia tirucalli, the pencil tree, which is a traditional medicine, but not a condiment. In any case, it seems that there was also a native African long pepper. Still, the note also gives a name felfel rumi, that is فلفل رومي 'Roman pepper', which is used for hot chili peppers.

Willem Piso's Mantissa Aromatica, the sixth volume of De Indiae utriusque re naturali et medica libri quatuordecim (1658) is one of the mysteriously unavailable works in Gallica. I hope whatever the issue is gets resolved, or at least does not spread to other works.

A convenient break from the Renaissance herbals can be taken with the work of Leonard Plukenet at the end of 17th century. His Phytographia (1691) illustrates long pepper (Tab. 104, Fig. 4, EEBO) and his Almagestum botanicum (1696) catalogs and sorts names and references (p. 297, EEBO; also in GDZ, select page 301 : 297). He distinguishes several Piper species, mostly separating black and long pepper and other peppers (chili peppers are classed under Solanum mordens, p. 353, EEBO, GDZ 357 : 353).

Volume 7 of Hendrik van Rheede's Hortus Malabaricus on the flora of Kerala, from 1686-1688, (the scanned volumes in SICD are strangely incomplete) describes and illustrates Cattu-Tírpali (p. 27; Tab. 14; note the hand-written Piper longum on the MBG's copy). I am not great at hand-written Malayalam, but I think the legend reads കാട്ടുതിപ്പലി kāṭṭu-thippali, along the lines of Tamil காட்டுத்திப்பலி kāṭṭu-t-tippali 'wild long pepper'.

Rumphius' Herbarium amboinense, published posthumously in 1750, records Piper longum (Book 9, Chap 1, p. 333-334; Tab. 116, Fig. 1) in Indonesia (specifically Amboina), known in Malay as tsjabe (chabai), native to Java and the same as in Bengal.

João de Loureiro's 1790 Flora Cochinchinensis recorded P. longum in Cochinchina (p. 32), giving Vietnamese names cây lốt (that is, the lốt plant or lá lốt 'lolot', now a separate species) and tắt phắt and Chinese pipŏ (that is, 蓽撥).

As for the scientific names for long pepper:

  • In 1753, Linnaeus' Species plantarum listed Piper longum (5).
  • Martin Vahl's 1805 Enumeratio plantarum proposed Piper retrofractum (9) for a long pepper native to the East Indies.
  • Cataloging pepper species found on Penang Island in 1809, William Hunter proposed a new species, Piper chaba (4, but labeled 3) for what he names in Malay as chábatádi, based on a clear distinction between the figures of Rumphius' Piper Longum Tsjabe and Rheede's Cattu-tirpali. He notes that Piper longum is Sanskrit पिप्पली pippalī / Hindi पीपल pīpal and the plant under consideration चविका cavikā / चाब cāb, whose produce is supposedly called गजपिप्पली gaja-pippalī  / गजपीपल gaj-pīpal (which is generally considered the same as गजकृष्णा gaja-kṛṣṇā 'Scindapus officinalis'), with the drug actually sold under that name coming from some other plant altogether.
  • Friedrich Anton Wilhelm Miquel's 1843 Systema Piperacearum proposed Chavica roxburghii (8) for long pepper and Chavica officinarum (20) for Javanese long pepper.
  • Casimir de Candolle's survey of Piperaceae in Prodromus Systematis Naturalis (1869) recognized Piper officinarum (478) for Javanese long pepper (among over 600 Piper species).
  • The current consensus is that there are two species of long pepper, basically the Indian and Indonesian kinds. Piper longum Linn. is the accepted name for the former. And for the latter, the subject of this post, Piper retrofractum Vahl, subsuming synonyms Chavica officinarum Miq., Piper officinarum C. DC., and Piper chaba Hunter.

In commerce, there was no concerted attempt to distinguish the two species, and in fact most of the long pepper that was sold to Europe as a spice up until the end of the 19th century, and maybe into the 20th, was probably Javanese long pepper. Javanese long pepper is even imported into India. So too in traditional medicine. Here is a paper that outlines how to tell the two apart using chromography: the authors tested batches of Chinese bibo (荜拨), which should have been P. longum and found most to be P. retrofractum.

The essay “Long Pepper: A Short History” from Petits Propos Culinaires and reprinted in the collection The Wilder Shores of Gastronomy, suggests that the loss of popularity of the long pepper as a seasoning, even at the same time that a higher quality version was found in Java, was due to the introduction of chili peppers. Black pepper was adequate for a slightly pungent taste, and anything stronger was more easily achieved with them.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Peanut, Continued

Continued from here, which had gotten as far as Linnaeus naming Arachis hypogaea.

Peanuts did not gain much in Europe proper. Because they require a long growing period underground, they can only be grown about as far north as Austria. Even in the south, they were primarily used as a source of vegetable oil, specifically for cutting olive oil.

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European terms for 'peanut' predictably concentrate on the odd method of growth.

  • The generic name (sometimes referring to the plant, rather than the nut): French arachide, Russian арахис.
  • Direct Germanic cognates: English earth-nut, German Erdnuß, Dutch aardnoot, Swedish jordnöt, Norwegian jordnøtt, Danish jordnød, Icelandic jarðhneta, Faeroese jarðnøt.
    Note that earthnut can mean various geocarpic plants and that in particular the Old English eorþ-hnutu, which survived until much later as dialectical yar-nut, meant Conopodium majus, Shakespeare's “pig-nut.” Likewise, Erdnuß can mean Lathyrus tuberosus and jordnöt that or Ornithogalum umbellatum.
  • Words meaning the same: English ground-nut, Finnish maapähkinä, Estonian maapähkel, Russian земляной орех, Polish orzech ziemny, Latvian zemesrieksts, Lithuanian zemesrieksts, Turkish yerfıstığı.
    Again note that groundnut can mean various plants and so when the Massachusetts colonists are subsisting in the winter of 1630-1631 on, “clams, muscles, and ground-nuts, and acorns,” Apios americana, “Indian potato,” is meant.
  • Variants of specific kinds of nuts: English earth-almond, French pistache de terre 'earth pistachio', noisette de terre 'earth hazelnut', Italian pistacchio-di-terra 'earth pistachio', mandorla-di-terra 'earth almond', Hungarian földimogyoró 'earth hazelnut', German Erdeichel 'earth acorn'.
  • Variants of legumes: English earth-pea, French pois de terre 'earth pea', Italian ceci di terra 'earth chickpea'.
  • Slightly different are Czech burský oříšek, which I believe means 'Boer nut' and Slovak podzemnica olejná, which I believe means something like 'underground oil-seed'.
  • The decidedly odd case is Croatian / Bosnian kikiriki, Serbian / Macedonian кикирики, Albanian kikirik.
    A discussion does not reach any definitive conclusion, with suggestions including:
    • Turkish slang kikirik 'tall, skinny person'.
    • Kikiriki (that is, quiquiriqui) is the sound Spanish roosters make.
    • Italian chicchi ricchi 'rich grains' (but also the sound Italian roosters make).
    • “Bratoljub Klaić … in his Dictionary of foreign words in Serbo-Croatian …:
      kikiriki - compare: "tò kíki - Egyptian name of a miraculous tree sillikýpria, called by other people also kiki", Senc, Greek-Croatian Dictionary
      σιλλικύπριον (= σέσελι Κύπριον 'Cyprian hartwort') or κίκι is the castor-oil plant (Egyptian k3k3; the קיקיון of Jonah), but I'm not sure what the connection is or where the rest is supposed to come from.

But Portuguese explorers and slavers also brought the peanut to Africa and Portuguese and Spanish to Asia.

One of the reasons that the peanut was quickly adopted as a foodstuff in Africa was that it was a superior replacement for an existing plant, the Bambara ground-nut (and, in a more limited area, the Hausa ground-nut), whose pods also ripen underground. The Bambara ground-nut is described by Ibn Battuta in the 14th century in Mali:

ويستخرجون من هذه الأرض حبّات كالفول فيقلونها ويأكلونها وطعمها كطعم الحِمِّص المقلوّ وربّما طحنوها وصنعوا منها شبه الإسْفُنْج وقلوه بالغَرْتِي والغرتي بفتح الغين المعجم وسكون الرآء وكسر التآء المُثنّاة هو ثمر كالإجّاص شديد الحلاوة مُضرّ بالبِيضان إذا أكلوه (Voyages Vol. IV p. 392)

wa-yastaḫriǧūna min hāḏihi al-arḍi ḥabbāti ka-ʼl-fūli fa-yaqlūna-hā wa-yakulūna-hā wa-ṭaʿmu-hā ka-ṭaʿmi al-ḥimmiṣi al-maqlūwi wa-rubbamā ṭaḥanū-hā wa-ṣanaʿwā min-hā šibh al-isfunǧi wa-qalaw-hu bi-ʼl-ġartī wa-ʼl-ġartī [bi-fatḥi al-ġayni al-muʿǧam wa-sukūn al-rāʾ wa-kasr al-tā al-muṯannāh] huwa ṯamar ka-ʼl-iǧǧāṣi šadīd al-ḥalāwah muḍirr bi-ʼl-bīḍān iḏā akalū-hu

They take out of the ground grains like beans which they fry and eat; their flavour is like fried chickpeas. Sometimes they grind them to make something like a fritter, which is fried with ghartī, which is fruit like a very sweet plum, but it is bad for white people if they eat it. (tr. Gibb)

فول fūl is 'bean' in general, but 'fava bean' in particular; it occurs in the names of Middle Eastern dishes like Ful medames; this Semitic word (cf. Hebrew פול pol in Eze 4:9) is borrowed into Ancient Egyptian as pr (and not the other way around, as the Wikipedia seems to imply); Modern Arabic for 'peanut' is فول سوداني fūl sūdānī 'Sudanese bean'. حمص ḥimmiṣ 'chick-pea' with a different vocalization is ḥummuṣ, which is made from them. Although قلو qlw is consistently translated 'fry' here, I believe the first two should be 'roast', since no oil is added; the root seems to refer to cooking in a frying pan. أسفنج isfunǧ, translated here as 'fritter', refers to some kind of spongy cake; I assume the word is borrowed from Greek σπογγιά (also Attic σφογγιά) = σπόγγος 'sponge', which through Latin spongia gives most European words for 'sponge', as well as fungus; the ultimate origin of this word seems to be unknown. غرتي ġartī is Shea butter; the word used here, like the French word karité, is borrowed from the African name, for instance, Soninke kharite or Wolof karite, apparently ultimately meaning 'life'; the part in brackets in the transliteration, which is not translated in the English, clarifies the vocalization of the foreign word (see Lameen Souag's comment): 'with fatḥa after the foreign ghayn and sukūn after the rāʾ and kasra after the tāʾ; repeated twice'.

