Part 4 out of 6
443. KOHLRABBI, or TURNEP-ROOTED CABBAGE. Brassica Rapa var.--We have
two kinds of this in cultivation; but although these are both much eaten
in Germany, they are not esteemed with us: in fact, we have so many
varieties of the cabbage kind all the year round for culinary purposes,
that nothing could much improve them. In countries further north than we
are, this is probably an acquisition, as, from its hardiness, it is
likely to stand the frost better than some of the more delicate
444. LEEKS. Allium Porrum.--There are two kinds of leeks: the Welsh and
Leeks are used principally in soups; they partake much of the nature of
onions, but for this purpose are in general more esteemed. This plant
has been so long cultivated in this country, that its native place is
The seeds are sown in the spring, and it is in use all the winter.
445. LETTUCE. Lactuca sativa.--The varieties of lettuce are many. They
Green Coss. White do. Silesia do. Brown do. Egyptian do. Brown Dutch.
White Cabbage. Imperial. Hammersmith Hardy. Tennis-ball.
These are sown every summer month. The brown and Egyptian coss are sown
in August, and commonly stand the winter; and in the spring are fit for
446. LOVE-APPLE. Solanum Lycopersicum.--The Portuguese and Spaniards are
so very fond of this fruit, that there is not a soup or gravy but what
this makes an ingredient in; and it is deemed cooling and nutritive. It
is also called Tomatas, or Tomatoes.
The green fruit makes a most excellent pickle with capsicums and other
berries. It is annual, and raised in hot-bed, and planted out.
447. MARJORAM, WINTER. Origanum vulgare.--This is used as a sweet herb,
and is a good appendage to the usual ingredients in stuffing, &c. It is
a perennial plant, and propagated by planting out its roots in the
spring of the year.
448. MARJORAM, SWEET. Origanum Marjorana.--This is also used for the
same purpose as the last mentioned. It is an annual, and not of such
easy culture as the last, requiring to be raised from seeds in an
artificial heat. It is usually dried and kept for use.
449. MARYGOLD. Calendula officinalis.--An annual plant usually sown in
the spring. The petals of the flowers are eaten in broths and soups, to
which they impart a very pleasant flavour.
450. MUSHROOM. Agaricus campestris.--Is cultivated and well known at our
tables for its fine taste and utility in sauces. These plants do not
produce seeds that can be saved; they are therefore cultivated by
collecting the spawn, which is found in old hot-beds and in meadow
Various methods have been lately devised for raising mushrooms
artificially: but none seem to be equal to those raised in beds, as is
described in all our books of gardening. Raising this vegetable in close
rooms by fire heat has been found to produce them with a bad flavour;
and they are not considered so wholesome as those grown in the open air,
or when that element is admitted at times freely to the beds.
451. MUSTARD, WHITE. Sinapis alba.--This is sown early in the spring; to
be eaten as salad with cress and other things of the like nature; it is
of easy culture. A salad of this kind may be readily raised on a piece
of thick woollen-cloth, if the seeds are strewed thereon and kept damp;
a convenient mode practised at sea on long voyages. Cress and rap may be
raised in the same manner.
452. ONION. Allium oleraceum.--The kinds of onions in cultivation are,
The Deptford. The Reading. The White Spanish. The Portugal. The Globe,
and The Silver skinned.
All these varieties are usually sown in the spring of the year, and are
good either eaten in their young state, or after they are dried in the
winter. The silver skinned kind is mostly in use for pickling. The globe
and Deptford kinds are remarkable for keeping late in the spring. A
portion of all the other sorts should be sown, as they are all very
good, and some kinds will keep, when others will not.
453. ONION, WELSH. Allium fistulosum.--This is sown in August for the
sake of the young plants, which are useful in winter salads, and are
more hardy than the other cultivated sorts.
454. PARSLEY. Petroselium vulgare.--A well known potherb sown in the
spring; and the plants, if not suffered to go to seed, will last two
years. See aethusa Cynapium, in Poisonous Plants.
455. PARSNEP. Pastinaca sativa.--This is a well known esculent root, and
is raised by sowing the seeds in the spring.
456. PEA. Pisum sativum.--This is a well known dainty at our tables
during spring and summer. The varieties in cultivation are,
Turner's Early Frame. Early Charlton. Golden Hotspur. Double Dwarf.
These are usually sown in November and December, and will succeed each
other in ripening in June, if the season is fine, and afford a crop all
The Dwarf Marrow-fat. The Royal Dwarf. The Prussia Blue. The Spanish
These varieties are usually sown in gardens when it is not convenient to
have them grow up sticks, being all of a dwarf kind.
The Tall Marrow-fat. The Green Marrow-fat. The Imperial Egg Pea. The
Rose, or Crown Pea. The Spanish Morotto. Knight's Marrow Pea. The Grey
Rouncival. The Sickle Pea.
This last variety has no skin in the pods. These are used as kidney
beans, as also in the usual way. These varieties are of very large
growth, and are only to be cultivated when there is considerable room,
and must be supported on sticks placed in the ground for that purpose.
The grey pea is usually eaten when in a dry state boiled. Hot grey peas
used to be an article of common sale among our itinerant traders in
London streets, but it has been dropped for some years. One or other of
the different kinds of the larger varieties should be put into the
ground every three weeks from March to the 1st week in June, and a crop
is thereby insured constantly till the beginning of October.
It should be remarked, that peas, as well as all vegetable seeds, are
liable to sport and become hybrid sorts; some of which are at times
saved for separate culture, and are called, when found good, by
particular names; so that every twenty or thirty years many of the kinds
are changed. Thus Briant, in his Flora Diaetetica, enumerates fourteen
varieties, a few only of which bear the same name as those now in the
list of the London seedsmen.
457. POMPION. Cucurbita Pepo.--This is of the gourd species, and grows
to a large size. It is not much in use with us: but in the south of
Europe the inhabitants use the pulp with some acid fruits for pastry,
and it is there very useful. It is also sometimes used in a similar
manner here with apples. Almost all the gourd species are similar in
taste and nutriments when used this way.
458. PURSLANE. Portulaca oleracea.--Two kinds of Purslane, the green and
the golden, are cultivated. These are eaten with vinegar, &c. the same
as other salad oils, and are a fine vegetable in warm weather. The seeds
are usually sown in the spring.
459. RADISH. Raphanus sativus.--The varieties in cultivation are,
The Early Scarlet. The Early Purple Short-top. The Salmon Radish. The
White Turnip Radish. The Red Turnip Radish. The Black Spanish.
The above are sown almost every month in the year, and when the weather
is fine, every good garden may have a supply all the year of those
useful and wholesome vegetables.
The black Spanish radish is a large rooted variety usually sown in
August, and is eaten in the winter season.
The poor labouring man's fare, which is usually eaten under the hedge of
the field of his employment, is often accompanied with a dried onion;
and was this root more known than it generally is, it would yield him,
at the expense of two-pence, with a little labour in his cottage garden,
an equally pleasant and more useful sauce to his coarse but happy meals.
I have observed many instances of this oeconomy amongst the labouring
classes in my youth, but fear it is not quite so commonly made use of in
the present day.
460. RADISH, HORSE. Cochlearia Armoracea.--The root of this vegetable is
a usual accompaniment to the loyal and standard English dishes, the
smoking baron and the roast surloin; with which it is most generally
It should not be passed unnoticed here, that this very grateful and
wholesome root is not at all times to be eaten with impunity. One or two
instances of its deleterious effects have been witnessed by my much
esteemed friend Dr. Taylor, the worthy Secretary at the Society of Arts,
and which he has communicated to me. I shall insert his own words,
particularly as it may be the means of preventing the botanical student
from falling into the same error, after arriving with the usual good
appetite, from his recreative task of herborizing excursions. "Some
gentlemen having ordered a dinner at a tavern, of which scraped
horse-radish was one; some persons in company took a small quantity, and,
dipping it in salt, ate of it: these were soon seized with a suppression
of urine, accompanied with inflammation of the kidneys, which shortly
after proved fatal to one of the company. The Doctor was consulted; but
not knowing exactly the cause of the complaint, of course was at a loss
to apply a remedy in time. But another circumstance of the like nature
having come under his notice, and being apprized of it, by a well
applied corrective medicine he recovered the patient. It should,
therefore, be made a general observation, under such circumstances, and
those are not the most unpleasant we meet with in our researches, 'never
to eat horse-radish on an empty stomach.'"
