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Growing Herbs

Chervil, The French Parsley



Chervil, French Parsley

    Chervil (Scandix Cerefolium, Linn.), a southern Europe annual, with stems about 18 inches tall and bearing few divided leaves composed of oval, much-cut leaflets. The small white flowers, borne in umbels, are followed by long, pointed, black seeds with a conspicuous furrow from end to end. These seeds, which retain their germinability about three years, but are rather difficult to keep, may be sown where the plants are to stay, at any season, about eight weeks before a crop is desired; cultivation is like that of parsley. During summer and in warm climates, cool, shady situations should bechosen, otherwise any situation and soil are suitable. The leaves, which are highly aromatic, are used, especially in France and England, for seasoning and for mixed salads. Chervil is rarely used alone, but is the chief ingredient in what the French call fines herbes, a mixture which finds its way into a host of culinary concoctions. The best variety is the Curled, which, though it has the same flavor as the plain, is a prettier garnish.




From the Heritage Herbs Collection by M.G. Kains, American Agriculturist, 1912.
 

Catnip or Cat Mint - Either Way The Cats Love It



Catnip, or cat mint (Nepeta cataria, Linn.), a perennial herb of the natural order Labiatæ. The popular name is in allusion to the attraction the plant has for cats. They not only eat it, but rub themselves upon it purring with delight. The generic name is derived from the Etrurian city Neptic, in the neighborhood of which various species of the genus formerly became prominent.

Like several of its relatives catnip is a well-known weed. It has become naturalized in America, and is most frequently observed in dry, waste places, especially in the East, though it is also often found in gardens and around dwellings throughout the United States and Canada.

Description.—Its erect, square, branching stems, from 18 to 36 inches tall, bear notched oval or heartshaped leaves, whitish below, and during late summer terminal clusters of white flowers in small heads, far apart below, but crowded close above. The fruits are small, brown, ovoid, smooth and with three clearly defined angles. An ounce contains about 3,400 seeds. Viability lasts for five years.

Catnip, Pussy's Delight
Catnip, Pussy's Delight

Cultivation.Ordinary attention on any fairly dry soil. The seed need only be sown in autumn or spring where the plants are to remain or in a nursery bed for subsequent transplanting. If to be kept in a garden bed they should stand 18 to 24 inches apart each way. Nothing is needful except to keep down weeds in order to have them succeed for several years on the same spot.

Uses.—The most important use of the plant is as a bee forage; for this purpose waste places are often planted to catnip. As a condiment the leaves were formerly in popular use, especially in the form of sauces; but milder flavors are now more highly esteemed. Still, the French use catnip to a considerable extent. Like many of its relatives, catnip was a popular medicinal remedy for many fleshly ills; now it is practically relegated to domestic medicine. Even in this it is a moribund remedy for infant flatulence, and is clung to only by unlettered nurses of a passing generation.



From the Heritage Herbs Collection by M.G. Kains, American Agriculturist, 1912.


   

The Basil Herb Plant - Historical Perspective


Image of fresh basil leaves growing on sweet basil plant - heritage herb with a history

   BASIL

   The herb Sweet Basil (Ocymum Basilicum) is so called because "the smell thereof is fit for a king's house." It grows commonly in our kitchen gardens, but in England it dies down every year, and the seeds have to be sown annually. Botanically, it is named "basilicon," or royal, probably because used of old in some regal unguent, or bath, or medicine.

   This, and the wild Basil, belong to the Labiate order of plants. The leaves of the Sweet Basil, when slightly bruised, exhale a delightful odour; they gave the distinctive flavour to the original Fetter-Lane sausages.

   The Wild Basil (Calamintha clinopodium) or Basil thyme, or Horse thyme, is a hairy plant growing in bushy places, also about hedges and roadsides, and bearing whorls of purple flowers with a strong odour of cloves. The term Clinopodium signifies "bed's-foot flower," because "the branches dooe resemble the foot of a bed." In common with the other labiates, Basil, both the wild and the sweet, furnishes an aromatic volatile camphoraceous oil. On this account it is much employed in France for flavouring soups (especially mock turtle) and  sauces; and the dry leaves, in the form of snuff, are used for relieving nervous headaches. A tea, made by pouring boiling water on the garden basil, when green, gently but effectually helps on the retarded monthly flow with women. The Bush Basil is Ocymum minimum, of which the leafy tops are used for seasoning, and in salads.