The same Portuguese ships that brought the peanut to Africa brought the Bambara ground-nut to South America, so that it features in Georg Marcgrave's 1648 Historia Naturalis Brasiliae (mentioned in the previous post), a few pages after the peanut, as “Mandubi d'Angola” (Vol. I, p. 43).

In 1806, Louis-Marie Aubert du Petit-Thouars described Bambara ground-nut as a new genus from Madagascar, including it in his Genera nova Madagascariensia and giving it the scientific name Voandzeia subterranea. (p. 23) Linnaeus had previously named it Glycine subterranea, as the text acknowledges; this is not a question of priority, since that genus included other plants as well. The matter has since been rendered moot, though, since it is now classified in Vigna with azuki and mung beans and black-eyed peas. Voandzou (voanjo) was the Malagasy name, already described in 1658 by Flacourt in his Histoire de la grande isle de Madagascar:

Les Voandzou, ſe ſont eſpeces de feves qui viennent ſous terre, vne ſemée en produira pour en manger plein vne grande eſcuelle chacune à ſon eſcorce. (p. 114)

Voandzou, c'eſt vne eſpece de feves qui multiplient fort, mais le fruit eſt dans la terre, & eſt dans chacune ſa gouſſe ou coque. Les fueilles de l'herbe ſont trois à trois comme vn treffle, il n'y a point de ſouche ny tiges, ny branches, ſi ce n'eſt la tige des trois fueilles, ie les nomme feves ſouterraines. (p. 118)

Voanjo are kinds of beans which form underground, one planted will produce a great bowl-full of them for eating, each with its own bark.

Voanjo, it is a kind of beans which replicate strongly, but the fruit is in the earth, and each one is in a pod or hull. The leaves are three-by-three like a clover; there is no stock or stems or branches, except the stem of three-leaves; I name them underground beans.

The name is now voanjo bory 'round peanut', voanjo now being 'peanut'. H. Perrier de la Bâthie analyzes this as voa-, a common prefix for plants + anjo 'what satisfies, nourishes well' (but see below).

Words for 'Bambara ground-nut' are often repurposed for 'peanut' like this, with a qualification then being added for the less useful original meaning. For instance, in Yungur, shnara bənara 'Yungur peanut' means 'Bambara ground-nut' (see here). And in Swahili, njugu (or more fully njugunyasa) is 'peanut' and njugumawe 'hard (lit. stone) peanut' is 'Bambara ground-nut'. This can make it difficult to interpret which nut is meant in some early texts. And when no native word is given with a description, even more plants are possible.

The South American origin of peanuts was more or less settled in 1838 when George Bentham wrote “On the structure and affinities of Arachis and Voandzeia” (in here, pp. 155-162), which described five more Arachis species there (p. 159). These are included in Flora Brasiliensis (Vol. XV, p. 85 + Plate 23; also in the online indexed version). Further evidence came from the finding of peanuts in archeological sites in Ancón, Peru (reported in Ludwig Wittmack's 1888 paper “Die Nutzpflanzen der alten Peruaner” here).

The first European mention of an underground African nut was in the c. 1508 manuscript by Valentim Fernandes:

Comẽ arroz e milho jnhames macarras feyxões … (fol. 134 v., p. 94 of the 1938 edition)

They eat rice, millet, yams, macarras, beans, …

Macarras rayzes e fruito nacẽ de bayxo do chãao. (fol. 137 v., p. 98)

The roots and fruits of the macarra grow under the ground.

Presumably Bambara ground-nut is meant. Portuguese for 'peanut' in Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau is mancarra.

An account of the rivers of Portuguese Guinea written in 1594 by André Álvares de Almada, a Cape Verdean with a Portuguese father, titled Tratado breve dos Rios de Guiné, but not published until 1733, also mentions macaras:

E assim se resgata muito mantimento de milho e arroz, e macaras, que he hum mantimento redondo, e tem o sabor de favas; e dá-se este mantimento debaixo do chão mettido n'humas baguinhas, nas raizes, e se recolhe muito naquellas Ilhas; e ha outros mantimentos e fructos. (p. 55 of a later edition)

There is also much trade in provisions, in the form of milho, rice in the husk, and macarras, a foodstuff round in shape and tasting like broad beans; and this foodstuff grows underground inserted as little berries, among the roots, and large quantities are harvested on these islands. There are other staple foods and fruits. (tr. after Hair, from the variorum text, p. 99)

According to Paul E H Hair's “An Ethnolinguistic Inventory of the Upper Guinea Coast before 1700” (snippet; reprinted in this book), 'peanut' is maŋgara is Balanta and maŋkaara in Guiné Crioulo. That same paper (snippet) also compares this to Almada's later amanganacho (p. 64; translation), a word appearing in Coelho (1669) as manganaxa. But other sources and Hair's own notes later in a edition of a Descrição da Serra Leoa from 1625, where it appears as Manganás, all agree that that is Icacina senegalensis, manganace in Crioulo, so I assume that is the current belief.

For the British English monkey nut 'peanut', the OED notes:

monkey is perh. used as an alteration of the name for the peanut in a West African language: similar-sounding forms are found in coastal languages from Senegal to Togo, e.g. Badyara mankoli, Balanta mangara, Diola é mangera, mankara, Crioulo (Guinea-Bissau) mancara, macara, Baga makan (plural), Temne makantr (plural).

And with so many texts digitized since this entry was revised in 2002, it is naturally easy to find a use of “monkey nut” (that is definitely a peanut and not a coconut) from a few years before the 1880 quotation in the OED:

The pods of the ground nut (Arachis hypogæa), commonly known by the name of “monkey nut,” … (Year-Book of Pharmacy … 1871, p. 59)

In “Linguistic evidence for cultivated plants of the Bantu borderland” (online), Roger Blench shows a split in the Benue-Congo languages in the words for 'Bambara ground-nut' between East and West, tending to indicate that the plant was domesticated after that major division. A West Benue-Congo root #-kpa is fairly confidently reconstructed from Yoruba ekpa, Isoko upapa, Igbo ɔ̀kpa, Gbagyi opwa and Idoma ikpeyi. An somewhat less confident East Benue-Congo reconstruction is #-gunu from tHun ù-gwə̀nə̀, Nnakenyare guum and Vute ŋgóm. He also notes that in Mbembe the #-kpa root appears for 'peanut', but does not give the word itself.

In “Les plantes d'origine américaine en Afrique bantoue: une approche linguistique” (online), Serge Bahuchet and Gérard Philippson trace several Bantu roots that refer to peanuts and/or Bambara ground-nuts. The most widespread of these is *-jùgú: reaching geographically from Pinji ndjulu in the northeast to Swahili njugu in the East to Shona nzungu and Zulu indlubu (índɮùùɓú) in the southeast;  and phonetically from Makua et̪o 'Bambara ground-nut' to Giryama ndzugu 'peanut'. In the northeastern highlands where Bambara ground-nuts are not found, it refers to the pigeon-pea, for instance, Kikuyu ɲjoɣo; this leads to Dawida having both the regular reflex tʃùɣù 'pigeon-pea' and the borrowed ndʒùgù 'peanut'. In “Cultivated crops and Bantu migrations in Central and Eastern Africa: a linguistic approach” (online), they further propose that the second part of the Malagasy voa-njo (see above) is likely borrowed from some Bantu language. The other roots covered are *-guba, such as Lingala ŋgúbà; *-nyimu, such as Kaonde ɲimu; and *-kalanga, such as Swahili karaŋga.

Two Portuguese shipwrecks off the coast of South Africa had to live off the produce of the mainland, which included jugo. Their reports are among those collected in George McCall Theal's Records of South-Eastern Africa, which isn't complete in Google Books, but is all in the Internet Archive. The Santo Alberto wrecked in 1593 at Penedo das Fontes (Fountain rock, evidently now a major scuba spot). Her pilot, Joao Baptista Lavanha, chief cosmographer to the King, compiled his journal in 1597:

e hum legume chamado Jugo, que he do tamanho de favas pequenas, (Vol. II, p. 256)

a vegetable called jugo, which is of the size of small beans, (p. 317)

The São João Baptista wrecked in 1622 on the coast of the Cabo de Boa Esperanja (Cape of Good Hope) and Francisco Vaz d'Almada published his account in 1625:

jugos, que sao como graos, (Vol. VIII, p. 62)

jugos, which is like grain, (p. 131)

Paul Hair's “Portuguese Contacts with the Bantu Languages of the Transkei, Natal and Southern Mozambique 1497-1650” (reprinted in the book mentioned above) recognizes jugo as Swahili njugu. And indeed, feijões jugos 'jugo beans' refers to Bambara ground-nuts in Afro-Portuguese, as does vielo. The same evidence is repeated at the end of “Milho, Meixoeira and other Foodstuffs of the Sofala Garrison, 1505-1525” (also in the book and additionally online).

Andrew Battell was a British sailor who lived in coastal Central Africa at the start of the 17th century, initially among the Imbangala. His account was published in Purchas in 1625. Describing Loango before 1607, he writes:

They have very good Peason, somewhat bigger then ours: but they grow not as ours do. For the poddes grow on the rootes underneath the ground; and by their leaves they know when they be ripe. (p. 405 of the straight reprint; p. 67 of E. G. Ravenstein's edition with notes).