461. RAMPION. Campanula Rapunculus.--This plant is remarkable for its
milky juice. In France, it is cultivated for its roots, which are boiled
and eaten with salads; but in England it is little noticed, except by
the French cooks, who use it as an ingredient in their soups and
gravies. It is propagated by planting its roots in the spring.
462. RHAPONTIC RHUBARB. Rheum Rhaponticum.--The radical leaf-stalks of
this plant being thick and juicy, and having an acid taste, are
frequently used in the spring as a substitute for gooseberries before
they are ripe, in making puddings, pies, tarts, &c. If they are peeled
with care, they will bake and boil very well, and eat agreeably.
463. ROCAMBOLE. Allium sativum.--The rocambole is merely the bulbs on
the top of the flower-stalk of the garlic, it being a viviparous plant.
The flavour of this being somewhat different, is used in the kitchen
under the above name.
464. SAGE. Salvia officinalis.--Of this we have two varieties, green and
red. The latter is considered the best for culinary purposes: it is the
well-known sauce for geese and other water-fowl. It is propagated by
cuttings in the spring.
465. SALSAFY. Tragopogon porrifolium.--A biennial, sown in March, and is
usually in season during winter. The roots are the parts used, which are
very sweet, and contain a large quantity of milky juice: it is a good
vegetable plain boiled, and the professors of cookery make many fine
dishes of it.
466. SAVORY, SUMMER. Satureja hortensis.
467. SAVORY, WINTER. Satureja montana.
Both sorts are used for the same purposes, as condiments among other
herbs for stuffing, and are well known to cooks. The former is an
annual, and raised by sowing the seeds in March and April. The other,
being perennial, is propagated either by the same means or by cuttings
in the spring of the year. It is also dried for winter use.
468. SAVOY CABBAGE. Brassica oleracea, (var.)
The Green Savoy. The White or Yellow Savoy.
A well-known species of cabbage grown for winter use, and is one of our
best vegetables of that season. It is raised by sowing the seeds in May,
and planting the plants in any spot of ground in July after a crop of
peas or beans. Savoys stand the frost better than most other kinds of
cabbages with close heads.
469. SCORZONERA. Scorzonera tingitana.--The roots of this are very
similar to salsafy, and its culture and use nearly the same.
470. SEA KALE. Crambe maritima.--This grows wild on our sea-coasts,
particularly in Devonshire, where it has long been gathered and eaten by
the inhabitants thereabouts. It was used also to be cultivated; but was
in general lost to our gardens, till my late partner, Mr. Curtis, having
paid a visit to his friend Dr. Wavell at Barnstaple, found it at that
gentleman's table; and on his return he collected some seeds, and
planted a considerable spot of ground with it at Brompton in 1792; at
which time it was again introduced to Covent-Garden, but with so little
successs, that no person was found to purchase it, and consequently the
crop was useless.
This celebrated botanist, however, published a small tract on its uses
and culture, which met with a considerable sale, and introduced it again
to general cultivation.
The seeds should be sown in March, and the following year the plants are
fit for forming plantations, when they should be put out in rows about
three feet apart, and one foot in the row. The vegetable is blanched
either by placing over the crowns of the root an empty garden-pot, or by
earthing it up as is usually done with celery. It is easily forced, by
placing hot dung on the pots; and is brought forward in January, and
from thence till May.
It has been noticed of sea-kale, that, on eating it, it does not impart
to the urine that strong and unpleasant scent which asparagus and other
471. SKIRRETS. Sium Sisarum.--The roots of this plant are very similar
to parsneps, both in flavour and quality; they are rather sweeter, and
not quite so agreeable to some palates. It is a biennial sown in March,
and used all the winter.
472. SORREL, COMMON. Rumex Acetosa.--Bryant says the Irish, who are
particularly fond of acids, eat the leaves with their milk and fish; and
the Laplanders use the juice of them as rennet to their milk. The
Greenlanders cure themselves of the scurvy, with the juice mixed with
that of the scurvy-grass. The seeds may be sown, or the roots planted,
in spring or autumn; it is not in general cultivation, but is to be
found abundantly wild in meadows, &c.
473. SORREL, ROUND-LEAVED, or FRENCH. Rumex scutatus.--The leaves of the
plant have more acidity in them than the common; and although not in
general use, it is one of the best salad-herbs in the early part of the
year: it is propagated in the same mode as the common sort.
474. SPINACH, Spinacia oleracea.---Two sorts of this vegetable are
cultivated. The Round-leaved, which is very quick in its growth, is sown
for summer use; and if the seeds are put into the ground every three
weeks, a constant succession is obtained while the weather is warm; but
frost will soon destroy it.
The Prickly Spinach is not so quick in growth, and is hardy enough to
stand our winters: it is therefore sown in August, and succeeds the
round-leaved sort; and is a good vegetable all our winter months.
475. TARRAGON. Artemisia Dracunculus.--The leaves of this make a good
ingredient with salad in the spring; and it also makes an excellent
pickle. It is propagated by planting the small roots in spring or
autumn, being a perennial.
476. THYME. Thymus vulgaris.--This is a well-known potherb used in
broths and various modes of cookery: it is propagated by seeds and
cuttings early in the spring.
477. TRUFFLES. Lycoperdon Tuber.--Not in cultivation. The poor people in
this country find it worth their while to train up dogs for the purpose
of finding them, which, by having some frequently laid in their way,
become so used to it, that they will scrape them up in the woods; hence
they are called Truffle-dogs. The French cooks use them in soups, &c. in
the same manner as mushrooms. The truffle is mostly found in beech
woods: I have mentioned this, because it is very generally met with at
table, although it is not in cultivation.
478. TURNEPS. Brassica Rapa.--The varieties in use for garden culture
are, the Early Dutch, the Early Stone, and the Mouse-tail Turnep. The
culture and uses of the turnep are too well known to require any
The country people cut a raw turnep in thin slices, and a lemon in the
same manner: and by placing the slices alternately with sugar-candy
between each, the juice of the turnep is extracted, and is used as a
pleasant and good remedy in obstinate coughs, and will be found to
relieve persons thus afflicted, if taken immediately after each fit.
Although this is one of the remedies my young medical friends may be led
to despise, yet I would, nevertheless, advise them to make use of it
when need occasions.
The yellow turnep is also much esteemed as a vegetable; but is dry, and
very different in taste from any of the common kinds.
* * * * *
SECTION X.--CULINARY PLANTS NOT IN CULTIVATION.
The following section cannot be too closely studied by people in all
ranks of life. Many of our most delicate vegetables are found growing
wild; and in times of scarcity, and after hard winters, many articles of
this department will be found highly acceptable to all, and the
condition of the poorer classes would be bettered by a more intimate
knowledge of those plants. In fact, these and the medicinal plants ought
to be known to every one: and in order to facilitate the study of them,
I have been thus particular in my description of the different kinds.
479. AGARIC, ORANGE. Agaricus deliciosus.--This agaric well boiled and
seasoned with pepper and salt, has a flavour similar to that of a
roasted muscle. In this way the French, in general, make use of it. It
is in high perfection about September, and is chiefly to be found in dry
480. ALEXANDERS. Smyrnium Olustratum.--If the poorer people were aware
of the value of this plant, which is now quite neglected, it might be
turned to good account as an article of food, and that, in all
likelihood, of the most wholesome kind.
Bryant thinks it was much esteemed by the monks, and states that it has,
ever since the destruction of the abbeys in this country, remained in
many places growing among the rubbish; hence the reason of its being
found wild in such places.
481. ALEXANDERS, ROUND-LEAVED. Smyrnium perfoliatum.---It is said that
the leaves and stalks boiled are more pleasant to the taste than the
other kind of Alexanders.
482. ARROWHEAD. Sagittaria sagittifolia.--The roots of this plant are
said to be very similar to the West-India arrow-root. They are sometimes
dried and pounded, but are reported to have an acrid unpleasant taste;
but this might perhaps be got rid of by washing the powder in water.
