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It’s Not Worth Peanuts

You might know that peanuts are not nuts but real legumes. But did you know that they were consumed in the Americas as far back as 1500 B.C.? The Incas knew them as Inchik, the Mexicans as Cacahuates, and the Caribbeans as Mani.

They ate them raw, toasted, grounded (like peanut butter) and mixed with honey like a marzipan. They served them cold, sprinkling it or in a creamy form, used for sauces like Mole or to thicken soups or drinks.

Columbus himself was the first to leave a reference in his diary of his first trip to the Caribbean islands, where he says that the indigenous women had special foods, “gonça avellanada, es decir, maní.” i.e. a budding nut, mani.

So, if the peanut was known throughout the Americas, why wasn’t it known in the United States until the 1700s? There is a theory about this. Spain spread the use of peanuts throughout the world, and Portugal took it to Africa. Vanessa Villegas’ research says that the historians point out that slaves from Africa were the ones to bring peanuts to the United States around 1700. But she adds that because peanut history was associated with the least privileged in the society, in particular the Afro-descendants, it was deemed unimportant and belittled by the Anglo population. Now you know where the expression “not worth peanuts” comes from.

Washington Carver did invent a variety of recipes for its use in order to promote peanut farming, but none became commercially successful. Marcellus Gilmore Edson, a Canadian, invented the peanut paste which then became the popular peanut butter patented in 1895 by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg. The general population in the United States then welcomed it. In any case, the popularity of peanut, inchik, cacahuate and mani in Latin America is obvious in the attached video link:


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