Capuchin missionaries to the Congo at the end of the 17th century adapted nguba to Italian phonology to come up with incu[m]ba. Father Girolamo Merolla da Sorrento narrated his tale to Angelo Piccardo and it was published in 1692 as Breue, e succinta relatione del viaggio nel regno di Congo. Merolla (or his editor) was evidently aware of Giovanni Antonio Cavazzi's Istorica descrizione de' tre' regni Congo, Matamba et Angola, composed around 1671, but published in 1687. (On Cavazzi's sources, see this article.) Neither of these Italian originals is online (or I do not know where to look). An English translation of Merolla, with many of the classical allusions removed and other abridgments, was published as part of A. and J. Churchill's Collection of Voyages and Travels and titled A voyage to Congo … in 1682. Father Labat translated Cavazzi  in 1732, adding his own notes and observations, as Relation Historique de l'Ethiopie occidentale contenant la description des royaumes du Congo, Angola, et Matamba. The Portuguese edition of Cavazzi, which has notes and an index, is only snippets, and only volume 2. (Apparently Cavazzi has a passage describing a missionary who failed after six years to discover any rules in the language of the Congo, but I cannot find this in Labat's translation.) Both works contain descriptions of several legumes, but the precise mapping is confusing. Merolla writes:

Amongſt many others they eſteem, are the Mandois, which grow three of four together like vetches, but under-ground, and are about the bigneſs of an ordinary olive. From theſe milk is extracted, like to that drawn from almonds (in Italian Mandole), from whence, for aught I know, they had their name. There is another ſort of ground pulſe called Incumbe, which alſo grows under-ground, is like a muſquet-ball, and very wholeſome and well-taſted. Amongſt theſe, I and others have often found nutmegs, perhaps fallen from trees, the uſe of which is altogether unknown to theſe people. There are ſome wild ones found, which they call Neubanzampuni. (p. 247 of Pinkerton's edition of Churchill's translation)

And Labat:

L'Incuba eſt une eſpece de petit pois, de couleur blanche, & aſſez difficile à cuire; parce qu'ils ſont fort durs. Ces fruits viennent ſous terre dans une eſpece de bourſe. J'en ai parlé dans le voyage de Guinée, ſous le nom de pois d'Angolle. La fleur de cette plante eſt jaune; elle a l'odeur de la violette. Ces pois étant bien cuits, ne laiſſent pas d'être bons, & d'avoir bon goût: on dit même qu'ils ſont amis de l'eſtomach.

Les Neuban zamputo reſſemblent beaucoup à nos noiſettes ſauvages, pour la figure & pour la goût. Ils ſe ſement aiſément, viennent, pour ainſi dire, ſans culture, produiſent beaucoup; & par cet endroit les Negres les eſtiment infiniment. C'eſt dans le Royaume de Congo, la nourriture la plus ordinaire des peuples. (p. 116)

Incuba is a kind of small pea, white in color, and as hard to cook because they are very hard. These fruit grow underground in a kind of purse. I spoke of them in Voyage from Guinea, under the name of Angola peas. The flower of this plant is yellow; it has the smell of a violet. These peas are well cooked, never fail to be good, and have a good taste: one could even say they are friends of the stomach.

The Neuban zamputo much resemble our wild hazelnuts, in shape and taste. They are planted easily and come up, so to speak, without tending, producing much; and in this place the Negroes esteem them infinitely. In the Kingdom of the Congo, it is the ordinary food of the people.

Here is a snippet of a paper trying to figure this out:

Merolla (1682, p. 247) is the first to distinguish the two in the Congo, where they were called mandois and incumbe. Pere Labat (1732, p. 116) refers to two leguminous ground crops of Angola, Neupan Zamputa, the common food of the people and like a hazelnut, and incuba or ground pea or "pois d'Angole." Mandois and Neupan Zamputu probably refer to peanuts; here again the Zamputu refers to the land of the Portuguese and must mean the peanut was thought by the natives to have been introduced by the Portuguese. Incuba and incumbe, the pois d'Angole, refer to Voandzeia.

On the other hand, Pois d'Angole normally refers to pigeon-pea. Labat did indeed refer to them in Nouveau voyage aux isles de l'Amerique (1722):

Les Pois d'Angole ſont originaires du Royaume de ce nom ſur la côte d'Afrique, d'où ils ont été apportez aux Iſles par les vaiſſeaux qui vont chercher les Negres en ces quartiers là. Ils reſſemblent aſſez à nos petits feves, excepté pour le couleur; car ils ſont bruns, … (Vol. I, p. 361)

Angola peas are originally from the Kingdom of that name on the coast of Africa, whence they were brought to the islands by the vessels which go to find Negroes in those quarters. They resemble our beans enough, except for color, since they are brown, …

One of the most popular early 18th century accounts was Willem Bosman's Nawkeurige Beschryving van de Guinese, published in 1704 with a second edition in 1709. There were English and French translations in 1705 and a German one in 1708. The English translation was included in Pinkerton's Voyages. (For details on the quality of the translation, see “Willem Bosman's ‘New and Accurate Description of the Coast of Guinea’: How Accurate Is It?” and the eight follow-on articles in JSTOR.) Bosman also reports three similar beans, with -guba now becoming gobbe-gobbe:

Noch heeſt men hier een ſlag van Boonen, Gobbegobbes genaemt / welke met twee te gelijk in huiſjes onder de aerde groeijen / en heel klein loof boven de aerde geeven. Dit ſijn onder al de Boonen d'alderſlegtſte; echter latenſe ſig noch al eeten.

De tweede ſlag, even als de geſeide onder de aerde groeijende / ſijn by ons noch maer voor eenige jaren bekend geworden / en werden Angoolſe Boontjes genaemt / om datſe van daer na herwaerts ſijn overgebragt. 't Is een heel lekker en aengenaem eeten / als men deſelve / gelijk de Kaſtagnes, in de Pan laet braden.

De laetſte ſlag van Boontjes, en meede onder de aerde waſſende / ſijn de alderbeſte; doch ſy konnen niet wel voor Boonen doorgaen / eenſdeels om datſe in geen huiſjes of peulen waſſen; en ten anderen ook / om datſe op ſo een manier niet gegeeten worden. Veel gevoeglijker ſou men deſelve Aerdnooten moogen noemen; want rauw uit de hand degeeten / ſijnſe van ſmaek onſe Haſenooten niet ſeer ongelijk; doch men doedſe gemeenlijk aen ſtukken wrijven / in't water weeken / en dan door een doek parſſen / welk water met Rijs gekookt hier te Land voor Soetemelk doorgaet; en men ſou het met'er een weinig Suiker, Kaneel en Boter in te doen / de onkundige daer voor konnen opdiſſen. (p. 80)

Here is alſo another ſort called Gobbe-gobbes, which grows two together in a Cod under the Earth, and ſhoot out a ſmall Leaf above the ſurface of the Earth; theſe are the worſt of all the Beans, and yet they are eaten by ſeveral.

The ſecond ſort of ſubterraneous Beans, have been known to us but a few Years, and are called Angola Beans, by reaſon they were tranſplanted from thence to this place. They are a very agreeable ſort of Food, if fryed, as we commonly do Cheſ-nuts.

The laſt ſort, which alſo grow under the Earth, are the beſt of all; but indeed they can hardly paſs for Beans, partly becauſe they don't grow in Cods, and partly becauſe they are not eaten as the others are: So that Earth-nuts would be a more proper Name for them; for they are eaten raw out of the Hand, and taſte not much unlike Haſel-nuts. But they are commonly broken into pieces, ſoaked in Water, and then ſqueezed in a Cloath; this Liquor boiled with Rice, every where in this Country paſſes for Milk, and if helpt with a little Sugar, Cinamon and Butter, it would not eaſily be diſcovered to be anything elſe by thoſe who are unacquainted with this Diſh. (p. 301; Pinkerton's edition, p. 460; snippet of 1967 annotated facsimile edition; equivalent French)

In Wolof (illustrated food glossary), gerte is 'peanut' and gerte Bambara is 'Bambara ground-nut' and perhaps the model for the English and similar European terms. This word appears in 18th century French accounts of Bambuk. The details are a little confusing to me, however, because of incomplete access to sources and rampant plagiarism. The primary business of the Senegal Company was slaves, for which a fortified coastal settlement like the infamous Gorée island was sufficient, with the Wolof Dammel delivering them there. Yet an important sideline was gold and many still imagined Wangara as described by al-Idrisi. Among these was the company director Andre Brüe, who organized a series of expeditions to explore the mines in the interior. Father Labat acted as his publicist back in France. One such expedition was by a Sieur P. Compagnon in 1716. Another was Claude Boucard in 1729. A 1974 thesis by Yves Péhaut, redone as a book in 1976, gives a direct quote for Compagnon, as near as I can make out from what Google Books will show:

Il croît dans le pays une espèce de pois que les noirs appellent Guerté et qui ressemble parfaitement à la pistache ; ils ont le goût de la noisette, surtout lorsqu'on a soin de les sécher au four pour leur faire jeter leur huile. Ce légume croît en terre au bout de sa … (snippet; there are OCR errors, so search won't find all that, which also probably explains why search does not think the next word is racine; cf. this)

In the country grows a kind of pea which the Blacks call gerte and which resembles our pistachio perfectly; they have the taste of hazelnut, especially when taking care to dry them in an oven to make them give up their oil. This vegetable grows in the earth at the end of its …

Since it is only a snippet, I cannot see the source for this. It does not seem to be part of Labat's account of Compagnon's voyage in Nouvelle relation de l'Afrique occidentale (Vol. IV, pp. 32-56). Or as that reworked by Prévost (1746; Vol. II, Book. VI, Chap. 13, Para. 1, pp. 633-648) or Walckenaer (1826; Vol. III, pp. 241-265).

Boucard's account, “Relation de Bambouc,” is in an article that I was able to track down (BIFAN 36 (1974) pp. 246-275):

… de mil de bled de Turquie, de riz, des pistaches et des pois. (p. 261; snippet)

Il croît dans le Pays une espece de Poix que les Nègres appellent guerté parfaittement ressemblant aux pistaches. Ils ont le goust de la noisette, surtout lorsqu'on a soin de les faire Secher au feu pour leur faire rendre leur huile. Ces Pois excitent beaucoup l'appetit. Ce fruit croist dans la terre au bout de sa racine qui jette dehors une espece de feuilles tres vertes ressemblantes au trefle de France. Les Negres en mangent beaucoup; Ils le mettent avec leur mil, et ils s'en trouvent d'autant mieux que ce fruit concoure avec leur paresse, Car il suffit d'ensemencer une terre une seule fois pour recueiller trois recoltes pendt. trois années consecutives sans estre obligé d'y faire le moindre travail, excellente commodité pour des negres paresseux qui aiment mieux manquer du necessaire que de labourer leur terre pour estre dans l'abondance. Outre les pistaches les negres recueillent de gros poids ronds semblables pour le goust et pour la couleur aux feves de marais qui sont tres legeres cuisent tres bien surtout avec la viande. (p. 267; snippet)

… of cornmeal, of rice, of pistachios and of peas.

