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Wild Nutritive Plants.

of the incredible is nowhere stronger than in the mind of the socalled savage, who trembles all his life before the creations of his own imagination. A choice was offered to our species; we were free either to become slaves in an organized society, but to be free from the terrors of imagination, or, disencumbered of all social bonds, to range as lords over wide hunting-grounds, but to be scared by every frivolous and ugly dream, and to remain the prey of a childish fear of spectres.



WHEN first considering the primitive development of the human race, we regarded it as self-evident that the scene of its first growth must have been in a region where daily food is freely offered for the mere trouble of taking it. This is the case only in the tropics, so that it was impossible to conceive that sacred garden in which our first parents were as yet free from the cares of providing sustenance, except as adorned with the feathered crowns of palm trees. There are even now small communities which are allowed to reap where they have not sown, and to gather where they have not planted. In the region of the sago palm in the Sea of Banda, Malays and Papuans find supplies of food always awaiting them. In many coral groups of the South Seas and the Indian Ocean, the meals throughout the whole course of the year consist only of cocoa-nuts, or, at most, fishing occasionally supplies a change. The whole family of palms in general is the readiest foster-mother of mankind. Among the trees cultivated by the natives in the tropical parts of South America, is the Guilelma speciosa, which bears the pupunhas, resembling the apricot or the egg-plum. It must have been cultivated from time immemorial, and propagated by grafts, as the originally hard stone has been reduced to fibres or entirely changed into pulp. The forests on the Amazon are like a neglected orchard, in which the Brazilian chestnut (Bertholletia excelsa) ripens its almond-like seeds, and the cocoa, the pine-apple, the Sapodilla plum (Achras sapota), the Avocado pear (Persea,

1 Martius, Ethnographie.

gratissima) grow wild, as well as many berries, and plum and cherry-like fruits; the Miriti (Mauritia flexuosa) also furnishes palm wine and food. Here, then, food is constantly supplied, and in abundant variety. In Central Africa the doom palm. (Hyphaena thebaica), differing from all other palm trees in having a branched stem, annually bears above two hundred nutritious nuts as large as oranges.3 By the side of this palm, the date, in the oases of the Sahara, affords sustenance not only to the rider but also to his horse. It is true that it no longer grows wild anywhere, and to secure a harvest the blossoms of the male tree must be artificially placed in connection with those of the female plant.

The bread-fruit tree has been transplanted by the Polynesians from its home in the Moluccas and the Philippines, across the South Seas. During eight successive months of the year it ripens fruits as large as melons, which, when buried in the earth, may be preserved in an edible condition during the other four months. This latter custom is however not universal, for the younger Pritchard observes, that the yams ripen in the six months during which the bread-fruit is failing or altogether absent; yams, however, certainly presuppose some degree of cultivation. According to J. R. Foster's calculation, twenty-seven bread-fruit trees, which would about cover an English acre with their shade, are sufficient for the support, during the eight months of fruit-bearing, of from ten to twelve people. If we knew with certainty the original. habitat of the pisang or plantain, which three times a year bears from seventy to eighty pounds of fruit in clusters, and according to an often-cited calculation of A. von Humboldt, yields on an equal surface of ground fifty times as much nourishment as wheat, we should be inclined to believe that the first appearance of our race was under the picturesque shade of the tattered oar-like leaves of the Musaceæ. Outside the tropics, however, there are also dense thickets of trees, showering edible and easily preserved fruits on men who shun labour. The Mezquite forests in North

2 Martius and P. Gumilla, Orinoco.

3 Sir Samuel Baker in the Proceedings of the Royal Geogr. Society. 1866.

4 Charles Martins, From Spitzbergen to the Sahara.

• Polynesian Reminiscences.


• Bemerkungen auf einer Reise um das Welt. 1783.


America cover the ground to the depth of an inch with fallen pods, which are not only greedily devoured by horses and mules, but from which an acid beverage is prepared for man's consumption, while in Mexico the beans are said to be ground and baked into bread. It is at any rate certain that these seeds of the Algarrobia or Prosopis glandulosa are carefully packed in baskets and stored by the Mohave tribes on the Western Colorado, to serve as a resource in case of the failure of other and more favoured fruits. Pods like those of these acacias of the dry western parts of North America, are produced in the Pampas of La Plata by the Prosopis horrida. The present inhabitants call the fruit St. John's bread (algarroba), but except in name it has nothing in common with the pods of the Ceratonia siliqua of the south of Europe. The fruit is picked up twice a year by the Abipones, and eaten either raw or mixed with water, and converted by fermentation into a vinous beverage.8

Wild Nutritive Plants.