483. BLACKBERRY. Rubus fruticosus.--The berries of this plant are well
known in the country; but if too many be eaten, they are apt to cause
swelling in the stomach, sickness, &c.
484. BRIONY, BLACK. Tamus communis.--Although this is considered a
poisonous plant, the young leaves and shoots are eaten boiled by the
common people in the spring.
485. BURDOCK. Arctium Lappa.--Mr. Bryant in his Flora Diaetetica says
that many people eat the tenders talks of this plant boiled as
486. BURNET. Sanguisorba officinalis.--The young leaves form a good
ingredient in salads. They have somewhat the flavour of cucumbers.
487. BUTTERWORT. Pinguicula vulgaris.--The inhabitants of Lapland and
the north of Sweden give to milk the consistence of cream by pouring it
warm from the cow upon the leaves of this plant, and then instantly
straining it and laying it aside for two or three days till it acquires
a degree of acidity.
This milk they are extremely fond of; and once made, they need not
repeat the use of the leaves as above, for a spoonful or less of it will
turn another quantity of warm milk, and make it like the first, and so
on, as often as they please to renew their food.--Lightfoot's Flor.
Scot. p. 77.
488. CHAMPIGNON. Agaricus pratensis.--There is little or no smell to be
perceived in this plant, and it is rather dry; yet when boiled or stewed
it communicates a good flavour, and is equal to the common mushroom.
489. CHANTARELLE. Agaricus Chantarellus.--This agaric, when broiled with
pepper and salt, has a taste very similar to that of a roasted cockle,
and is considered by the French a great delicacy. It is found
principally in woods and old pastures, and is in good perfection about
the middle of September.
490. CHARLOCK. Sinapis arvensis.--The young plant is eaten in the spring
as turnep-tops, and is considered not inferior to that vegetable. The
seeds of this have sometimes been saved and sold for feeding birds
instead of rape; but being hot in its nature, it has been known to cause
them to be diseased.
491. CHICKWEED. Alsine media.--This is a remarkably good herb boiled in
the spring; a circumstance not sufficiently attended to.
492. CLOUD-BERRY. Rubus Chamaemorus.--This plant grows wild in some parts
of the north of England: the fruit has nearly the shape of the currant,
and is reckoned in Norway, where it grows abundantly, a favourite dish.
493. COTTON-THISTLE. Onopordon Acanthium.--The tender stalks of this
plant, peeled and boiled, are by some considered good; but it has a
peculiar taste which is not agreeable to all.
Bryant in his Flora Diaetetica says that the bottoms of the flowers are
eaten as artichokes.
494. COW-PARSNEP. Heracleum Sphondylium.--The inhabitants of Kamschatka
about the beginning of July collect the foot-stalks of the radical
leaves of this plant, and, after peeling off the rind, dry them
separately in the sun; and then tying them in bundles, they lay them up
carefully in the shade. In a short time afterwards, these dried stalks
are covered over with a yellow saccharine efflorescence tasting like
liquorice, and in this state they are eaten as a delicacy.
The Russians, not content with eating the stalks thus prepared, contrive
to get a very intoxicating spirit from them, by first fermenting them in
water with the greater bilberry (Vaccinium uliginosum), and then
distilling the liquor to what degree of strength they please; which
Gmelin says is more agreeable to the taste than spirits made from corn.
This may, therefore, prove a good succedaneum for whisky, and prevent
the consumption of much barley, which ought to be applied to better
purposes. Swine and rabbits are very fond of this plant.---Lightfoot's
495. DANDELION. Leontodum Taraxacum.--This is a good salad when blanched
in the spring. The French, who eat more vegetables than our country
people do, use this in the spring as a common dish: it is similar to
endive in taste.
496. DEWBERRY. Rubus caesius.--The dewberry is very apt to be mistaken
for the blackberry; but it may be easily distinguished by its fruit
being not so large, and being covered with blue bloom similar to that
seen on plums: it has a very pleasant taste, and is said to communicate
a grateful flavour to red wine when steeped in it.
497. EARTH-NUT. Bunium Bulbocastanum.--The roots are eaten raw, and
considered a delicacy here, but thought much more of in Sweden, where
they are an article of trade: they are eaten also stewed as chesnuts.
498. ELDER. Sambucus nigra.--The young shoots of elder are boiled with
other herbs in the spring and eaten; they are also very good pickled in
vinegar. Lightfoot says, in some countries they dye cloth of a brown
colour with them.
499. FAT-HEN. Chenopodium viride et album.--These are boiled and eaten
as spinach, and are by no means inferior to that vegetable.
500. FUCUS, SWEET. Fucus saccharatus.--This grows upon rocks and stones
by the sea-shore. It consists of a long single leaf, having a short
roundish foot-stalk, the leaf representing a belt or girdle. This is
collected and eaten the same as laver, as are also the two following
501. FUCUS, PALMATED. Fucus palmatus.--This plant also grows by the
sea-side, and has a lobed leaf.
502. FUCUS, FINGERED. Fucus digitatus.--This is also to be found by the
sea-side, growing upon rocks and stones; it has long leaves springing in
form of fingers when spread.
503. GOOD KING HENRY. Chenopodium Bonus-Henricus.--The leaves and stalk
of this plant are much esteemed. The plant was used to be cultivated,
but of late years it has been superseded by the great number of other
esculent vegetables more productive than this. The young shoots blanched
were accounted equal to asparagus, and were made use of in a similar
504. HEATH. Erica vulgaris.--Formerly the young tops are said to have
been used alone to brew a kind of ale; and even now, I am informed, the
inhabitants of Isla and Jura (two islands on the coast of Scotland)
continue to brew a very potable liquor, by mixing two-thirds of the tops
of heath with one of malt.--Lightfoot's Fl. Scot.
505. HOPS. Humulus Lupulus.--Independently of the great use of hops in
making beer, and for medicinal uses, where the plant grows wild, it
affords the neighbours a dainty in the spring months. The young shoots,
called hop-tops, when boiled, are equal in flavour to asparagus, and are
eagerly sought after for that purpose.
506. LADIES-SMOCK. Cardamine pratensis.--This is good as a salad herb.
507. LAVER. Fucus esculentus.--This is collected by sailors and people
along the sea-coasts; is eaten both raw and boiled, and esteemed and
excellent antiscorbutic. The leaves of this Fucus are very sweet, and,
when washed and hanged up to dry, will exude a substance like that of
508. MAPLE. Acer Pseudo-platanus.--By tapping this tree it yields a
liquor not unlike that of the birch-tree, from which the Americans make
a sugar, and the Highlanders sometimes an agreeable and wholesome wine.
--Lightfoot's Fl. Scot.
509. MARSH MARIGOLD. Caltha palustris.--The flower-buds, before opening,
are picked, and are considered a good substitute for capers.
510. MEADOW-SWEET. Spiraea Filipendula.--The roots of this, in Sweden,
are ground and made into bread.
511. MILK-THISTLE. Carduus marianus.--The young leaves in the spring,
cut close to the root with part of the stalks on, are said to be good
512. MOREL. Phallus esculentus.--The morel grows in wet banks and moist
pastures. It is used by the French cooks, the same as the truffle, for
gravies, but has not so good a flavour: it is in perfection in May and
513. MUSHROOM, VIOLET. Agaricus violaceus.--This mushroom requires more
broiling than all the rest; but when well done and seasoned, it is very
good. It is found in dry woods, old pastures, &c. where it grows to a
514. MUSHROOM, BROWN. Agaricus cinnamomeus.--The whole of this plant has
a nice smell, and when stewed or broiled has a pleasant flavour. It is
to be found as the one above, and is fit for use in October.
515. ORPINE. Sedum telephium.--The leaves are eaten in salads, and are
considered equal to purslane.
516. OX-TONGUE, COMMON. Picris Echioides.--The leaves are said to be
517. PEAS, EARTH-NUT. Orobus tuberosus.--The roots of this, when boiled,
are said to be nutritious. The Scotch Highlander chews the root as a
substitute for tobacco.