There grows in the country a sort of pea that the Negroes call gerte, perfectly resembling pistachios. They have the taste of hazelnuts, especially when care is taken to dry them in a fire to make them give up their oil. These peas excite the appetite much. This fruit grows in the land at the end of its root which casts out a kind of very green leaves resembling clover of France. The Negroes eat it much; they have it with their millet, and they find it even better that the fruit contributes to their laziness, because it is sufficient to sow the land one time to gather three times for three consecutive years without being obligated to do any work, a great convenience for the lazy Negroes who like to skip having to plough their land in order to be in abundance. In addition to the pistachios, the Negroes gather big round peas resembling small beans which are very light cooked well especially with meat.

The text is obviously quite similar. The 1789 Voyage au pays de Bambouc, unsigned but believed to be by Charles-Pierre Coste d'Arnobat, explicitly claims (p. 2) that Compagnon did not make it to the interior and published lies. He includes an account that is again quite similar to the other two and often word-for-word the same.

Il croit dans le pays une espece de pois que les noirs appellent Guerté, & qui ressemble parfaitement à nos pistaches; ils ont le goût de la noisette, surtout lorsqu'on a soin de les sécher au four, pour leur faire jeter leur huile. Ce legume excite beaucoup l'appétit, & croit dans la terre au bout de sa racine, qui pousse dehors une espece de feuille très verte, ressemblant au trefle de France. (pp. 40-41)

According to the invaluable Guide to original sources for precolonial western Africa published in European languages (that online scan isn't complete, but has the relevant page here), the Bambuk section is taken from Boucard, as it seems. It is somewhat less surprising that much the same text appears in Jean-François de La Harpe's 1820 Abrégé de l'Histoire générale des voyages (Vol. I, pp. 437-438), since it does not claim to be original. In the 1802 Voyage en Afrique, Golbéry describes roasted “pistachio pea”:

elles produisent beaucoup d'espèces de pois, entr'autres le pois pistache qui, un peu grillé, a le goût de la noisette (Vol. I, p. 406)

they produce many kinds of peas, and among others the pistachio kind, which when a little parched, has the taste of filberts (tr. Mudford)

And finally the 1814 L'Afrique, ou Histoire, moeurs, usages et coutumes des africains : le Sénégal by R. G. V. (René Geoffroy de Villeneuve) explicitly sources the word:

… pistache de terre, en ouolof guerté, et l'usage à l'intérieur de cette même amande grillée. (Vol. IV, p. 201-202)

… peanut, in Wolof gerte, and used in the interior the same as roasted almond.

The phonetic similarity between gerte and karite is suggestive. And a paper “Note sur le Karité” by A. Leriche in Notes Africaines (No. 71, Jul. 1956; snippet) proposes that they are the same, with Africans applying the existing word for the Shea butter nut to the newly encountered peanut, perhaps in an American context. Furthermore, he quotes R. Mauny as saying that the word gerte first appears in Juan Eusebio Nieremberg's 1635 Historia naturæ maxime peregrinæ (Book XIX, Chap. 103), as a word used by the Africans in the Americas. It should be easy to check to see what it says they applied the word to and where. Except that inexplicably the first natural history of the New World has not yet been scanned online. It is not an especially rare book; many libraries have a copy and could do so. The John Carter Brown Library at Brown offers some high-resolution individual pictures with a quirky Java applet interface. And a copy features in a interactive display that opened at the Library of Congress the end of last year: apparently one can use the virtual display to turn the pages. I do not know the details, but off hand, this sounds like a stand-alone kiosk, which would have been pretty cool in 1997; but in 2007 I do not see why it is not offered to everyone in the world. Moreover, I assume it just features a few pre-selected pages, which actually fails to impart the point of browsing through old books to the busloads of school fieldtrips that will see it, namely discovering moderately interesting things on one's own, not just visiting someone else's top-ten bookmarks, and that is now possible without risking anything other than a touch screen to grubby little fingers.

There are enough inconsistencies and loose ends in the last few sections that I suspect there has been more recent research to clear up. It takes time for the work of linguists and anthropologists to filter through historians into the prefaces to botanical / gardening books and cookbooks and popular accounts. And my informal searching around online and in the library of a good African Studies department can easily miss it. So, please comment if you know of something that should be revised.

In Histoire de Loango, Kakongo, et autres royaumes d'Afrique (1776), Abbé Lievain Bonaventure Proyart described two “peas,” one called pinda and another one like it:

Après le manioc il n'eſt rien que les Negres cultivent avec plus de ſoin qui la pinda, que nous appellons piſtache; c'eſt une eſpece de noiſette longue qui renferme deux amandes, ſous une gouſſe aſſez mince. Ce fruit ſe ſeme par ſillons: il pouſſe une tige qui reſſemble d'abord à celle du tréfle; mais il en ſort enſuite des filamens qui, après avoir rampé quelque temps ſur la terre, y entrent par le ſommet. La tige alors pouſſe une petite fleur jaune qui eſt ſtérile: c'eſt au bout des filamens qui ſont entrés dans la terre que ſe trouve le fruit en grande quantité. Il eſt fort bon au goût, mais indigeſte: on le fait griller avent de le manger. On le broie auſſi pour en faire une pâte qui ſert d'aſſaiſonnement aux ragoûts. On en exprime encore une huile aſſez délicate. (p. 16)

Ils ont auſſi un pois de terre, dont la tige reſſemble à celle de notre fraiſier ſauvage; elle ſe traîne par terre comme celle de la pinda, & elle y entre par des filamens au bout deſquels ſe trouvent les pois; ils ſont agréable au goût, mais indigeſtes pour les eſtomachs Européens. (p. 18)

Beſides the manioc, there is nothing which the Negroes cultivate with more care than the Pinda, which we call Piſtachio: it is a ſpecies of long nut, which incloſes two almonds under a very ſlender film. This fruit is ſown in furrows: it puts forth a ſtalk which at firſt reſembles that of the trefoil; but afterwards filaments ſhoot from it, which, after creeping ſome diſtance on the ſurface of the ground, penetrate into it by the ſummit. The ſtalk then ſhoots out a ſmall yellow flower, which does not fructify: it is at the end of the filaments which have entered the earth that the fruit is found in great quantities. It is very good to the taſte, but is indigeſtible; they have it broiled before they eat it. They alſo bruiſe it in order to make a paſte, which ſerves as a ſeaſoning for their ragouts. They expreſs from it a tolerably delicate oil. (tr. Pinkerton, p. 551)

They have alſo an earth pea, the ſtalk of which reſembles that of our wild ſtrawberry plant; it trails along the ground like that of the Pinda, and it enters by filaments, at the ends of which the peas are found; they are agreeable to the taſte, but indigeſtible in European ſtomachs. (p. 552)

That translation is one of the quotations in the OED entry for pindar, an early English word for 'peanut'. The first from the minutes of the Aug. 5, 1684 Meeting of the Oxford Philosophical Society, as collected in Robert T. Gunther's Early Science in Oxford (a fourteen volume work mostly found in reference libraries, though serious scientific instrument collectors do have a copy of his Astrolabes book):

Dr. Plot presented ye Society with some of ye Pindes, from ye Coast of Guinea; of which Substance the Inhabitants make their bread, and severall meats; it seems to be a round seed: (Vol. IV, p. 83)

The other before 1700 is from John Ovington's A Voyage to Suratt in the Year 1689 (1696):

Sometimes they Feaſt with a little Fiſh, and that with a few Pindars is eſteemed a ſplendid Banquet. Theſe Pindars are ſown under ground, and grow there without ſprouting above the ſurface, the Cod in which they are Incloſed is an Inch long, like that of our Peaſe and Beans, and they are eat with Beef or Pork inſtead of Beans or Peaſe. Some of theſe I brought for England, which were ſown in the Biſhop of London's Garden, but whether they will thrive in this Climate is yet uncertain. (p. 77)

In 1792, 275 English colonists established a settlement on the uninhabited island of Bulama, off the coast of Portuguese Guinea, but considered by the British part of Sierra Leone. Though none of the settlers were freed slaves, it was meant as a rival to the Freetown effort, with even more utopian principles. The colony was a complete disaster: the details were ill-conceived and the colonists ill-prepared; in fact, probably none of them had any business being a colonist, except the governor, the Navy Lieutenant Philip Beaver. (Google Books will probably let you read the essay, “Bulama and Sierra Leone” by Deirdre Coleman; she also has a book on the bigger social context. What amounts to a prospectus, An Essay on Colonization, is also available; don't miss the house designs near the end, to which linking is hard without page numbers. As usual, a contemporary history is bizarrely with no preview allowed.) Beaver published his account of the ill-fated colony as African Memoranda. He is careful to distinguish between “ground nuts” (peanuts) and “ground peas” (Bambara ground-nuts, mancara):

Maize, or Indian Corn, and ground nuts, are also consumed in considerable quantities, though the latter is more particularly confined to the Bijuga islands, where there is also a ground pea, peculiar to that cluster, which forms a considerable portion of the nourishment of its natives. (p. 347)

Country peas, these peas resemble those of Europe in shape and colour, but are about twice the size, they grow not in pods, but in the ground, and are propagated in the same manner as potatoes and ground nuts, indeed these are called the ground nuts (mancara) of the Bijugas, as those I procured from Tombaly are called the ground nuts (mancara) of the Mandingos and Naloos; (p. 484)

Richard Francis Burton's remark on the colony is classic Burton:

Here, about 350 miles north of Sierra Leone, was established the unfortunate Bulama colony. Its first and last governor, the redoubtable Captain Philip Beaver, R.N., has left the queerest description of the place and its people. Within eighteen months only six remained of 269 souls, including women and children. In 1792 the island was abandoned, despite its wealth of ground-nuts. (To the Gold Coast for Gold, Vol. I, p. 304)

One suspects that they had more problems than just a lack of peanuts. Of course, Burton found peanuts wherever he went and usually had something interesting to say.

