Tag Archives: aguacate

Fruits and Vegetables

Did you know that in addition to corn and chocolate being native to Mexico, avocados, peanuts, squash, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and papaya are all Prehispanic delights?

avocado pictograph

Aztec pictograph indicating “the place where avocados grow.”

Avocado is thought to have originated in the state of Puebla. The oldest evidence of avocado use dates to about 10,000 BC, found in a cave located in the town of Coxcatlan. The word avocado comes from the Spanish aguacate which comes from the Nahuatl word āhuacatl which goes back to the proto-Aztecan word *pa:wa. The Nahuatl word also can be translated as testicle.  Since this fruit was considered an aphrodisiac, perhaps because of its similarity to male reproductive organs, young girls were kept indoors during the annual avocado harvest.

Aguacate maduro, pedo seguro.  Ripe avocados–farts for sure!  

Without the avocado, there would be no Guacamole! The name Guacamole comes from the Nahuatl work āhuacamolli which translates as avocado sauce (see Mole).

The tomato also comes from Mexico. The name comes from the Nahuatl word tomatl which translates as “fat water.” The Aztecs cultivated the tomatl and came up with a new species they called xitomatl which translates as “plump thing with a navel.”

A la mejor cocinera se le va un tomate entero.   A whole tomato can escape the best cook. Meaning everyone makes mistakes.

And what would salsa be without the tomato?

The papaya was also a common domesticated fruit in Mexico before the arrival of the Spanish. It was called chichihualtzapotl in Nahuatl which meant zapote nodriza (mothering or nursing zapote.) The papaya had medicinal value to the indigenous peoples of Mexico. The Aztecs applied papaya fruit to their skin for relief from insects bites. Asthma was treated with boiled papaya leaves applied to the chest.

cacahuate

Nine flowers of Mexico

The modern day name for the zapote fruit, papaya, comes from the Mayan word páapay-ya which means zapote jaspeado (marbled or spotted zapote).

Peanuts may have been domesticated in Argentina or Bolivia. However, its cultivation in Mexico was well-established before the arrival of the Spanish. Peanuts were called tlalcacahuatl or tlalli auh cacahuatl in Nahuatl which gives us the Mexican Spanish word cacahuate that is used today.

peanut seller

One of our local peanut vendors in Moroleon, GTO

Me vale un reverendo cacahuate.  It’s as important to me as a holy peanut. Meaning it’s not important to me at all.

The oldest pumpkin seed found was in the Guila Naquitz Cave in Oaxaca and dates as far back as 7000 BC.  Squash has been cultivated in the Tehuacan and Oaxaca valleys and in Tamaulipas since 6000-5000 BC. Its cultivation predates the domestication of maize and beans by about 4,000 years. (See Las Tres Hermanas)

Squash was a ritual offering presented in honor of the dead during the month of Miccailhuitontli by the Aztecs and is still considered an appropriate addition to the altar during El Dia de los Muertos celebration in Mexico in the form of calabaza en tacha (candied pumpkin).

Sweet potatoes are native plants that are found from the Yucatan on down south to Venezuela. The Maya domesticated the plant at least 5,000 years ago.  In Mexico, sweet potatoes are known as camotes which comes from the Nahuatl word camotli. Camotes enmielados (honeyed sweet potatoes) are yet another specialty food traditionally made and served for El Dia de Los Muertos.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little week-long foray into traditional eats in Mexico as much as I have!  And remember–La vida es un camote agárrese de donde pueda.  Life is a sweet potato.  Hold on to it where you can.

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Herbal Remedies and the like

The Nahuatl Indians called this fruit 'ahuacatl' which means testicle because of its shape. The Spaniards morphed the word to 'aguacate', and later it was again morphed to the current name we use in English 'avocado.'

The Nahuatl Indians called this fruit ‘ahuacatl’ which means testicle because of its shape. The Spaniards morphed the word to ‘aguacate’, and later it was again morphed to the current name we use in English ‘avocado.’

The other day we went to the tianguis (flea market) in Valle del Santiago.  There were all sorts of things to see, people selling everything from TV remote controls to plows.  I, of course, am always on the lookout for books and found a small pile in front of the tiniest little old doña in a reboza (shawl).  In this pile, I chanced upon 2 yellowed, slightly rat-gnawed little books with the grand titles of “Antiguo Formulario Azteca de Yerbas Medicinales.  Manual imprescindíble de los secretos indígenas” and the second “Antiguo Recetario Medicinal Azteca. Curese con Plantas y Yerbas.”  For those not totally fluent in Spanish, both books purported to be herbal medicines used by the Aztecs.  At 3 pesos a piece, I could hardly turn them down.  This little viejita (elderly lady) made the comment that a young woman like myself (young only compared to her I suspect) should be reading those romance novels in the other pile that I didn’t spare a glance for.  But no, Aztec herbal medicine was more likely to cure my ills than those trashy titles.  And I have not been disappointed with the contents and cures it offers.  There are remedies for everything from curling your hair to curing diabetes, all naturally.  Fascinating.

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My herbal treasure finds!

I expect I see the planet as a beneficent and giving organism because of my mom, always ready to make fresh chamomile tea from her stash of dried flowers, or biking through overgrown paths for that patch of wild grapes no one else knew about.  And living here, off the beaten track, there are so many plants I am not familiar with and am so longing to learn about what it is they can do.

Nopal, (cactus) for instance not only tastes like the freshest green morning but according to my new source, is good for curing intestinal parasites, strengthening of the lungs, bringing on mother’s milk and curing open sores, depending on how it is used.   And did you know the hueso de aguacate (avocado seed) can be used to treat for lice?  Who would have guessed?

avocado

Recipe for avocado shampoo for lice and fleas

Cut 5 avocado seeds into pieces and boil with 1/4 liter of water with branches from the flowering plant known here as ruda.   Wash with a neutral base soap and then apply the avocado water like a lotion.  Cover the head in a towel and the nasty little pests will vacate the premises on their own.

Ruda

Ruda

According to Antiguo Formulario Azteca de Yerbas Medicinales, aguacate (avocado) has always been used as an aphrodisiac because its ingestion stimulates the sexual organs.  It is also recommended to diabetics to control sugar imbalance.

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