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The walnut,1 which would almost claim precedence of the sorb in size, yields the palm to it in reference to the esteem2 in which they are respectively held; and this, although it is so favourite an accompaniment of the Fescennine3 songs at nuptials. This nut, taken as a whole, is very considerably smaller than the pine nut, but the kernel is larger in proportion. Nature, too, has conferred upon it a peculiar honour, in protecting it with a two-fold covering, the first of which forms a hollowed cushion for it to rest upon, and the second is a woody shell. It is for this reason that this fruit has been looked upon as a symbol consecrated to marriage,4 its offspring being thus protected in such manifold ways: an explanation which bears a much greater air of probability than that which would derive it from the rattling which it makes when it bounds from the floor.5 The Greek names that have been given to this fruit fully prove that it, like many others, has been originally introduced from Persis; the best kinds being known in that language by the names of "Persicum,"6 and "basilicon;,7 these, in fact, being the names by which they were first known to us. It is generally agreed, too, that one peculiar variety has derived its name of "caryon,"8 from the headache which it is apt to produce by the pungency9 of its smell.

The green shell of the walnut is used for dyeing10 wool, and the nuts, while still small and just developing themselves, are employed for giving a red hue to the hair:11 a discovery owing to the stains which they leave upon the hands. When old, the nut becomes more oleaginous. The only difference in the several varieties consists in the relative hardness or brittleness of the shell, it being thin or thick, full of compartments or smooth and uniform. This is the only fruit that Nature has enclosed in a covering formed of pieces soldered together; the shell, in fact, forming a couple of boats, while the kernel is divided into four separate compartments12 by the intervention of a ligneous membrane.

In all the other kinds, the fruit and the shell respectively are of one solid piece, as we find the case with the hazel—nut,13 and another variety of the nut formerly known as "Abellina,"14 from the name15 of the district in which it was first produced: it was first introduced into Asia and Greece from Pontus, whence the name that is sometimes given to it—the "Pontic nut." This nut, too, is protected by a soft beard,16 but both the shell and the kernel are round, and formed of a single piece: these nuts are sometimes roasted.17 In the middle of the kernel we find a germen or navel.

A third class of nuts is the almond,18 which has an outer covering, similar to that of the walnut, but thinner, with a second coat in the shape of a shell. The kernel, however, is unlike that of the walnut, in respect of its broad, flat shape, its firmness, and the superior tastiness of its flavour. It is a matter of doubt whether this tree was in existence in Italy in the time of Cato; we find him speaking of Greek nuts,19 but there are some persons who think that these belong to the walnut class. He makes mention, also, of the hazel-nut, the calva,20 and the Prænestine21 nut, which last he praises beyond all others, and says22 that, put in pots, they may be kept fresh and green by burying them in the earth.

At the present day, the almonds of Thasos and those of Alba are held in the highest esteem, as also two kinds that are grown at Tarentum, one with a thin,23 brittle shell, and the other with a harder24 one: these last are remarkably large, and of an oblong shape. There is the almond known as the "mollusk,"25 also, which breaks the shell of itself. There are some who would concede a highly honourable interpretation to the name given to the walnut, and say that "juggles" means the "glens," or" acorn of Jove." It is only very lately that I heard a man of consular rank declare, that he then had in his possession walnut-trees that bore two26 crops in the year.

Of the pistachio, which belongs also to the nut class, we have already spoken27 in its appropriate place: Vitellius introduced this tree into Italy at the same time as the others that we mentioned;28 and Flaccus Pompeius, a Roman of Equestrian rank, who served with him, introduced it at the same period into Spain.

1 The Juglans regia of Linnæus.

2 Tastes have probably altered since this was written.

3 These were rude and sometimes obscene songs sung at festivals, and more particularly marriages. While these songs were being sung at the door of the nuptial chamber, it was the custom for the husband to scramble walnuts among the young people assembled there. The walnut is the nut mentioned in Solomon's Song, vi. 11.

4 Or, more probably, from the union of the two portions of the inner shell.

5 "Tripudium sonivium:" implying that it was considered sacred to marriage, from the use made of it by the friends of the bridegroom when thrown violently against the nuptial chamber, with the view of drowning the cries of the bride. A very absurd notion, to all appearance.

6 The "Persian" nut.

7 The "king's" nut. The walnut-tree still abounds in Persia, and is found wild on the slopes of the Himalaya.

8 Implying that it comes from the Greek κάρη,, "the head." Some etymologists think that it is from the Celto-Seythian carw, a boat; such being the shape of the two parts of the inner shell.

9 It is still a common notion, Fée says, that it is highly injurious to sleep beneath a walnut-tree.

10 It is still used for this purpose.

11 Red hair was admired by the Romans. The Roman females used this juice also for dyeing their hair when grey.

12 They are not entirely separate.

13 The Corylus avellana maxima of Willdenow.

14 The filbert, the Corylus tubulosa of Willdenow.

15 Abellinum, in Campania. See B. iii. c. 9.

16 The down on the nut is more apparent when it is young; but it is easily rubbed off. The outer coat is probably meant.

17 Hazel nuts are sometimes roasted in some parts of Europe, but not with us.

18 The Amygdalus communis of Linnæus.

19 De Re Rust. c. 8. Some think that this was the bitter almond; and the word "acriore," used by Pliny, would almost seem to imply that such is the case.

20 Apparently the "smooth" or "bald" nut. May not a variety something like the hickory nut of America be meant?

21 Festus says that a kind of nut was so called, because the Prænestines, when besieged by Hannibal at Casilinum, subsisted upon them. See Livy, B. xxiii. Fée considers it only another name for the common hazel nut.

22 De Re Rust, c. 145.

23 The soft-shelled almond, or princess almond of the French: the Amygdalus communis fragilis of naturalists.

24 This last variety does not seem to have been identified: the hard-shell almonds do not appear to be larger than the others.

25 Or "soft" almond, a variety only of the Amygdalus fragilis.

26 There is little doubt that Fée is right in his assertion, that this great personage imposed on our author; as no trees of this family are known to bear two crops.

27 B. xiii. c. 10.

28 In c. xxi. of this Book.

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