  • In the Camaroons (Vol I):
    p. 132: “ground-nuts or pindar, the pistache of the old French travellers, and now called arachide.”
    p. 255: “I recognized, for the first time, the Njugu ya mawe (Voiandzeia subterranea) [sic] of East Africa, which is there regarded as the tiger-nut of the western regions.”
    p. 321: “We cannot however as yet answer the question whether maize and the arachis be African or purely American growths.”
  • In the Congo (Vol I):
    “The ground-nut or peanut (Arachis hypogæa), the ‘pindar’ of the United States, a word derived from Loango, is eaten roasted, and, as a rule, the people have not learned to express its oil. Proyart (Pinkerton, xvi. 551) gives, probably by misprint, ‘Pinda, which we call Pistachio.’”
  • Vol. II, p. 106: “The staple of commerce is now the nguba, or ground-nut (plural, jinguba), which Merolla calls incumba, …”
    pp. 247-248: “The national dish, ‘chindungwa,‘ would test the mouth of any curry-eater in the world: it is composed of boiled ground-nuts and red peppers in equal proportions, pounded separately in wooden mortars, mixed and squeezed to drain off the oil; the hard mass, flavoured with salt or honey, will keep for weeks.” Hmm. Spicy peanuts. I have not seen a similarly named recipe anywhere else.
  • In Dahome, “Similarly King Gezo stringently prohibited the growth of ground-nuts, except for purely domestic purposes.”
  • To the Gold Coast:
    “But the staple export from Bathurst—in fact, nine-tenths of the total—consists of the arachide, pistache, pea-nut, or ground-nut (Arachis hypogæa). It is the best quality known to West Africa; and, beginning some half a century ago, large quantities are shipped for Marseilles, to assist in making salad-oil. Why this ‘olive-oil’ has not been largely manufactured in England I cannot say. Thus the French have monopolised the traffic of the Gambia; they have five houses, and the three English, Messrs. Brown, Goddard, and Topp, export their purchases in French bottoms to French ports.”
  • In the Lake Regions (Vol. I):
    “… voiandzeia, bajri, beans, and that Arachis hypogæa. The latter is called by the Arabs sumbul el sibal, or “monkey's spikenard;” on the coast, njugu ya nyassa; in Unyamwezi, karanga or k'haranga, and farther west, mayowwa or mwanza. It is the bhuiphali, or “earth-fruit” of India, and the bik'han of Maharatta land, where it is used by cheap confectioners in the place of almonds, whose taste it simulates. Our older Cape travelers term it the pig-nut. The plant extends itself along the surface of the ground, and puts forth its fruit at intervals below. It is sown before the rains, and ripens after six months—in the interior about June. The Arabs fry it with cream that has been slightly salted, and employ it in a variety of rich dishes; it affords them also a favorite oil. The Africans use it principally on journeys.”
    سنبل السبال sunbul al-sibāl sounds like it ought to mean 'mustache spikenard' to me. For names in India, see below.
  • (Vol. II), he proposes that U-Karanga, the land of the Mo-Karanga (a Shona tribe), is 'Peanut-Land', based on words such as Swahili karanga '(roasted) peanut'. The raises some problems, because it seems unlikely that a toponym would include something so recently introduced. See, for instance, the discussion in Portuguese Vocables in Asiatic Languages, s.v. pinda (p. 287; preview; the entire book is in the Internet Archive), or in Plantas úteis da África portuguesa, s.v. jinguba (p. 134). The solution of the Bambara ground-nut does not seem to work, since karanga and related forms only mean 'peanut'.
  • In West Africa (Vol. I):
    pp. 184-185: “The commerce of the place consists principally of the ground-nut (A. hypogæa) … The French at Senegal have drawn away the ground-nut: they have squeezed the orange, and they have left us the peel.”
    p. 240: “The best fodder [for horses at Sierra Leone] is the ground-nut leaf, …”
  • In Zanzibar, “Curious to say, the ground-nut, which extends from Unyamwezi to the Gambia, is rare at Zanzibar.”
  • In Brazil, “ground-nuts (Arachis hypogæa, here known as Mandubi, Mundubi, or Manobi), …”
  • In Paraguay, “The Paraguayan is eminently a vegetarian, … He sickens under a meat diet; hence, to some extent, the terrible losses of the army in the field. … His principal carbonaceous food is oil of ‘mani’—the Arachis, here the succedaneum for the olive.”
  • In translating Lacerda (original), he seems to miss that “jugo (especie de feijão carrapato)” 'a kind of tick bean' is njugu (see above) and comes up with, “a small haricot like the ricinus.”
  • A Yoruba proverb:
    Dolumo ekpa li oron sese, a dzebi oran wo ti.
    The slander of the ground-nut (a hypogæa) against the white field-pea (a climbing bean) falls upon itself: he who is in the wrong must sit quietly apart.”

I rather thought that I would run into a many more peanut-related proverbs, since this is an important part of traditional cultures and similar colonial-era collections have been digitized. But I only came up with a couple. Héli Chatelain's (bits of a biography here: warning, though, it's an .rtf file) Kimbundu Grammar has one:

Nguba kabu boxi, mulonga kabuê ku muxima. (p. 132; similar versions here, here, and here)

A groundnut does not rot in the ground, a word does not vanish in the heart. (tr. Torrend)

An article in JSTOR by Harold M. Bergsma offers one in Tiv:

U too akombo sha abun sha, hanma or kpaa nana ya.

If you remove the protective emblem from the peanut [abun] (patch) anyone can eat the peanuts.

Roy Clive Abraham's Dictionary of Modern Yoruba has a riddle:

a ṣí igbá pìrí a bá igba ẹẏìn

No translation is given, but I think it means 'open the calabash and there's an egg'. The answer is ẹ̀pà 'peanut'. I have gone with the dot-below rather than the line-below here and above, since it is better supported by Unicode fonts. I do happen to have a copy of Yoruba Orthography by Ayọ Bamgboṣe, mentioned in the Wikipedia, and on this he says:

The vowel sounds in the words ọkọ "husband" and ẹsẹ̀ "foot" are usually represented in writing as , . But they are also sometimes represented as , . The latter spelling is preferred by some people because it is easier to underline the letters without destroying the vertical bar. It is also suggested by some that whereas it is easier to omit the dot, you cannot easily omit the bar. This is doubtful speculation. Afterall, the letter i is always dotted on top. Why is it easier to omit a lower dot and not an upper one? It seems to me that the only valid point in favour of the bar is the first one. The dot is destroyed by underlining the letters, but it is the convention most widely used. Whichever spelling one adopts will not matter much. In fact, perhaps it may be better to retain the two as alternatives. (pp. 7-8; snippet)

The peanut was part of the plantation economy. It is listed among the foods for slaves in Mauritius. Likewise in the Western Hemisphere. John Gabriel Stedman, writing of his observations in Surinam on a 1772-1777 military expedition against a revolt by African slaves, says:

There were also nuts of two species, usually called pistachios, and by the negroes pinda; one kind of them resembled small chestnuts, and these grow in bunches on a tree. The others are produced by a shrub, and grow under ground; both have sweet oily kernels: of the last there are two in one pod; they are agreeable eating raw, but still better when roasted in hot aſhes. (Narrative, Vol. II, Chap. 19, p. 76)

and William Blake illustrates “the ground pistachio in its dried state” and “one of the kernels belonging to the latter.”

Michel Étienne Descourtilz likewise illustrates a peanut plant and writes:

Cette plante utile, originaire d'Afrique, a été transportée aux Antilles, au Brésil, à Suriname, au Pérou; (Flore des Antilles, p. 160)

This useful plant, originally from Africa, has been transported to the Antilles, Brazil, Surinam, and Peru;

Hans Sloane, in his Catalogus Plantarum quæ in Insula Jamaica (1696), under “Arachidna Indiæ utriſque tetraphylla” briefly catalogs most of the earlier mentions (covered in the previous post) and glosses it, “Earth Nuts or Pindalls.” (in Botanicus: pp. 72-73, 221; the scans in EEBO aren't much better: 72, 221). In his subsequent Natural History of Jamaica (1707-1725), he is less telegraphic in his botanical summaries and paints a gruesome picture of how the nuts are used:

I ſaw in this Harbour and Bay a Ship come from Guinea, loaded with Blacks to ſell. The Ship was very naſty with ſo many People on Board. I was aſſured that the Negroes feed on Pindals, or Indian Earth-Nuts, a ſort of Pea or Bean producing its Pods under ground. Coming from Guinea hither, they are fed on theſe Nuts, or Indian-Corn boil'd whole twice a day, a eight a Clock, and four in the Afternoon, each having a Pint of Water allow'd him. The Negroes from Angola and Gamba, are not troubled with Worms, but thoſe from the Gold Coaſt very much. (Introduction, p. lxxiii)

XXII. Arachidna Indiæ utriſque tetraphylla. Par. Bat. pr. Cat. p. 72. Mandobi fructus piſonis Mus. Swammerd. p. 15. An Terfez. Ogilb. Africa. p. 22 ?

I found this planted, from Guinea Seed, by Mr. Harriſon, in his Garden in Liguanee.

The Fruit, which are call'd by Seamen Earth-Nuts, are brought from Guinea in the Negroes Ships, to feed the Negroes withal in their Voyage from Guinea to Jamaica.

They are windy and Venereal. Piſo.

If eaten much they cauſe the Head-ach. Marcgr.

An Oil is drawn out of them by Expreſſion, as good as that of Almonds.

If they are beaten and made into a Poulteſs, they take away the pain of Serpents bites. Du Tertre.

This is the Nut Cluſius ſpeaks of, wherewith the Portugueſe Victual their Slaves to be carried from St. Thome to Lisbon. (p. 184)

It is worth nothing that on the same page he mentions, “white Peaſe, ſomething reſembling a Kidney, with a black Eye,” and elsewhere Seſamum (p. 161) and Ocra (p. 222), other food plants brought by African slaves.

Similarly Patrick Browne's Natural History of Jamaica (1756):

ARACHIS I. Tetraphylla, ſiliquas infra terram recondens; ſeminibus oblongis.
Arachidna. Plum. t. 36.
Arachis. Gen. & L. Sp. Pl.
Arachidna utriuſque Indiæ, &c. Slo. Cat. 72.
Sena tetraphylla, ſeu apſi congener folliculos condens, &c. Pk. t. 60. f. 2

Pindar's, or Ground-Nuts.

The ſeeds of this plant are frequently imported to Jamaica, in the ſhips from Africa; and ſometimes cultivated there, though it is but very rarely, and in very ſmall quantities. It thrives beſt in free ſoil, and warm ſituation; and would grow very well in many parts of that iſland, was it regularly cultivated. (p. 295)

The work Hortus Americanus, received by Sloane in 1711, and believed to be by Henry Barham, though published in 1794 as the work of his son, says:


The firſt I ever ſaw of theſe growing was in a negro's plantation, who affirmed, that they grew in great plenty in their country; and they now grow very well in Jamaica. Some call them gub-a-gubs; and others ground-nuts, becauſe the nut of them, of fruit that is to be eaten, grows in the ground: Theſe  are of the bigneſs, colour, and ſhape, of a filbert; they are covered over in the ground with a thin ciſtus or ſkin, which contains two or three of them, and many of the ciſtuſes, with their nuts of kernels, are to be found growing to the root of one plant. When they are ripe and fit to dig up, the ciſtus that contains them is dry, like a withered leaf, which you take off, and then have a kernel, reddiſh without-ſide and very white within, taſting like an almond, and accounted by ſome as good a a piſtachio; they are very nouriſhing, and accounted provocatives. Some ſay, if eaten much, they cauſe the head-ache; but I never knew any ſuch effect, even by thoſe who chiefly lived upon them; for maſters of ſhips often feed negroes with them all their voyage; and I have very often eat of them plentifully, and with pleaſure, and never found that effect. They may be eaten raw, roaſted, or boiled. They oil drawn from them by expreſſion is as good as oil of almonds; and the nut, beaten and applied as a poultice, takes away the ſting of ſcorpions, waſps, or bees. (pp. 145-146)

And Edward Long's History of Jamaica (1774):

133. Pindals, or ground-nuts—Arachis.

The plant, which produces theſe nuts, was firſt brought from Africa.