518. PILEWORT. Ranunculus Ficaria.--The young leaves in spring are
boiled by the common people in Sweden, and eaten as greens. The roots
are sometimes washed bare by the rains, so that the tubercles appear
above ground; and in this state have induced the ignorant in
superstitious times to fancy that it has rained wheat, which these
tubercles sometimes resemble.
519. SALEP. Orchis Morio.--The powder of these roots is used for a
beverage of that name. This is imported chiefly from Turkey. It grows in
this country, although it is never noticed: the roots are smaller than
those imported, but will answer the purpose equally well.
520. SALTWORT. Salicornia europaea.--This is gathered on the banks of the
Thames and Medway, and brought to London, where it is sold as samphire.
It makes a very good pickle, but by no means equal to the true kind.
521. SAMPHIRE. Crithmum maritimum.--This has long been in much esteem as
a pickle: it grows on the high cliffs on the Kentish coast, where people
make a trade of collecting it by being let down from the upper part in
baskets. A profession of great danger.
522. SCURVY-GRASS. Cochlearia officinalis.--The leaves are hot and
pungent, but are considered very good, and frequently eaten between
bread and butter.
523. SAUCE ALONE. Erysimum Alliaria.--This is very good boiled with
salt-meat in the spring, when other vegetables are scarce. It is
valuable to the poor people; and is, in general, a common plant under
524. SEA BINDWEED. Convolvulus Soldanella.--This plant is to be found
plentifully on our maritime coasts, where the inhabitants plucks the
tender stalks, and pickle them. It is considered to have a cathartic
525. SEA-PEAS. Pisum maritimum.--These peas have a bitterish
disagreeable taste, and are therefore rejected when more pleasant food
is to be got. In the year 1555 there was a great famine in England, when
the seeds of this plant were used as food, and by which thousands of
families were preserved.
526. SEA-WORMWOOD. Artemisia maritima.--Those who travel the country in
searching after and gathering plants, if they chance to meet with sour
or ill-tasted ale, may amend it by putting an infusion of sea-wormwood
into it, whereby it will be more agreeable to the palate, and less
hurtful to the stomach.--Threlkeld. Syn. Pl. Hibern.
This is an ingredient in the common purl, the usual morning beverage of
our hardy labouring men in London.
527. SEA-ORACH, GRASS-LEAVED. Atriplex littoralis.--This plant is eaten
in the same manner as the Chenopodium.
528. SEA-BEET. Beta maritima.--This is a common plant on some of our
sea-coasts. The leaves are very good boiled, as are also the roots.
529. SILVER-WEED. Potentilla anserina.--The roots of this plant taste
like parsneps, and are frequently eaten in Scotland either roasted or
In the islands of Tiras and Col they are much esteemed, as answering in
some measure the purposes of bread, they having been known to support
the inhabitants for months together during a scarcity of other
provisions. They put a yoke on their ploughs, and often tear up their
pasture-grounds with a view to get the roots for their use; and as they
abound most in barren and impoverished soils, and in seasons when other
crops fail, they afford a most seasonable relief to the inhabitants in
times of the greatest scarcity. A singular instance this of the bounty
of Providence to these islands.--Lightfoot's Fl. Scot.
530. SOLOMON'S-SEAL. Convallaria Polygonatum.--The roots are made into
bread, and the young shoots are eaten boiled.
531. SPATLING-POPPY. Cucubalus Behen.--Our kitchen-gardens scarcely
afford a better-flavoured vegetable than the young tender shoots of this
when boiled. They ought to be gathered when they are not above two
inches long. If the plant was in cultivation, no doubt but what it would
be improved, and would well reward the gardener's trouble: it sends
forth a vast quantity of sprouts, which might be nipped off when of a
proper size; and there would be a succession of fresh ones for at least
It being a perennial too, the roots might be transplanted into beds like
those of asparagus.--Bryant's Fl. Diaetetica, p. 64.
532. SPEEDWELL. Veronica spicata.--This is used by our common people as
a substitute for tea, and is said to possess a somewhat astringent
taste, like green tea.
533. SPOTTED HAWKWEED. Hypochaeris maculata.--The leaves are eaten as
salad, and are also boiled.
534. STINGING-NETTLE. Urtica dioica.--The young shoots in the spring are
eaten boiled with fat meat, and are esteemed both wholesome and
535. SHRUBBY STRAWBERRY. Rubus arcticus.--The fruit of this plant is
very similar in appearance to a strawberry: its odour is of the most
grateful kind; and its flavour has that delicate mixture of acid and
sweet, which is not to be equalled by our best varieties of that fruit.
536. SWEET CICELY. Scandix odorata.--The leaves used to be employed in
the kitchen as those of cervil. The green seeds ground small, and used
with lettuce or other cold salads, give them an agreeable taste. It also
grows in abundance in some parts of Italy, where it is considered as a
very useful vegetable.
537. WATER-CRESS. Sisymbrium Nasturtium.--A well known herb in common
use, but is not in cultivation, although it is one of our best salads.
538. WILLOW-HERB. Epilobium angustifolium.--The young shoots of these
are eaten as asparagus.
* * * * *
SECTION XI.--PLANTS USEFUL IN DYEING.
There is no department of the oeconomy of vegetables in which we are more
at a loss than in the knowledge of their colouring principles; and as
this subject presents to the student an opportunity of making many
interesting and useful experiments, I trust I shall stand excused, if I
enter more fully into the nature of it than I have found it necessary to
do in some of the former sections.
The following list of plants, which is given as containing colours of
different kinds, are the same as have been so considered for many years
past: for, latterly, little has been added to our stock of knowledge on
this head. It may however be proper to observe, that a great number of
vegetables still contain this principle in a superior degree, and only
want the proper attention paid to the abstracting it.
Most of our dyeing drugs are from abroad; and even the culture of
madder, which was once so much grown by our farmers, is now lost to us,
to the great advantage of the Dutch, who supply our markets. But there
is no reason why the agriculturist, or the artisan, should be so much
beholden to a neighbouring nation, as to pay them enormous prices for
articles which can be so readily raised at home; and, according to the
general report of the consumers, managed in a way far superior to what
it generally is when imported.
Let the botanical student therefore pay attention to this particular;
for it is a wide field, in which great advantages may be reaped, either
in this country or in any other part of the world where he may hereafter
become an inhabitant.
The art of dyeing, generally considered, is kept so great a secret, that
few persons have had the opportunity of making experiments. The
extracting colours from their primitive basis is a chemical operation,
and cannot be expected in this place; but as some persons may be
inclined to ascertain these properties of vegetables, I shall go just so
far into the subject as to give an idea of the modes generally used; and
to state the principles on which the colouring property is fixed when
applied to the purposes of dyeing cloth.
In the article Madder, page 32, I mentioned having made an extract
similar to the Adrianople red. For which purpose, a sufficient quanitity
of the roots should be taken fresh out of the ground, washed clean from
the dirt, bruised in a mortar, and then boiled in rain-water till the
whole becomes tinged of a red colour, then put into a cloth and all the
colouring matter pressed out. This should again be put into hot water in
a clean glazed earthen-pan, to which should be added a small quantity of
water in which alum had been dissolved, and the whole stirred up
together; then immediately add a lump of soda or pot-ash, stirring the
whole up, when an effervescence will take place, the allum that had
united with the juice of the madder will be found to become neutralized
by the pot-ash, and the result will be a precipitate of the red fecula.
This may be washed over in different waters, and either put by for use
in a liquid state, or filtered and dried in powder or cakes. Most
vegetable colours will not, however, admit of being extracted by water,
and it is necessary to use an acid for that purpose: vinegar is the most
common. But in making the extract from roots with acids, great care
should be taken that they are sufficiently cleared from mould, sand,
&c.; for, if the same should contain either iron, or any metallic
substance, its union with the acid will cause a blackness, and of course
spoil the tint. In a similar mode are all the different colouring
principles extracted, either from leaves, flowers, fruits, or woods. The
preparation of woad is a curious process on similar principles; which
see in page 31.
Weld, or dyers weed, is generally used after it is dried. The whole
plant is ground in a mill, and the extract made by boiling it. It is
then managed with alum and acids agreeably to the foregoing rules, which
are necessary for throwing out the colour.
Instructions how Substances may be tried, whether they are serviceable
in Dyeing, from Hopson's Translation of Weigleb's Chemistry.
