The origin of…Peanut

“Nothing takes the taste out of peanut butter quite like unrequited love.” Charlie Brown


The peanut, or arachis hypogaea, is a member of the legume (or bean) family and is not, like pecans and cashew nuts, a tree nut. They grow underground and were thus previously called earthnut or ground nut. Why the word peanut became popular is not known.
The peanut plant probably comes from Peru or Brazil. European explorers took the peanuts back to Spain and Portugal, from where they spread to Asia and Africa and later on North-America (in the 1700´s). In Africa and Asia peanuts are widely used in dishes, like maafe in Mali and gado-gado in Indonesia.
In America the peanut was seen as food for livestock and the poor. But during the Civil War both Union and Confederate soldiers used them for food because of their high nutritious values. The Union soldiers liked them so much they brought them back to their northern homes.
Around 1890 peanut butter was invented in St. Louis by a physician for people with poor teeth who cold not chew. John Harvey Kellogg patented his preparation of peanut butter in 1895. Nowadays, the peanut butter industry account for USD 850 million in sales annually.

In 1996 Plumpy´nut was invented as a treatment for emergency malnutrition cases. It is a ready-to-eat fortified peanut butter and contains several vitamins and minerals, fats and proteins and is the last resort for many children who are severely malnourished.

The famous dog Snoopy appears in the comic strip Peanuts, by Charles Schulz. It ran from 1950 to 2000 and has been the most popular and influential comic strip in history. It has appeared in more than 2,600 newspapers in 75 countries and has been translated into 21 languages. The main character of Peanuts is Charlie Brown, an unsecure and nervous boy who, despite failing in almost everything he does, keeps on trying. He can’t kick a football, win a baseball game or fly a kite, but continues to try.

1. a nut with a thin shell that grows under the ground and that can be eaten
2. an insignificant or tiny person
3. plural : a trifling amount (source: Merriam Webster).

English peanut comes from the words pea and nut.
Dutch pinda originates from Papiamentu pinda, which comes from Congolese mpinda. People with Dutch and Indonesian roots are called pinda´s, coming from either inda-pinda-poepchinees (when Chinese came to the Netherlands they sold peanuts on the streets to make money and were called inda-pinda-poepchinees) or from the color of their skin.
Spanish cacahuete finds its origins in Náhuatl tlalcacahuatl, from the words tlalli, earth ground, and cacahuatl, cacao (see also my post on chocolate).
Italian aràchide comes from Latin aràchis, peanut.

Peanut in other languages:
Dutch: pinda
Spanish: el cacahuete
Italian: l’aràchide (m)


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