They reſemble a filbert in colour, ſhape, and ſize. They are found in the earth, environed with a thin ciſta, which contains two or three kernels, and ſeveral of theſe bags are ſeen adhering to the roots of one plant. When ripe, and fit to dig, the covering, in which they are contained, appears dry, like a withered leaf; this being taken off, the kernels, or nuts, are immediately diſcloſed to view, reddiſh on their outſide, but very white within. They have ſomewhat of the almond flavour, but more of the cheſtnut; ſome think them equal to the piſtachia. They are nouriſhing, and often given as food to Negroes on voyages from Guiney, where they paſs under the name of gubagubs. They may be eaten raw, roaſted, or boiled. The plant thrives beſt in a free ſoil, and warm ſituation. In Southern climes vaſt crops of theſe nuts are ſaid to be produced from light, ſandy, and indifferent ſoils. Doctor Brownrigg, of North Carolina, tranſmitted ſome account of the value of theſe nuts to the Royal Society. From a quantity of them, firſt bruiſed, and put into canvas bags, he expreſſed a pure, clear, well-taſted oil, uſeful for the ſame purpoſes, as the oils of olives and almonds.

From ſpecimens both of the ſeeds and oil, produced before the Society, it appeared, that neither of them was ſubject to turn rancid by keeping. The oil in particular, which had been ſent from Carolina eight months before, without any extraordinary care, and had undergone the heat of the ſummer, remained perfectly ſweet and good. A buſhel of them yielded (in Carolina) without heat, one gallon of oil, and with heat, a much larger quantity, but of inferior quality. It has been juſtly ſuppoſed, that, from a ſucceſsful proſecution of this manufacture, the colonies may not only be able to ſupply their own conſumption, in lieu of olive oil annually imported from Europe, but even make it a conſiderable article of their export.

The nuts bruiſed, and applied in form of a poultice, take away inflammations, cauſed by venomous ſtings of bees, ſcorpions, waſps, &c. (Book III, Chap. 8, pp. 788-789)

Some works suppose that peanuts are native to Jamaica, such as Bryan Edwards' History of the West Indies (1793), Robert Charles Dallas' History of the Maroons (1803), Robert Renny's History of Jamaica (1807) or Thomas Coke's History of the West Indies (texts that are obviously copying one another, though I am not sure exactly how).

Ralph Thoresby's Ducatus Leodiensis (1715), in the catalog of plants in his Leeds Wunderkammer, includes:

Arachidna Indiæ utriſq; tetraphylla, Earth-nuts or Pindalls; they are brought from Guinea to feed the Negroes with in their Voyage from thence to Jamaica. (pp. 448-449)

Moving further North, it must be kept in mind that some English terms, and in particular ground-nut, meant a variety of plants. Roy Johnson, in his The Peanut Story, points this out for Colonial descriptions, but then falls into the trap himself, quoting Lawson's History of Carolina for 1701, “Goose, Venison, Raccoon and ground Nuts,” (p. 16) and then claims, “The explorer makes no further mention of peanuts,” which is incorrect, as Lawson later says, “Ground-Nuts, or wild Potato's,” (p. 178) making it clear that Apios is meant. Likewise Johnson's incomplete reference to Gosnold off the coast of Virginia in 1602, who is in fact reported finding, “Ground nuts as big as egges, as good as Potatoes, and 40. on a ſtring, not two ynches vnder ground.” (Smith's Virginia, p. 17; also in Pinkerton)

Bernard Romans's Concise Natural History of East and West Florida (1775) includes:

XII. The ground nut alſo introduced by the Blacks from Guinea, is next after this for its eaſy cultivation, a good kind of oil that does not ſoon go rancid, and the great quantity it yields; but the earth does not produce the ſeed in ſuch plenty as the laſt [Seſamen], and it takes up more room. (p. 131; snippet; in Early American Imprints : Evans, no. 14440 but deep linking does not work, so search by Document Number and go that page)

Writing of North Carolina in his 1789 American Geography, Jedidiah Morse says:

Ground peas run on the ſurface of the earth, and are covered by hand with a light mould, and the pods grow under ground. They are eaten raw or roaſted, and taſte much like a hazelnut. (p. 414 from the 1792 edition, which is identical here; Evans no. 21978)

As mentioned by Long, in late 1769, William Watson wrote a letter to the Royal Society on some peanuts and peanut oil received from Edenton, North Carolina:

It is with this view, that I lay before you ſome pods of a vegetable, and the oil preſſed from their contents. They were ſent from Edenton, in North Carolina, by Mr. George Brownrigg, whoſe brother Dr. Brownrigg, is a worthy member of our ſociety; and are the produce of a plant well known, and much cultivated, in the ſouthern colonies, and in our American ſugar iſlands, where they are called ground nuts, or ground peaſe. They are originally, it is preſumed, of the growth of Africa, and brought from thence by the negroes, who uſe them as food, both raw and roaſted, and are very fond of them. They are therefore cultivated by them in the little parcels of land ſet apart for their uſe by their maſters. By theſe means, this plant has extended itſelf, not only to our warmer American ſettlements, but it is cultivated in Surinam, Braſil, and Peru. (Annual Register, p. 109; Philosophical Transactions, Vol. 59, pp. 379-383, in JSTOR)

In his Notes on the State of Virginia, written in 1781 and revised in 1782, Thomas Jefferson mentions cultivating, “ground nuts (Arachis)” (p. 39 of this later reprint). They appear in his garden book for 1794 as Peendars (preview). A shopping list of George Washington's included, “Half a bushl. or bushel of the Ground Pease, or Pindars as they are called” (snippet). In the 1806 American Gardener's Calendar, Bernard McMahon includes peanuts in the kitchen garden. (p. 581)

Two Southern American English words for 'peanut' are from Bantu languages: pindar and goober. The specific etymologies given are usually those in Lorenzo D. Turner's classic Africanisms in the Gullah Dialect: Kikongo mpinda and Kimbundu ŋguba, respectively. pindar (pindal[l], pinda, pinder, Gullah 'pinda) < -pinda (s. mpinda, pl. zimpinda) was one of the usual Colonial words, as seen above, but is now strictly regional (DARE). Since it was used more generally earlier, it may not have been borrowed in an American context. goober (gouber, Gullah 'guba) < -gúba (s. lunguba, pl. jinguba) is recognized even in the North in goober pea and as Gomer's brother and the name of a candy. In some dialects of Kikongo, nguba (pl. zinguba) also means 'kidney' due to the resemblance. ginguba is 'peanut' in Angolan Portuguese. Bosman's gobbe-gobbes is the same as guba, as noted above and discussed in American Notes and Queries for 5 Jan, 1889 (p. 120; snippet; entire volume in the Internet Archive). So too gubagubs in Jamaica. Apparently gobo-gobo is used in the Saramaccan creole of Suriname.

Peanut itself is a comparatively recent word. OED1 finds it in 1835's A Winter in the West : By a New-Yorker by Charles Fenno Hoffman (who the Wikipedia tells us edited The New-York Book of Poetry when it first attributed an iconic image to a Professor of Hebrew from Columbia). OED2 pushes it back to 1807 in Washington Irving's Salmagundi, in a piece entitled, “The Stranger at Home; or a Tour of Broadway,” by Jeremy Cockloft, The Younger, a fictitious Englishman, visiting The Battery. Salmagundi, which is named after a salad with everything, was issued in periodical form, containing satirical pieces by Irving and his brother-in-law James Kirke Paulding and poetry by Washington's brother William, making it something of an intellectual predecessor of The New Yorker. The 2007 draft update for OED3 finds an earlier 1802 Washington Irving letter under the name of Jonathan Oldstyle published in 1 Dec. The Morning Chronicle on seeing a performance of Colman the Younger's Battle of Hexham and amusing himself “with eating peanuts.” Another letter published the following month complains about eating in the theater and in particular, “the cracking of nuts.” The writer of a letter to the editor in the April, 1811 The Mirror of Taste and Dramatic Censor, the most important theatrical journal of its time, see his chances with a rich widow take a bad turn “because I was convicted of eating pea-nuts, while Othello was smothering Desdemona.” But the earliest reference in the current OED entry is Henry Wansey's An Excursion to the United States of North America in the Summer of 1794 in a journal entry dated 3 Jul, 1796:

I brought from the United States with me … Of nuts, hiccory and chinquopin, or pea nuts. The latter, I find, is very common in China, as a native Chineſe told me, when dining at my houſe, with two gentlemen of Lord Macartney's ſuite, ſome of thoſe nuts being on the table. (p. 250; in GDZ, but since I cannot figure out how to deep link to a page, pick 268 : 250)

The author has confused chincapin, the dwarf chestnut, with peanut, but it is not clear which he really had.

The interesting thing is, the peanut is very common in China, and surprisingly early, too. It is interesting to review the history of trying to ascertain just how early.

The ordinary word for 'peanut' is 花生 hua1sheng1 (Cantonese faa1sang1), short for 落花生 luo4hua1sheng1 'falling flower-born nut'. It is also known as 香豆 xiang1dou4 'fragrant nut' and 地豆 di4dou4 'ground nut'. As mentioned in the potato post, 土豆 tu3dou4 (Cant. tou2dau6) 'earth nut' is 'potato' on the mainland, but 'peanut' in Taiwan. In the North, it is called 長生果 chang2sheng1guo3 'long-life nut' or 千歲子 qian1sui4zi0 'thousand-year seed'. The area paper for China on the University of Georgia peanut site includes “Wuhuaguo (flowerless nut),” but I think 無花果 wu2hua1guo3 is 'fig' in most of the country. For this discussion, it is mostly the earlier term 落花生 luo4hua1sheng1 that matters.