"In order to discover if any vegetable contains a colouring principle
fit for dyeing, it should be bruised and boiled in water, and a bit of
cotton, linen, or woollen stuff, which has previously been well cleaned,
boiled in this decoction for a certain time, and rinsed out and dried.
If the stuff becomes coloured, it is a sign that the colour may be
easily extracted; but if little or no colour be perceived, we are not
immediately to conclude that the body submitted to the trial has no
colour at all, but must first try how it will turn out with the addition
of saline substances. It ought, therefore, to be boiled with pot-ash,
common salt, sal ammoniac, tartar, vinegar, alum, or vitriol, and then
tried upon the stuff: if it then exhibit no colour, it may safely be
pronounced to be unfit for dyeing with. But if it yields a dye or
colour, the nature of this dye must then be more closely examined, which
may be done in the following manner:--
Let a saturated decoction of the colouring substance be well clarified,
distributed into different glass vessels, and its natural colour
observed. Then to one portion of it let there be added a solution of
common salt; to the second, some sal ammoniac; and to the third, alum;
to the fourth, pot-ash; to the fifth, vitriolic or marine acid; and to
the sixth, some green vitriol: and the mixtures be suffered to stand
undisturbed for the space of twenty-four hours. Now in each of these
mixtures the change of colour is to be observed, as likewise whether it
yields a precipitate or not.
If the precipitate by the pure acid dissolve in an alkaline lixivium
entirely, and with a colour, they may be considered as resino-
mucilaginous particles, in which the tingeing property of the
body must be looked for, which, in its natural state, subsists in an
alkalino-saponaceous compound. But if the precipitate be only partly
dissolved in this manner, the dissolved part will then be of the nature
of a resinous mucilage, which in the operation has left the more earthy
parts behind. But if nothing be precipitated by the acids, and the
colour of the decoction is rendered brighter, it is a mark of an
acido-mucilaginous compound, which cannot be separated by acids. In this
there are mostly commonly more earthy parts, which are soon made to
appear by the addition of an alkali.
When, in the instances in which green vitriol has been added, a black
precipitate is produced, it indicates an astringent earthy compound, in
which there are few mucilaginous particles. The more the colour verges
to black, the more of this acid and mucilaginous substance will be found
The mixture of alum with a tingeing decoction shows by the coloured
precipitate that ensues from it, on the one hand, the colour it yields,
and on the other hand, by the precipitate dissolving either partly or
entirely in a strong alkaline lixivium, whether or not some of the earth
of alum has been precipitated together with the colouring particles.
Such substances as these must not, in general, be boiled with alum,
although this latter ingredient may be very properly used in the
preparation of the stuff.
When a tingeing decoction is precipitated by an alkaline lixivium, and
the precipitate is not redissolved by any acid, for the most part
neither one nor the other of these saline substances ought to be used,
but the neutral salts will be greatly preferable. In all these
observations that are made with respect to the precipitation effected by
means of different saline substances, attention must be paid at the same
time to the change of colour which ensues, in order to discover whether
the colour brightens, or entirely changes.
When the colour of a decoction is darkened by the above-mentioned
additions without becoming turbid, it shows that the colouring matter is
more concentrated and inspissated. When the colour is brightened, a
greater degree of solution and attenuation has taken place in the
colouring matter in consequence of the addition. If the colour becomes
clearer, and after a little time some of the tingeing substance is
separated, it shows that part of the colour is developed, but that
another part has been set loose from its combination by the saline
But if the colouring matter is separated in great abundance by the
saline addition, (the colour being brightened at the same time,) it may
be considered as a sign that the colouring substance is entirely
separated from the decoction, and that only an inconsiderable part, of a
gummy nature, remains behind united with the additaments, which is in a
very diluted state.--This is an effect of the solution of tin, as also
sometimes of the pure acids.
If, indeed, a portion of the colouring substance be separated by a
saline addition, but the rest of the colouring decoction becomes
not-withstanding darker, it shows that the rest of the colouring
particles have been more concentrated, and hence have acquired a greater
power of tingeing. With regard to the proportion of the addition, the
following circumstances may serve by way of guide:
When the colour of a decoction is darkened by the addition, without any
precipitate being produced, no detriment can easily arise from using a
redundancy of it, because the colour will not be further darkened by it.
But if the colour be required to be brighter, the trial must first be
made, which is the proportion by which the colour is darkened the most,
and then less of it must be employed.
When the colour of a decoction is brightened by an addition without a
precipitation ensuing, this addition can never be used in a larger
quantity without hurting the colouring particles; because the colouring
particles would be made too light, and almost entirely destroyed.--Such
is the consequence of too large an addition of the solution of tin or of
a pure acid.
When the addition produces a brighter colour, and part only of the
colouring substance is separated without a further addition occasioning
a fresh separation, somewhat more of it than what is wanted may be added
to produce the requisite shading; because experience shows that, by this
means, a greater quantity of tingeing particles is united with the
woolly fibres of the cloth, and is capable of being, as it were,
concentrated in them: for which purpose, however, these barks must be
boiled down. This effect is chiefly observed with sal ammoniac and wine
When by an addition which causes a separation of the colouring substance
the colour becomes brighter in proportion the more there is used of it,
it must be employed in a moderate quantity only; because otherwise, more
and more of the colouring substance will be separated, and its tingeing
power diminished. But when a colour is rendered dark at first by an
addition, and afterwards, upon more of the same substance being added,
becomes brighter, and this in proportion to the quantity that is added,
it will be found that the darkening power has its determined limits; and
that, for producing the requisite degree of darkness, neither too much
nor too little must be taken.
To the before-mentioned principles also, the different proofs bear a
reference, by which the fixity and durability of the colour with which a
stuff has been dyed may be tried. Of these, some may be called natural,
other artificial. The natural proof consists in exposing the dyed stuff
to the air, sun, and rain. If the colour is not changed by this exposure
in twelve or fourteen days, it may be considered as genuine; but if it
is, the contrary is allowed. This proof, however, is not adapted to
every colour; because some of them resist it, and yet will fade in
consequence of the application of certain acids; others, on the
contrary, that can not resist the natural proof remain unchanged by the
latter. Colours, therefore, may be arranged in three classes; and to
each of these a particular kind of artificial proof allotted. The first
class is tried with alum, the second with soap, and the third with
For the proof with alum: Half an ounce of this is dissolved in one pound
of boiling water in an earthenware vessel; into this is put, for
instance, a drachm of yarn or worsted, or a piece of cloth of about two
fingers breadth; this is suffered to boil for the space of five minutes,
and is then washed in clean water. In this manner are tried crimson,
scarlet, flesh-colour, violet, ponceau, peach-blossom colour, different
shades of blue, and other colours bordring upon these.
For the proof with soap: Two drachms of this substance are boiled in a
pint of water, and the small piece of dyed stuff that is to be tried is
put into it, and likewise suffered to boil for the space of five
minutes. With this all sorts of yellow, green, madder-red, cinnamon, and
similar colours, are tried.
In the same manner is made the proof with tartar; only this should be
previously pounded very small, in order that it may be more easily
dissolved. With this all colours bordering upon the fawn are tried.
From the above we discover that the art of applying and fixing colours
in dyeing depends on the chemical affinity between the cloth and the
dyeing principle: and accordingly as this is more or less strong, so is
the facility with which the substance is coloured, and on this the
deepness of the dye depends: for frequently one kind of cloth will be
found to receive no colour at all, whilst another will receive from the
same composition a deep tinge. Cotton, for instance, receives scarcely
any tinge from the same bath that will dye woollen a deep scarlet. Wool
is that which appears to have the strongest affinity to colouring
matter; next to it is silk; then linen; and cotton the weakest, and is
therefore the most difficult of all to dye perfectly. Thus, if a piece
of linen cloth be dipped into a solution of madder, it will come out
just tinged with the colour; but if a piece of the same be previously
dipped into a solution of alum or copperas, and dried previously to
being dipped in the madder, the alum will become so far impregnated with
the colouring principle, that the cloth will receive a perfect dye, and
be so fixed that it cannot be separated by any common means. Thus it
will be observed, that the art of dyeing permanent colours depends on
this intermediate principle, which is termed a mordant. These mordants
are very numerous; and on a knowledge of them appears to rest the
principal secret of dyeing. The following mode is, however, a very
convenient one for makig experiments on fixing the colouring principles
of any vegetable extract: To have several pieces of cloth, woollen,
cotton, silk, and linen, dipped in the different mordants, and by
keeping a small vessel filled with the colouring solution on a fire in a
state a little below boiling, by cutting small pieces of each, and
immersing them in the colour, and examining and comparing with each
other. Experiments of this kind are well worth the attention of persons;
for, when we refer to this department, we shall find very few plants
which are either now, or ever have been, cultivated for this purpose,
although it is well known that so many contain this principle. I have
inserted the following, as being known to contain the different colours
mentioned; but there are many other plants equally productive of this
principle that remain quite unnoticed at present.
