This chapter charts the history of peanut butter, dating back to about 80 million years ago when the Coastal Plain began to form along the southeastern and Gulf coasts of what is now the United States. The scientific name for the peanut is Arachis hypogaea, coined by eighteenth-century Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus. For all the importance of peanuts to American foodways in general and peanut butter in particular, they are not native to the United States; they originated in South America. Despite their name, peanuts are not nuts. They are legumes, more closely related botanically to peas, beans, clover, and alfalfa than to walnuts and almonds. Cultivated peanuts were found at a 3,800-year-old archaeological site in Peru, and domesticated peanuts are known from Peruvian excavations of 3000 to 2000
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