Although the supplies of food hitherto enumerated belong chiefly to the plains, the mountain sides are not totally destitute. In the Cordilleras of Chili the araucarias, which there take the place of our conifers, produce spherical fruits, which are as large as a man's head, and which contain from two to three hundred nuts, each of which is twice the size of an almond, and when roasted fresh resembles a chestnut in flavour. As two hundred of these nuts are sufficient for a day's food for the greatest eater, eighteen araucarias are sufficient for a year's sustenance.9 But we need not go to the Andes of Antuco for such instances. The pine forests of Southern Europe might also be cited; nay, even in the stone-pine of our mountains, which rarely grows at an altitude of less than four thousand feet, we ourselves possess a tree yielding food and growing wild. The fact may be mentioned here that the potato was found wild in the highlands of Chili; and that in Peru the quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa) grows at an altitude equal to Mont Blanc; without this plant it is hard to believe that a dense population on Lake Titicaca could have built the famous temple dedicated to the worship of the sun.

7 Möllhausen, Tagebuch.

Dobrizhoffer, Geschichte der Abiponer. Pöppig, Reisen.

Although the native habitats of our cereals are still unknown, there yet exist in boggy marshes wild graniferous plants which have hitherto escaped cultivation. In North America the natives collected, and still collect, the ears of the marsh millet (Zizania aquatica). The banks of the pools, back-waters, and igarapes (side streams), of the Rio Negro in Brazil are covered with wild rice (Oryza subulata), the ripe grains of which the colonist as he passes in his boat has only to strip off." Quite recently Schweinfurth 12 has mentioned another species of rice (Oryza punctata), which at the rainy season makes its appearance in all the pools in the Bongo country, in the neighbourhood of the Gazelle river, and which, though not collected by the negroes of that district, is considered a pleasant article of food by the Baggara Arabs and also at Darfur. Even the arid plains of Kalahari produce many edible roots, bulbs, beans, juicy fruits, and the esculent maguli, the milky juice of which allays thirst.13

The examples given by no means exhaust the list of the esculent plants of the desert. Those who have studied the subject will be able to add many others, or some will even be surprised that we have overlooked important instances. Yet enough has been said for our purpose. Nor is our enumeration of different sorts of food intended to uphold the idea that man in his earliest stages of development depended solely on the vegetable kingdom for his nutriment, and, like Brahmins and Buddhists, passed over the animal kingdom with holy awe. Vegetable products claim. precedence because man is fitted for a vegetable diet, both by his dentition and digestive system, so that hunger must have driven him to change his mode of nourishment. But even animals which are classed among graminivora by comparative anatomists do not adhere rigidly to the diet allotted to them. As the apes of the New World are exactly analogous to man in dental structure, which is the point with which we are here primarily concerned, it is a significant fact that a similar abnormal mode of


10 The Acclimatization Society of Berlin has since 1870 undertaken the cultivation of Indian rice, and, as it appears, successfully. Ausland, 1872.

11 Von Martius, Ethnographie, vol. i. p. 679.

12 Im Herzen von Afrika.

13 Chapman's Travels into the Interior of South Africa, vol. ii. p. 297. 1868.


subsistence has been observed in them also. Thus, according to Otto Kersten's 14 description, baboons gather leaves and leaf buds, blossoms and half-ripe fruit, dig up bulbs and roots, but also pursue such animals as they are able to overpower. They turn over stones in order to find the insects on the lower side. Pupæ of ants and butterflies, larvæ of beetles, smooth-skinned caterpillars, flies, and spiders are welcome prey. They are also most inveterate birds-nesters, devouring the eggs and nestlings of any but the largest birds; nay, they catch the fledglings and seize mice, devouring them with manifest satisfaction. Not unlike the description of these baboons are the remarks of Alfred Lortsch on the Australians, who not only eat marsupials, but all sorts of birds, even carrion kites, eels, fish of every kind, bats, flying foxes, frogs, lizards, snakes, and worms. 15 We have lately seen a similar list given by Schweinfurth, who says of the Bongo or Dor negroes, that they allow no animal food, with the exception of dogs and men, to escape them; they take rats, snakes, carrion kites, hyænas, fat land scorpions, winged ants, and caterpillars. 16

F. Appun says of the Indians of British Guiana, that "Game and fish constitute their chief food, but they do not despise rats. monkeys, alligators, frogs, worms, caterpillars, ants, larvæ, and beetles." 17 The disgust caused by any article of consumption is merely conventional, or arises from fear of the unknown. Nor are civilized Europeans justified in shuddering at the Chinese for considering swallows' nests and trepang (Holothuria) as great delicacies, or because in Arabia a flight of locusts is greeted as a feast given by God, when they themseelvs do not shrink from the trail of snipe, nor from lobsters and crayfish, although the latter, as water scavengers, act both as grave-digger and grave. Hence, in picturing to ourselves the mode of subsistence in use among the original ock of our race before the institution of husbandry, and even before the adoption of hunting, we must not suppose that vegetable fare alone appeased their hunger, but that everything was seized that seemed fit to eat. Turning first to

14 Reisen des Baron von der Decker in Ostafrika.

15 Ausland. 1866.

16 Globus, Bd. xxii. No. 5.

17 Ausland. 1872.


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