   The Sweet Basil has been immortalised by Keats in his tender, pathetic poem of Isabella and the Pot of Basil, founded on a story from Boccaccio. She reverently possessed herself of the decapitated head of her lover, Lorenzo, who had been treacherously slain:—

    "She wrapped it up, and for its tomb did choose
    A garden pot, wherein she laid it by,
    And covered it with mould, and o'er it set
    Sweet Basil, which her tears kept ever wet."

   The herb was used at funerals in Persia. Its seeds were sown by the Romans with maledictions and curses through the belief that the more it was abused the better it would prosper. When desiring a good crop they trod it down with their feet, and prayed the gods it might not vegetate. The Greeks likewise supposed Basil to thrive best when sown with swearing; and this fact explains the French saying, Semer la Basilic, as signifying "to slander." It was told in Elizabeth's time that the hand of a fair lady made Basil flourish; and this was then planted in pots as an act of gallantry. "Basil," says John Evelyn, "imparts a grateful flavour to sallets if not too strong, but is somewhat offensive to the eyes." Shenstone, in his School Mistress's Garden, tells of "the tufted Basil," and Culpeper quaintly says: "Something is the matter; Basil and Rue will never grow together: no, nor near one another." It is related [47] that a certain advocate of Genoa was once sent as an ambassador to treat for conditions with the Duke of Milan; but the Duke harshly refused to hear the message, or to grant the conditions. Then the Ambassador offered him a handful of Basil. Demanding what this meant, the Duke was told that the properties of the herb were, if gently handled, to give out a pleasant odour; but that, if bruised, and hardly wrung, it would breed scorpions. Moved by this witty answer, the Duke confirmed the conditions, and sent the Ambassador honourably home.  Basil as a historical herb.

From the Heritage Herbs Collection by M.G. Kains, American Agriculturist, 1912.


   

Barley Herb- Not Just For Brewing


Barley Herb Plants Growing Wild- Brewing Herb Plant- Beer Herb

  BARLEY.

   Hordeum Vulgare—common Barley—is chiefly used in Great Britain for brewing and distilling; but, it has dietetic and medicinal virtues which entitle it to be considered among serviceable simples. Roman gladiators who depended for their strength and prowess chiefly on Barley, were called Hordearii. Nevertheless, this cereal is less nourishing than wheat, and when prepared as food is apt to purge; therefore it is not made into bread, except when wheat is scarce and dear, though in Scotland poor people eat Barley bread. In India Barley meal is made into balls of dough for the oxen and camels. Pearl Barley is prepared in Holland and Germany by first shelling the grain, and then grinding it into round white granules. The ancients fed their horses upon Barley, and we fatten swine on this grain made into meal. Among the Greeks beer was known as barley wine, which was brewed without hops, these dating only from the fourteenth century.

   A decoction of barley with gum arabic, one ounce of the gum dissolved in a pint of the hot decoction, is a very useful drink to soothe irritation of the bladder, [45] and of the urinary passages. The chemical constituents of Barley are starch, gluten, albumen, oil, and hordeic acid. From the earliest times it has been employed to prepare drinks for the sick, especially in feverish disorders, and for sore lining membranes of the chest. Honey may be added beneficially to the decoction of barley for bronchial coughs. The French make "Orgeat" of barley boiled in successive waters, and sweetened at length as a cooling drink: though this name is now applied in France to a liqueur concocted from almonds.

From the Heritage Herbs Collection by M.G. Kains, American Agriculturist, 1912.


   

Anise, A Flavoring Heritage Herb



Anise (Pimpinella Anisum, Linn.), an annual herb of the natural order Umbelliferæ. It is a native of southwestern Asia, northern Africa and south-eastern Europe, whence it has been introduced by man throughout the Mediterranean region, into Germany, and to some extent into other temperate regions of both hemispheres, but seems not to be known anywhere in the wild state or as an escape from gardens. To judge from its mention in the Scriptures (Matthew xxiii, 23), it was highly valued as a cultivated crop prior to our era, not only in Palestine, but elsewhere in the East. Many Greek and Roman authors, especially Dioscorides, Theophrastus, Pliny and Paladius, wrote more or less fully of its cultivation and uses.

Anise in Flower and in Fruit
Anise in Flower and in Fruit

From their days to the present it seems to have enjoyed general popularity. In the ninth century, Charlemagne commanded that it be grown upon the imperial farms;

Read more: Anise, A Flavoring Heritage Herb

   

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