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It is a well-known fact that acorns1 at this very day constitute the wealth of many nations, and that, too, even amid these times of peace. Sometimes, also, when there is a scarcity of corn they are dried and ground, the meal being employed for making a kind of bread. Even to this very day, in the provinces of Spain,2 we find the acorn introduced at table in the second course: it is thought to be sweeter when roasted in the ashes. By the law of the Twelve Tables, there is a provision made that it shall be lawful for a man to gather his acorns when they have fallen upon the land of another.

The varieties of the glandiferous trees are numerous, and they are found to differ in fruit, locality, sex, and taste; the acorn of the beech having one shape, that of the quercus another, and that, again, of the holm-oak another. The various species also, among themselves, offer a considerable number of varieties. In addition to this, some of these trees are of a wild nature, while the fruits of others are of a less acrid flavour, owing to a more careful cultivation. Then, too, there is a difference between the varieties which grow on the mountains and those of the plains; the males differ from the females, and there are considerable modifications in the flavour of their fruit. That of the beech3 is the sweetest of all; so much so, that, according to Cornelius Alexander, the people of the city of Chios, when besieged, supported themselves wholly on mast. The different varieties cannot possibly be distinguished by their respective names, which vary according to their several localities. The quercus4 and the robur5 we see growing everywhere, but not so with the æsculus;6 while a fourth kind, known as the cerrus,7 is not so much as known throughout the greater part of Italy. We shall distinguish them, therefore, by their characteristic features, and when circumstances render it necessary, shall give their Greek names as well.

1 "Glandes." Under this name, for which we do not appear to have any English equivalent, were included, as already mentioned, not only the acorn of the oak, but the nut or mast of the beech, and probably most of the hard or kernel fruits. In the present instance Pliny probably alludes only to the fruit of the oak and the beech. Acorns are but little used as an article of food in these days. Roasted, they have been proposed as a substitute for coffee.

2 The acorn of the Quercus ballota of Linnæus is probably meant, which is still much used in the province of Salamanca, and forms an agreeable article of food. This acorn, Fée says, contains a considerable proportion of saccharine matter, and is better roasted in the ashes than boiled in water. It is not, however, used as a dessert, as in the time of the Romans. These acorns are sold at market in Andalusia in the month of October.

3 So far as it goes, the kernel of the mast or beech-nut is not unpalatable; but in the English beech it is very diminutive.

4 The word "quercu" is frequently used as a general name for the oak; but throughout the present Book it is most employed as meaning a distinct variety of the oak, one of the larger kinds, Fée says, and answering to the Quercus racemosa of Lamarck, the Quercus robur of Linnæus, and the Rouvre of the French.

5 This also has been much employed as a general name for the oak; but here, and in other parts of this Book, it is applied to one variety. Fee thinks that it answers to the Quercus sessiliflora of Smith, sometimes also called "rouvre" by the French.

6 The Quercus æsculus of Linnæus. It is not improbable that this oak is a different tree from the "Æsculus" of Horace and Virgil, which was perhaps either a walnut, or a variety of the beech.

7 It has been suggested that this is the same with the Quercus cerrus of Linnæus, and the Quercus crinita of Lamarck, the gland of which is placed in a prickly cupule. It is rarely found in France, but is often to be met with in Piedmont and the Apennines.

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