539. ACANTHUS mollis. BEAR'S-BREECH.--This gives a fine yellow, which
was in use among the ancients.
540. ACTAEA spicata. BANEBERRY.--The juice of the berries affords a deep
black, and is fixed with alum.
541. ANCHUSA officinalis. YELLOW ANCHUSA, or BLUE-FLOWERED BUGLOSS.--The
juice of the corolla gives out to acids a beautiful green.
542. ANTHEMIS tinctoria.--The flowers afford a shining yellow.
543. ANTHYLLIS vulneraria. KIDNEY-VETCH.--The whole plant gives out a
yellow, which is in use for colouring the garments of the country-
544. ARBUTUS uva-ursi. BEAR'S-BERRY.--The leaves boiled in an acid will
dye a brown.
545. ASPERULA tinctoria. WOODROOF.--The roots give a red similar to
546. ANEMONE Pulsatilla. PASQUE-FLOWER.--The corolla, a green tincture.
547. ARUNDO Phragmites. COMMON REED-GRASS.--The pamicle, a green.
548. BERBERIS vulgaris. BARBERRIES.--The inner bark, a yellow.
549. BROMUS secalinus. BROME-GRASS.--The panicle, a green.
550. BIDENS tripartita. HEMP AGRIMONY..--The herb, a good yellow.
551. BETULA alba. BIRCH.--The leaves, a yellow.
552. BETULA nana. DWARF-BIRCH.--The leaves, a yellow.
553. BETULA Alnus. ALDER.--The bark affords a brown colour; which with
the addition of copperas becomes black.
554. CALENDULA officinalis. COMMON MARIGOLD.--The radius of the corolla,
if bruised, affords a fine orange. The corolla dried and reduced to
powder will also afford a yellow pigment.
555. CALTHA palustris. MARSH-MARIGOLD.--The juice of the corolla, with
alum, gives a yellow.
556. CAMPANULA rotundifolia. ROUND-LEAVED BELL-FLOWER.--A blue pigment
is made from the corolla; with the addition of alum it produces a green
557. CARPINUS Betulus. HORNBEAM.--The bark, a yellow.
558. CHAEROPHYLLUM sylvestre. COW-PARSLEY.--The umbels produce a yellow
colour, and the juice of the other parts of the plant a beautiful green.
559. CARTHAMUS tinctorius. SAFFLOWER.--The radius of the corolla,
prepared with an acid, affords a fine rose-coloured tint.
560. CENTAUREA Cyanus. BLUE-BOTTLE.--The juice of the corolla gives out
a fine blue colour.
561. COMARUM palustre. MARSH-CINQUEFOIL.--The dried root forms a red
pigment. It is also used to dye woollens of a red colour.
562. CUSCUTA europaea. DODDER.--The herb gives out a lightish red.
563. CRATAEGUS Oxycantha. HAWTHORN.--The bark of this plant, with
copperas, is used by the Highlanders to dye black.
564. DATISCA cannabina. BASTARD-HEMP.--This produces a yellow; but is
not easily fixed, therefore it presently fades to a light tinge.
565. DELPHINIUM Consolida. BRANCHING LARKSPUR.--The petals bruised yield
a fine blue pigment, and with alum make a permanent blue ink.
566. FRAXINUS excelsior. MANNA.--The bark immersed in water gives a blue
567. GALIUM boreale. CROSS-LEAVED BEDSTRAW.--The roots yield a beautiful
red, if treated as madder.
568. GALIUM verum. YELLOW BEDSTRAW.--The flowers treated with alum
produce a fine yellow on woollen. The roots, a good red.
569. GENISTA tinctoria.--The flowers are in use among the country-people
for dyeing cloth yellow.
570. GERANIUM sylvaticum. MOUNTAIN CRANESBILL.--The Icelanders use the
flowers of this plant to dye a violet colour.
571. HIERACIUM umbellatum. HAWKWEED.--The whole herb bruised and boiled
in water gives out a yellow dye.
572. HUMULUS Lupulus. HOP.--The strobiles are used for dyeing; but
although they yield a yellow colour, the principal use is as a mordant.
573. HYPERICUM perforatum. PERFORATED ST. JOHN'S WORT.--The flowers dye
a fine yellow.
574. IRIS germanica. GERMAN IRIS.--The juice of the corolla treated with
alum makes a good permanent green ink.
575. ISATIS tinctoria. WOAD.--The leaves steeped in water till the parts
are decomposed, produces a fine blue fecula, which is made into cakes,
and sold to the woollen-dyers. For its culture, see p. 32.
576. LICHEN Roccella. ORCHIL.--The fine purple called orchil is
extracted from this moss.
577. LITHOSPERMUM officinale. GROMWELL.--The roots afford a fine red,
which is used by the young girls in Sweden to colour their faces.
578. LYCOPODIUM complanatum. CLUB-MOSS.--The juice of this plant
extracted by an acid forms a most beautiful yellow.
579. LYCOPUS europaeus. WATER-HOREHOUND.--The juice of this gives out a
black colour, and is sometimes used by the common people for dyeing
woollen cloth. The gypsies are said to use the juice of this plant to
colour their faces with.
580. LYSIMACHIA vulgaris. LOOSESTRIFE.--The juice of the whole herb is
used to dye woollen yellow.
581. MYRICA Gale. SWEET GALE.--The whole shrub tinges woollen of a
582. NYMPHAEA alba. WHITE WATER-LILY.--The Highlanders make a dye with it
of a dark chesnut colour.--Light. Fl. Sc.
583. ORIGANUM vulgare. WILD MARJORAM.--The tops and flowers contain a
purple colour, but it is not to be fixed.
584. PHYTOLACCA decandra. VIRGINIAN POKEWEED.--The leaves and berries
produce a beautiful rose-colour, but it is very fugacious.
585. PRUNUS domestica. PLUM.--The bark is used by the country people to
dye cloth yellow.
586. PYRUS Malus. APPLE,-The bark of this plant, also, produces a yellow
587. QUERCUS Robur. OAK.--The juice of the oak mixed with vitriol forms
a black ink; the galls ar employed for the same purpose.
588. RESEDA Luteola. DYER'S WEED, or WELD.--The most usual plant from
which the yellow dye is extracted. For its culture, see p. 32.
589. RHAMNUS Frangula. BUCKTHORN.--The bark produces a slight yellow,
and the unripe berries impart to wool a green colour.
590. RHAMNUS catharticus. PURGING BUCKTHORN.--The bark yields a most
beautiful yellow colour; and the ripe berries in the autumn produce a
591. RHUS Cotinus. VENUS'S SUMACH.--The bark of the stalks produces a
yellow colour; the bark of the roots produces a red.
592. RHUS coriaria. ELM-LEAVED SUMACH.--This plant is possessed of the
same qualities as the one above.
593. RUBIA tinctorum.--The root produces a red colour. For its culture,
see p. 32.
594. RUMEX maritima. DOCK.--The whole herb gives out a yellow colour.
595. SALIX pentandra. WILLOW.--The leaves produce a yellow colour.
596. SCABIOSA succisa. DEVIL'S BIT SCABIUS.--The dried leaves produce a
597. SERRATULA tinctoria. SAW-WORT.--The whole herb produces a yellow
598. SENECIO Jacobaea. RAGWORT.--The roots, stalks, and leaves, before
the flowering season, give out a green colour which can be fixed on
599. STACHYS sylvatica. HEDGE-HOREHOUND.--The whole herb is said to dye
a yellow colour.