According to Emil Bretschneider's “Early European Researches into the Flora of China” (p. 96), the first European botanist to mention peanuts in China was Linnaeus' student Pehr Osbeck, in his journal entry for Oct. 27, 1751 (Vol. I,  p. 377 of the English translation; the Swedish does not seem to be online). The Chinese name he gives is fy shin, along the lines of Cantonese 花生  faa1sang1.

By way of baseline for botanical historians at the turn of the 20th century, Alphonse de Candolle, writing in 1883 after a South American origin had been pretty firmly established (see above), rejected the 1818 theory of Robert Brown that peanuts came to Africa from China by way of India (see here, from an appendix sometimes separately reprinted as Botany of Congo; note that that appendix is missing from the full view scan of the Narrative). As for when peanuts arrived in China, he deferred to Bretschneier, on which more presently (French; English). Edward Lewis Sturtevant, in his 1890 article “The History of Garden Vegetables” (JSTOR), in a couple pages on peanut, does not mention China, even to give a Chinese name. The posthumous (1919) Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World only observes, “In China, especially in Kwangtung, peanuts are grown in large quantities and their consumption by the people is very great.” (p. 60; online)

In “Study and Value of Chinese Botanical Works” (1871), Bretschneider concludes (p. 224) that peanuts were introduced to China in the last century (that is, the 18th), since they do not appear in the Ming 本草綱目 ben3cao3 gang1mu4 'Compendium of Materia Medica'. They are listed in the 1848 植物名實圖考 zhi2 wu4 ming2 shi2 tu2 kao3 'Illustrated Examination of Botanical Names' (Chap. XXXI) under the names 落花生 luo4hua1sheng1 and 番豆 fan1dou4 'foreign bean'. And in the descriptive part (Chap. XVI) it says that the peanut is not indigenous, but comes by way of the sea from the Southern countries and was introduced to Canton in the Song or Yuan dynasty, at which time it was called 地豆 di4dou4. Bretschneider believes that this is correct on the route, but not the time.

In 1906, Berthold Laufer responded with “Notes on the introduction of the ground-nut into China” (pp. 259-262). He found much earlier references in 本草綱目拾遺 ben3cao3 gang1mu4 shi2 yi2 'Omissions in the BenCao GangMu' (1765).

In 1936-37, L. Carrington Goodrich wrote “Early notices of the peanut in China” (snippet). His paper primarily aimed to amplify Laufer's references, in particular since they were published in a form that did not permit Chinese characters.

Now, the 本草綱目拾遺 is available online; for instance, a PDF scan of a woodblock edition can be downloaded from here. The entry that Laufer refers to and Goodrich translates begins on p. 241, s.v. 落花生油 luo4hua1sheng1you2 'peanut oil'. The most significant quotation, and the earliest, is the sixth, which reads:


wan4li4 xian1ju1 xian4 zhi4 luo4hua1sheng1 yuan2 chu1 fu2jian4 jin4 de2 qi2 zhong4 zhi2 zhi1.

Wanli Xianju County Chronicle: Peanut originally came from Fujian; recently seeds were obtained and planted here.

Laufer concludes that by the time this was published in the Wanli period (1573-1620, and 1608/9 specifically), peanuts had been brought from Fujian province north to Xianju in Zhejiang province, and that they must have been brought there by Chinese sailors from the Malay Archipelago. Goodrich notes that he was unable to find the quotation in the 1838 reprint of the Chronicle, but has not seen the earlier edition.

Goodrich concludes with the story of the death of the editor of vernacular literature Jin Shengtan (金聖歎; Giles biography), who famously joked before being beheaded for treason in 1662. In some versions of the story, his dying letter to his son includes:

豆腐乾與花生米同嚼,有火腿味。 (as given in Chinese Wikipedia)

dou4fu0 gan1 yu3 hua1sheng1 mi3 tong2 jiao2, you3 huo3tui3 wei4.

Peanuts and dried bean curd together taste just like ham. (Since the translation given by Goodrich is a little bit different, I assume his Chinese text was too. There seem to be several different versions of the will, including ones without any peanut recipe.)

In 1955, Ping-Ti Ho wrote “The Introduction of American Food Plants into China” (JSTOR). He locates an earlier reference in a treatise on cultivating taro, 種芋法 zhong3 yu4 fa3 'principles of planting taro', by the 16th century scholar Huang Xingzeng (黄省曾) of Suzhou.

又有皮黃肉白,甘美可食,莖葉如扁豆而細,謂之香芋。又有引蔓開花,花落即生,名之曰落花生。皆嘉定有之。(from here, whose page reference matches Ho's, with traditional characters restored)

you4 you3 pi2 huang2 rou4 bai2, gan1 mei3 ke3 shi2, jing1 ye4 ru2 bian3dou4 er2 xi4, wei4 zhi1 xiang1yu4. you4 you3 yin3 man4 kai1 hua1, hua1 luo4 ji2 sheng1, ming2 zhi1 yue1 luo4hau1sheng1. jie1 jia1ding4 you3 zhi1.

There is another [kind of tuber] whose skin is yellow and whose flesh is white. It is delicious and highly edible. Its stem and leaves are like those of the broad bean but slimmer. It is called xiang-yu (fragrant taro). There is yet another kind whose flowers are on the vinelike stem. After the flowers fall, [the pods] begin to develop [underground]. It is called luo-hua-sheng. Both are produced in Jiading county (near Shanghai). (tr. Ho)

Ho also reports that the 1538 edition of the Changshu County Record 常熟县志 chang2shu2 xian4zhi4 in Jiangsu province lists peanut as a local product.

Google managed to capture an updated paper on a site that does not seem to respond any more. It is by 王宝卿 Wang Baoqing and titled “花生的传入、传播及其影响研究 hua1sheng1 de0 chuan2ru4, chuan2bo1 ji2qi2 ying3xiang3 yan2jiu1 Peanut: Its introduction, spread, and influences.” It includes a quote from the same 常熟县志 chang2shu2 xian4zhi4 'Changshu County Record' for 1503 (I assume this is an earlier entry from the same place and not a question of dating of the same record):


luo4hua1sheng1, san1yue4 zai1, yin3 man4 bu4 shen2 chang2. su2 yun2 hua1 luo4 zai4 di4, er2 zi3 sheng1 tu3 zhong1, gu4 ming2. shuang1 hou4 zhu3shu2 ke3 shi2, wei4 shen4 xiang1 mei3.

Peanuts, planted in March, yield not very long vines. People say the vine falls on the ground, and seeds grow in the earth, hence the name. After the frost it can be boiled and eaten. The taste is very fragrant and pleasing.

Since the Portuguese did not arrive in Canton until 1516, that would definitely settle that Chinese merchants brought it back from contact with them somewhere in the South Seas. Wang therefore outlines Ming naval technology. But it is still not early enough to require that the Chinese brought it all the way from South America themselves.

The complementary line of attack is archeology. And since the 1960's there has been a steady stream of discoveries that initially seem to point to peanut remains in Chinese archeological sites. Unfortunately, none of them have been as unequivocal as the Peruvian evidence: either the stratification isn't clean or the fossils might really be soybeans. (For a summary, see Frederick Simoons' Food in China: A Cultural and Historical Inquiry, pp. 280-281.) The first two such sites were in fact Neolithic: Qianshanyang (錢山漾) in Zhejiang province and Paomaling (跑馬嶺) in Jiangxi province. On problems with these early results, see this paper and this one. The second one is additionally interesting for a discussion of how various vernacular names get reused for new plants; it mentions the Bambara ground-nut to peanut case. But as it points out, textual evidence is not relevant for the Chinese peanut, since it indicates them showing up in the 16th century. The latest of these finds seems to be a news report from Oct. 10, 2007. I have not found it on English language news sites, but there is a piece from xinhuanet and a somewhat longer one from (with a photo), plus loads of similar ones. The report tells of fossilized peanuts from 2100 years B.P. at the Han Dynasty site of Hanyangling (漢陽陵) in Shaanxi province. The director, Wang Baoping (王保平) is quoted as saying that photos by Louis Mazzatenta in a National Geographic piece (maybe this one) from an excavation in the 1990's excited the interest of an unnamed peanut (and maize) expert from the University of Oregon, who has now confirmed that these are peanuts. I will get back to this story below.

In Japanese, 落花生 is borrowed straight as rakkasei, or 'peanut' is 南京豆 nankin-mame 'Nanjing bean'.

In 1790, João de Loureiro proposed (unsuccessfully) a new species, Arachis asiatica (Flora Cochinchinensis, p. 522), based on a plant in Cochinchina named cây đậu phụng. cây is 'plant' and đậu phụng is a dialectal word for 'peanut'. The more standard Vietnamese word is lạc, which the Wikipedia says is short for lạc hoa sinh (落花生).

The Spanish carried the peanut to the Philippines and the Tagalog word for 'peanut' is mani. Interestingly enough, manila nut is a Colonial era English expression for 'peanut'.

In Indonesian and Malay, 'peanut' is kacang tanah 'earth bean'. Likewise Burmese မ္ရေပဲ mye pai and Khmer សណ្ដែកដី sandaek dei. In Thai, it is ถั่วลิสง tùa-lí-sŏng. ถั่ว tùa is 'bean', but sometimes used alone for 'peanut'; apparently ลิสง lí-sŏng and the similar sounding ยี่สง yêe-sŏng are also used alone to mean 'peanut'. Jean-Baptiste Pallegoix mentions peanuts in Chanthaburi in 1854 (Description du Royame Thai, p. 73). น้ำจิ้มถั่ว náam jîm tùa 'peanut sauce', particularly for satay dishes originating in Indonesia, is one of several foods that have been significantly reinvented in American Thai cooking (compare here and here, for instance, for the consistency of the peanuts used).

The terms for 'peanut' in the Indian subcontinent, as elsewhere, tend to involve the plant's habit:

  • Hindi मूंगफली mūṃg-phalī 'mung-bean pod', Gujarati મગફળી magaphaḷī.
  • Bengali মাটকলাই māṭa-kalāi 'earth bean'.
  • Marathi भुईमूग bhuī-mūga 'ground mung-bean'.
  • Tamil நிலக்கடலை nila-k-kaṭalai 'ground chickpea', Malayalam നിലക്കടല nilakkaṭala.
  • Tamil வேர்க்கடலை vēr-k-kaṭalai 'root chickpea', Telugu వేరుసెనగ vēru-senaga.
  • Kannada ಕಡಲೇಕಾಯಿ kaḍalē-kāyi 'chickpea pod'.

