Posted by: Rob Viens | September 21, 2013

The Posta Express 3: Peaches, Quinces and High Tea

After days of consuming a variety of meat products, Darwin’s interests turn to plant foods, as he described the agricultural land he traversed – teaming with fruits of every type:

Posta #15:

“This is a nice scattered little town, with many gardens full of peaches and quinces. — The camp here looked like that around B. Ayres. — the turf short & green (from the grazing & manuring by cattle?) with much clover, beds of thistles & Biscatcha holes. — I first noticed here two plants, which Botanists say have been introduced by the Spaniards. — Fennel which grows in the greatest abundance in all the hedge rows. — & a thistle looking plant which especially in Banda Oriental forms immense beds leagues in extent, & quite impenetrable by man or beast; it occurs in the most unfrequented places near Maldonado. — in the vallies near Rozario, in Entre Rios, &c &c. The whole country between the Uruguay & M. Video is choked up with it; yet Botanists say it is the common artichoke, run wild. — An intelligent farmer on the R. Uruguay told me that in a deserted garden he had seen the planted Artichokes degenerating into this plant. — Of course this man had never heard of the theories of Botanists.— I certainly never saw it South of R. Salado. — The true thistle, (variegated green & white like the sort called sow-thistles,) & which chiefly abounds in the Pampas of Buenos Ayres, I noticed in the valley of the R. Sauce. — There is a very large fresh water Lake near the town, on the coast I found a perfect piece of the case of the Megatherium. — Whilst the postmaster sent for horses several people questioned me concerning the Army. — I never saw anything like the enthusiasm for Rosas & for the success of this “most just of all wars, because against Barbarians”. — It is however natural enough, for even here neither man, woman, horse or cow was safe from the attacks of the Indians. The enthusiasm for Rosas was universal, & when some events which subsequently will be mentioned, happened, I was not at all surprised.” (Sept 19)

A quince, if you have not had one before, is a lot like a pear.  And although it originated in the Old World, as of 2011, Argentina was the world’s 6th largest producer of this fruit. They are also the 10th largest producer of peaches.

Quince trees (from Wikipedia Commons)

quince

Darwin rode on through fields of livestock (Argentina is the 5th largest beef producer), and used his title” to his advantage to find a dry spot to sleep:

Postas 16, 17, and 18:

“To the 16th, 17th & 18th Posta. Country of one uniform appearance: rich green plain, abundance of cattle horses & sheep; here & there the solitary Estancia, with its Ombu tree. — In the evening torrents of rain, arrived after dark at the Posta; was told that if I travelled by the Post I might sleep there; if not I must pass on, for there were so many robbers about, he could trust nobody. — Upon reading my passport, & finding that I was a Naturalista, his respect & civility were as strong as his suspicions had been before. — What a Naturalista is, neither he or his countrymen had any idea; but I am not sure that my title loses any of its value from this cause.” (Sept 19)

At long last, on September 20th, Darwin passed trough the last two postas and arrived back in Buenos Aires. There he met a friend from earlier in the voyage – Edward Lumb, who took him in for the next week or so:

Postas 19 and 20:

“In two more Postas reached the city; was much delayed on the road from the rain of the day before. — Buenos Ayres looked quite pretty; with its Agave hedges, its groves of Olives, peaches & Willows, all just throwing out their fresh green leaves. — I rode to the house of Mr Lumb, an English merchant, who gave me a most hospitable reception; & I soon enjoyed all the comforts of an English house.” (Sept 20)

Immediately upon returning Darwin wrote his sister Caroline about his “grand adventure” noting how much he enjoyed the “gaucho life”:

“I am become quite a Gaucho, drink my Mattee & smoke my cigar, & then lie down & sleep as comfortably with the Heavens for a Canopy as in a feather bed.— It is such a fine healthy life, on horse back all day, eating nothing but meat, & sleeping in a bracing air, one awakes as fresh as a lark.” (Correspondence to Caroline Darwin, 20 September 1833)

In contrast, he finds himself a bit out of sorts in the more familiar abode of Mr. Lumb:

“I am now living in the house of a most hospitable English merchant.—it appears quite strange writing in an English furnished room, & still more strange to see a lady making tea.” (Correspondence to Caroline Darwin, 20 September 1833)

But fear not, within a week, Darwin would be off on his next inland expedition! (RJV)

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