600. THALICTRUM flavum. YELLOW MEADOW-RUE.--The roots and leaves both
give out a fine yellow colour.
601. THAPSIA villosa. DEADLY CARROT.--The umbels are employed by the
spanish peasants to dye yellow.
602. TORMENTILLA erecta. ERECT TORMENTIL.--This root is red, and might
probably be usefully employed.
603. TRIFOLIUM pratense. MEADOW-CLOVER.--The inhabitants of Scania
employ the heads to dye their woollen cloth green.
604. URTICA dioica. NETTLE.--The roots of bettles are used to dye eggs
of a yellow colour against the feast of Easter by the religious of the
Greek church, as are also madder and logwood for the same purpose.
605. XANTHIUM strumarium. LESSER BURBOCK.--The whole herb with the fruit
dyes a most beautiful yellow.
* * * * *
SECTION XII.---PLANTS USED IN RURAL OECONOMY.
The following few plants are such as are used for domestic purposes
which do not fall under any of the foregoing heads, and I therefore have
placed them together here.
606. CONFERVA.--This green thready substance has the power of rendering
foetid water sweet; for which purpose, when water is scarce, it is
usually put into water-tubs and reservoirs.
607. CORYLUS Avellana. HAZEL NUT.--The young shoots of hazel put into
casks with scalding water, render them sweet if they are musty, or
contain any bad flavour.
608. CROCUS vernus. SPRING CROCUS.--Is well kown as a spring flower,
producing one of the most cheerful ornaments to the flower-garden early
in the spring. It affords a great variety in point of beauty and colour,
and is an article of considerable trade among the Dutch gardeners, who
cultivate a great number of varieties, which every year are imported
into this and other countries.
609. EQUISETUM hyemale. DUTCH RUSH.--Of this article great quantities
are brought from Holland for the purpose of polishing mahogany. The
rough parts of the plant are discovered to be particles of flint.
610. ERIOPHORUM polystachion. COTTON GRASS.--The down of the seeds has
been used, instead of feathers, for beds and cushions; and the foliage
in the north of Scotland is considered useful as fodder.
611. GALIUM verum. YELLOW LADIES' BEDSTRAW.--The foliage affords the
dairy-maid a fine rennet for making cheese.
* * * * *
SECTION XIII.--POISONOUS PLANTS GROWING IN GREAT BRITAIN.
"On the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die."
I have found it necessary to be particular in my description of the
articles in this section, as I find that, although the knowledge of
Botany has in some measure increased, yet, in general, we are not better
acquainted with the Poisonous Vegetables than we were thirty years ago.
Many and frequent are the accidents which occur in consequence of
mistakes being made with those plants; but it in general happens that,
from feelings easily appreciated, persons do not like to detail such
misfortunes; which not only hides the mischief, but prevents, in a great
measure, the antidotes becoming so well known as for the good of society
we could wish they were. This I experienced in my researches after
several facts which I wished to ascertain regarding this subject.
However, whilst we have in common use such plants as Foxglove, Hemlock,
and Henbane, and which are now so generally sold in our herb-shops,
people who sell them ought to be particularly careful not to let such
fall into the hands of ignorant persons, and thereby be administered
either in mistake or in improper quantities. Our druggists and
apothecaries are careful in not selling to strangers the more common
preparations of Mercury, or Arsenic, drugs which in themselves carry
fear and dismay in their very names; yet we can get any poisonous
vegetables either in the common market, or of herb-dealers, which are
more likely to be abused in their application than other poisons which
are of not more dangerous tendencies.
The effects of Vegetable Poisons on the human frame vary according to
circumstances. The most usual are: that of disturbing the nervous
function, producing vertigo, faintness, delirium, madness, stupor, or
apoplexy, with a consequent loss of understanding, of speech, and of all
the senses; and, frequently, this dreadful scene ends in death in a
It is, however, fortunate that these dangerous plants, which either grow
wild, or are cultivated in this country, are few in number; and it is
not less so, that the most virulent often carry with them their own
antidote, as many of them, from their disagreeable taste, produce nausea
and sickness, by which their mischief is frequently removed; and when
this is not the case, it points out that the best and most effectual one
is the application of emetics: and it may be almost considered a divine
dispensation, that a plant, very common in all watery places, should be
ready at hand, which has from experience proved one of the most active
drugs of this nature, and this is the Ranunculus Flammula, Water-
Spearwort. The juice of this plant, in cases of such emergency, may be
given in the quantity of a table-spoonful, and repeated every three
minutes until it operates, which it usually will do before the third is
taken into the stomach.
After the vomiting is over, the effects often remain, by part of the
deleterious qualities being absorbed by the stomach; and as it often
happens, in such cases, that medical assistance may not be at hand, I
shall, under the head of each class, give their proper antidote, which
should be in all cases applied as soon as possible, even before medical
assistance is procured. And it should not be forgotten that, in dreadful
cases where the medicine cannot be forced down through the usual
channel, recourse should be had to the use of clysters.
Under each of the following heads I shall describe such cases as have
come under my notice; as they may be useful for comparison: and shall
put under each of the more dangerous the Plantae affines, describing as
accurately as possible the differences.
* * * * *
BITTER NAUSEOUS POISONS.
These are much altered by vegetable acids in general, and especially by
oxymuriatic acid; but they still retain much of their poisonous quality,
which appears to be rendered more active by alkalies. The tanning
decoctions of nut-galls, acacia, and other strong astringents, Venice
treacle, wine, spiritous liquors, and spices, are useful.
623. CHELIDONIUM majus. CELANDINE.--The yellow juice of this plant is
extremely acrid and narcotic. It is not at all like any plant used for
culinary purposes, and therefore there is not any great danger likely to
arise from its being confounded with any useful vegetable.
624. CICUTA virosa. COWBANE.--Two boys and six girls, who found some
roots of this plant in a water-meadow, ate of them. The two boys were
soon seized with pain of the pericardia, loss of speech, abolition of
all the senses, and terrible convulsions. The mouth closely shut, so
that it could not be opened by any means. Blood was forced from the
ears, and the eyes were horribly distorted.
Both the boys died in half an hour from the first accession of the
The six girls, who had taken a smaller quantity of the roots than the
boys, were likewise seized with epileptic symptoms; but in the interval
of the paroxysms, some Venice-treacle dissolved in vinegar was given to
them; in consequence of which they vomited, and recovered: but one of
them had a very narrow escape for her life. She lay nine hours with her
hands and feet outstretched, and cold: all this time she had a
cadaverous countenance, and her respiration could scarcely be perceived.
When she recovered, she complained a long time of a pain in her stomach,
and was unable to eat any food, her tongue being much wounded by her
teeth in the convulsive fits.
Celery is smaller than this plant.
Parsley is also smaller in all its parts.
Alexanders differs from it, as a plant not of so high growth.
Angelica may be mistaken for this, but has a more agreeable scent.
All the water parsneps may be confounded with it: but these are known by
the smallness of the umbels; and they are generally in bloom, so that
this circumstance is a good criterion.
Care should at all times be taken, not to make use of any umbelliferous
plants growing in water, as many of them are, if not altogether
poisonous, very unwholesome.
625. COLCHICUM autumnale. MEADOW-SAFFRON.--Baron Stoerch asserts, that
on cutting the fresh root into slices, the acrid particles emitted from
it irritated the nostrils, fauces, and breast; and that the ends of the
fingers with which it had been held became for a time benumbed; that
even a single grain in a crumb of bread taken internally produced a
burning heat and pain in the stomach and bowels, urgent strangury,
tenesmus, colic pais, cephalalgia, hiccup, &c. From this relation, it
will not appear surprising that we find several instances recorded, in
which the Colchicumproved a fatal poison both to man, and brute animals.
Two boys, after eating this plant, which they found growing in a meadow,
died in great agony. Violent symptoms have been produced by taking the
flowers. The seeds, likewise, have been known to produce similar
626. OENANTHE crocata. HEMLOCK. WATER DROPWORT.--Eleven French prisoners
had the liberty of walking in and about the town of Pembroke; three of
them being in the fields a little before noon, found and dug up a large
quantity of this plant with its roots, which they took to be wild
celery, to eat with their bread and butter for dinner. After washing it
a while in the fields they all three ate, or rather tasted of the roots.