Several forms explicitly declare foreign origins in a way that mostly agrees with the expected geography:

  • Hindi चीनाबादाम cīnā-badāma 'China almond', Bengali চিনাবাদাম cinābādāma. (Although one dictionary says < Tamil சின்ன ciṉṉa small.)
  • Tamil மணிலாக்கொட்டை maṇilā-k-koṭṭai 'Manila nut', மனிலாப்பயறு maṉilā-p-payaṟu 'Manila bean'.
  • Marathi विलायती मूग vilāyatī mūga 'Foreign (English) mung-bean'.
  • Hindi मोसंबी चणा mosaṃbī caṇā 'Mozambique chickpea' referred to Bambara ground-nut in Raj times, and might conceivably have also covered peanut at some earlier time.

The Sinhala රටකජු raṭa-kaju 'foreign cashew' is interesting because cashews were also brought from South America by the Portuguese: cajú is a Tupi word, from which we also get the English; presumably both come through Portuguese acajú. There are, of course, many more similar combinations in related languages and dialects: see here, here, here and here, for instance. I am not sure what Buchanan-Hamilton is referring to here with “Sunicai.” The Sanskrit words listed as not Classical, so they aren't in any of the usual dictionaries. mandapi is presumably borrowed from Portguese mundubi from one of the Tupi-Guaraní words. buchanaka is evidently भूचणक bhū-caṇaka 'earth chickpea', modeled after one of the modern language forms, and according to Watt the invention of Birdwood for Catalogue of the Economic Products of Bombay (1865).

Search finds an LDS website with two closely related papers by a Mormon anthropologist that aim to provide philological evidence for Pre-Columbian intercontinental voyages conveying foodstuffs, which are traditionally supported by scripture (e.g. 1 Nephi 18:6). The specific peanut cases given are, “Sanskrit, andapi; in Hindi, munghali; and in Gujarati, mandavi.” I suppose the first might be a typo for mandapi; it and mandavi probably do come from South America, but a simpler explanation might be that they were brought with the nut by the Portuguese. Assuming the second is mungphali, it does not look much like the others and has a transparent native etymology. The peanut may someday prove to be a key to Pre-Columbian contact between Asia and America, but it will most likely be due to definitive Chinese archeological evidence. On which point, note that the papers cite “Carl L. Johannessen, emeritus professor of geography at the University of Oregon” and that Professor Johannessen's CV lists research on peanut origins in Asia funded by a “Mormon Studies Grant.” It seems fairly certain that he is the unnamed peanut experts of the Chinese news reports. Of course, the the scientific details aren't given here and I am not qualified to judge them if they were.

For creative mining of word lists to support a revisionist history of the Americas, it is hard to beat Africa and the Discovery of America, by Leo Wiener (no Wikipedia page), the first Professor of Slavic Languages and Literature at Harvard, father (and teacher until high school) of Norbert, boyhood friend of Zamenhof, early historian of Yiddish (Pater Noster translation collectors further appreciate his attempt to correct the Mithridates version), translator of Tolstoy, and like him a vegetarian teetotaler. The thesis is that everything traditionally associated with the Pre-Columbian civilizations comes from Africa, either not arriving until it was brought with slaves (invalidating the early explorer's claims) or due to earlier voyages (invalidating only their priority). Devastating reviews can be found in JSTOR. Google Books only has snippets, but all three volumes are in the Internet Archive. Earlier, similar, works aimed to prove (1) that the Germanic peoples did not have any real laws before the Romans, and all the Germanic words that deal with such concepts are from Latin and (2) that German results from a collision of Latin and Arabic (and standard Gothic is pretty much a hoax). Ten pages of peanut related material begins on page 251 of the first volume, in the “Bread Roots” chapter. The section covers many of the same texts as this pair of posts, but interprets them in a whole new way. For instance, حب العزيز ḥabb al-ʿazīz Cyperus esculentus (Lane), apparently 'mighty seed', is, via حب عزيز ḥabʿazīz, from Chinese lo hwa sheng (落花生 luo1hua1sheng1), which gave لعزنخ laʿazang, but نخ was misread as يز. And this is corrupted to حب اللذيذ ḥabulladzīdz (ḥabb al-laḏīḏ 'delicious nut'), shorted to dzīdz, and gives African words like Wolof gerte. And so on. Another negative review, alluding to a quip by Renan, says, “It has been said that with a little good-will one can find anything in the Arabic lexicon. Professor Wiener has a great deal of good-will.” The botany is also creative, seeing a peanut shell in Mattioli's description of Trasi (again usually Cyperus esculentus, as mentioned in the previous post. although to be fair the Chinese also saw a resemblance):

Sunt igitur Traſi radiculæ figura, ac forma perſimiles ſericinis erucis, quæ feruenti balneo elixæ contrahuntur, dum ſerica ſtamina inde mulieres conglomerant. (Commentarii, s.v. Ornithogalum: same text in the 1554 and 1562 editions as the 1558 that Wiener quotes; different text in the 1598 and 1565 to which Wiener later refers)

There is therefore a picture of the rootlets of Trasi, and the shape is similar to silk cocoons, which wrinkle when boiled in a boiling bath, while women roll up the silk threads from them.

A number of factors contributed to peanut's success in America, such as scarcity and overseas supply disruption in wartime, mechanization and industrialization, immigrant street vendors and modern advertising. These are all covered thoroughly in Andrew F. Smith's Peanuts : The Illustrious History of the Goober Pea. But one contribution that is within the scope of this blog is that of the same vegetarian food faddists that created modern breakfast cereals. Like Jin Shengtan, 19th century vegetarians looked to nuts as one of the bases for constructing meat substitutes. In his 1859 Vegetable Diet, William Andrus Alcott (who was Louisa May Alcott's father's cousin, not her father as Smith writes) favors chestnuts, but mentions peanuts. In 1898, John Harvey Kellogg formed the Sanitas Nut Food Company to market his vegetarian food products, which included Nuttose, a mixture of milled peanuts and flour. Beard's 1902 Natural, Hygienic & Humane Diet and  Black's 1908 Manual of Vegetarian Cookery include Nuttose recipes. The latter furthermore has ads for peanut butter. Ella Eaton Kellogg, John Harvey's wife, wrote Science in the Kitchen in 1893 and it mentions making bread from peanuts. More interestingly, her 1904 Healthful Cookery, which naturally mentioned Nuttose, includes a number of recipes using peanut butter. M. L. R. Sharpe's 1908 Golden Rule Cook Book, one of the most popular vegetarian cookbooks of the early 20th century, includes a recipe for peanut butter sandwiches. Vegetarians of a certain age will remember Diet for a Small Planet's “protein complementary” combination of peanut butter and whole wheat bread. Which raises the question, who invented peanut butter?

  • The person who is most famous for not inventing peanut butter is probably George Washington Carver. The list of peanut by-products at the Carver National Monument includes peanut butter. Some list of achievements by African-American list Carver inventing peanut butter, for instance in 1896 or 1900. Carver was a tireless promoter of peanuts, but they weren't his main interest when he joined the Tuskegee Institute in 1896 and he never actually claimed to have invented many of the products he demonstrated. The patents Carver did file (1,522,176, 1,541,478, 1,632,365) are unrelated, for cosmetics and paints. All of which has been clarified before, particularly during the Carter administration when peanuts were topical. So now it's like one of those QI answers that gets negative points.
  • Kellogg did claim to have invented peanut butter in 1893. In 1895, he obtained US Patent 580,787, Process for Preparing Nutmeal, which sounds like it might make peanut butter. But what it really makes is not much mealier than what we'd recognize as peanut butter.
  • Joseph Lambert was working for Kellogg in 1894 when he was experimenting with nut butters and claimed to be the first to make peanut butter. He obtained US Patent 625,400 Mill for Making Nut-Butter and had 625,394 Nut-Mill assigned to him. He published Guide for Nut Cookery, written by his wife Almeda, who was Ella's protégée, which has the history of various nuts, including peanuts, instructions for making nut meals and butters (Joseph was selling nut mills), and recipes calling for them, such as a mock oyster soup made with peanut milk and nut cutlets.
  • In 1890, an unnamed Saint Louis physician began making peanut butter for people with poor teeth (here or here) or he encourages George H. Bayle, the owner of a food products company, to make it (here).
  • In other versions, the physician is named Ambrose W. Straub and he made it in 1880 (here). Straub obtained patent 721,651 Mill for Grinding Peanuts for Butter in 1903. He licensed the rights to Bayle (here) and concessionaire C. H. Sumner sold peanut butter at the 1904 Saint Louis World's Fair (here). In addition to problems with the dates, the patent says that Straub lived in Philadelphia, as does an earlier one from 1873.
  • Smith says that New York historian Eleanor Rosakranse tracked down a Rose Davis of Alligerville, New York, who started grinding peanuts into peanut butter in the 1840s after seeing something similar in Cuba.
  • In 1884, Marcellus Gilmore Edson of Montreal obtained US Patent 306,727 for Manufacture of Peanut-Candy. His invention was simply to heat the grinding surfaces before adding the hot roasted nuts. The peanut paste that results when cooled, in addition to making candy when mixed one-to-seven with sugar, does have the consistency of butter.

There is certainly enough peanut material for more posts at some point. Quotation dictionaries like to record that H. L. Mencken said “That if one begins eating peanuts one cannot stop.” And this has been picked up by food writers and television hosts: I am sure I remember Alton Brown saying it on a peanut show. But, like half of what Shakespeare famously wrote, the context significantly alters the meaning. In 1920, Mencken and George Jean Nathan wrote The American Credo: A Contribution Toward the Interpretation of the National Mind, and indeed that aphorism is §316. However, this book starts with a hundred page preface, signed by both but written by Mencken, arguing against the blind acceptance of ready-made opinions. Moreover, a further sampling will give a better sense of the work:

§323 That when Washington crossed the Delaware, he stood up in the bow of the boat holding aloft a large American flag.

§230 That many soldiers' lives have been saved in battle by bullets lodging in Bibles which they have carried in their breast pockets.

§313 That whenever there is a funeral in an Irish family the mourners all get drunk and proceed to assault one another with clubs.

§212 That an Italian puts garlic in everything he eats, including coffee.

§22 That all male negroes can sing.

Some of them are just silly and others are more dangerous, but I believe a point of the work is that it is a slippery slope once one believes accepted wisdom uncritically.