As they were entering the town, without any previous notice of sickness
at the stomach or disorder in the head, one of them was seized with
convulsions. The other two ran home, and sent a surgeon to him. The
surgeon first endeavoured to bleed, and then to vomit him; but those
endeavours were fruitless, and the soldier died in a very short time.
Ignorant yet of the cause of their comrade's death, and of their own
danger, they gave of these roots to the other eight prisoners, who all
ate some of them with their dinner: the quantity could not be
ascertained. A few minutes after, the remaining two who gathered the
plant were seized in the same manner as the first; of which one died:
the other was bled, and a vomit forced down, on account of his jaws
being as it were locked together. This operated, and he recovered; but
he was for some time affected with a giddiness in his head; and it is
remarkable, that he was neither sick nor in the least disordered in his
stomach. The others being bled and vomited immediately, were secured
from the approach of any bad symptoms. Upon examination of the plant
which the French prisoners mistook for wild celery, Mr. Howell discovered
it to be this plant, which grows very plentifully in the neighbourhood
Although the above account, which Mr. Wilmer has so minutely described,
seems well attested, and corroborated by the above gentleman, yet I was
informed by the late Mr. Adams, comptroller of the Customs at Pembroke,
that the Oenanthe does not, that he could find, grow in that part of the
country; but that what the above unfortunate French officers did
actually eat was the wild Celery, which grows plentifully in all the wet
places near that town. I take the liberty of mentioning this
circumstance; as it will serve to keep in mind the fact, that celery,
when found wild, and growing in wet places, shold be used cautiously, it
being in such situations of a pernicious tendency. For such whose
curiosity may lead them to become acquainted with the Oenanthe crocata,
it grows in plenty near the Red House in Battersea fields on the Thames'
bank. The water-courses on the marsh at Northfleet have great quantities
of the Apium graveolens growing in them.
Cultivated celery differs from it when young, first in the shape and
size of its roots. The Oenanthe is perennial, and has a large root, which
on being cut is observed to be full of juice, which exudes in form of
globules. The celery, on the contrary, has roots in general much
smaller, particularly when in a wild state.
The leaves of celery have somewhat the same flavour, but are smaller;
the nerves on the lobes of the leaves are also very prominent, and
somewhat more pointed.
When the two plants are in bloom, a more conspicuous difference is
apparent in the involucrum and seeds, the character of which should be
It may be mistaken for Parsley; but it is both much larger in foliage
and higher in growth; it is also different from it in the shape of the
These are the two plants most likely to be confounded with it. But the
student should also consult the difference existing between this plant
and the following, which, although somewhat alike in appearance, may be
627. PRUNUS Lauro-cerasus. THE COMON LAUREL.--The leaves of the laurel
have a bitter taste, with a flavour resembling that of the kernels of
the peach or apricot; they communicate an agreeable flavour to aqueous
and spirituous fluids, either by infusion or distillation. The distilled
water applied to the organs of smelling strongly impresses the mind with
the same ideas as arise from the taste of peach blossoms or apricot
kernels: it is so extremely deleterious in its nature, and sometimes so
sudden in its operation, as to occasion instantaneous death; but it more
frequently happens that epileptic symptoms are first produced. This
poison was discovered by accident in Ireland in the year 1728: before
which, it was no uncommon practice there, to add a certain quantity of
laurel water to brandy, or other spirituous liquors, to render them
agreeable to the palate. At that time three women drank some
laurel-water; and one of them a short time afterwards became violently
disordered, lost her speech, and died in about an hour.
A gentleman at Guildford, some few years back, also, by making an
experiment as he intended on himself, was poisoned by a small dose: he
did not survive the taking it more than two hours.
In consequence of the above poisonous principle existing in the laurel,
it has been recommended to persons to be cautious hwo they make use of
the leaves of that shrub, which is a usual practice with cooks for
giving flavour to custards, blanch-mange, and other made-dishes, lest
the narcotic principle should be also conveyed, to the detriment of the
health of persons who eat of them.
And the same may be said of the kernels of all stone-fruits; for the
flavours given to noyau, ratafia, and other liquors which are highly
prized by epicures, are all of them derived from the same principle as
laurel-water, and which, on chemical investigation, is found to be
prussic acid. This exists in considerable quantities in the bitter
almond, and which when separated proves to be the most active poison
known, to the human as well as all other animal existence. This
principle, and its mode of extraction, should not be made more public
than the necessity of scientific research requires. We cannot with
propriety accuse either this tree or the laurel as being poisonous,
because the ingenuity of mankind has found out a mode of extracting this
active acidulous principle, and which is so very small in proportion to
the wholesome properties of the fruit, as not to be suspected of any
danger but for this discovery. As well might we accuse wheat of being
poisonous, because it yields on distillation brandy, which has been
known to kill many a strong-bodied fellow who has indulged in this
favourite beverage to excess. An eminent chemist informs me, that he has
made experiments with the oxalic acid, and found that when this was also
concentrated, it has similar effects; insomuch that no animal can
contain a grain of it if taken into the throat or stomach: and thus
might we also be led to consider the elegant, and in itself harmless,
wood-sorrel, as a poisonous plant.
* * * * *
These should be attacked by strong decoctions of oak-bark, gall-nuts,
and Peruvian bark; after which soft mucilaginous matters should be used,
as milk, fat broth, or emulsions.
628. ACONITUM Napelhus. BLUE MONKSHOOD.--This is a very poisonous plant;
and many instances have been adduced of its dangerous effects.
It has probably obtained the name of Wolfsbane, from a tradition that
wolves, in searching for particular roots which they in part subsist
upon in winter, frequently make a mistake, and eat of this plant, which
proves fatal to them.
A weaver in Spitalfields, having supped upon some cold meat and salad,
was suddenly taken ill; and when the surgeon employed upon this
occcasion visited him, he found him in the following situation:--"He was
in bed, with his head supported by an assistant, his eyes and teeth were
fixed, his nostrils compressed, his hands, feet, and forehead cold, no
pulse to be perceived, his respiration short, interrupted, and
Soon after he had eaten of the above, he complained of a sensation of
heat affecting the tongue and fauces; his teeth appeared loose; and it
was very remarkable, although a looking-glass was produced, and his
friends attempted to reason him out of the extravagant idea, yet he
imagined that his face was swelled to twice its usual size. By degrees
the heat, wich at first only seemed to affect the mouth and adjacent
parts, diffused itself over his body and extremities: he had an
unsteadiness and lassitue in his joints, particularly of the knees and
ancles, with an irritable twitching of the tendons, which seemed to
deprive him of the power of walking; and he thought that in all his
limbs he perceived an evident interruption to the circulation of the
blood. A giddiness was the next symptom, which was not accompanied with
nausea. His eyes became watery, and he could not see distinctly; a kind
of humming noise in his ears continually disturbed him, until he was
reduced to the state of insensibility before described.
Although the mischief which is recited above occurred from the root
having been purchased at market, I do not know of any vegetable in
common use likely to be confounded with this. It might by chance be
mistaken for the smaller tubers of Jerusalem artichoke.
In foliage it comes near to the other species of Aconitum, and to the
However, as this is a plant much grown in pleasure-grounds on account of
its beautiful blue flowers, great care should be taken not to use any
roots taken from such places that cannot be well ascertained.
629. ACONITUM Lycoctonum. YELLOW WOLFSBANE.--Every part of this plant is
accounted poisonous. In fact, I think it is proper that all the species
should be considered as such, and never be made use of, either in
medicine or otherwise, without great care in their administration.
630. ACTAEA spicata. BANEBERRY.--This plant is also considered as a
deadly poison; but we have no authentical accounts of its mischievous
effects, although Parkinson has mentioned it in these words:--
"The inhabitants of all the mountaines and places wheresoever it
groweth, as some writers say, do generally hold it to be a most
dangerous and deadly poison, both to man and beast; and they used to
kill the wolves herewith very speedily."
This is not a common plant, growing only in some particular situa-tions,
as near Ingleborough in Yorkshire.
631. RHUS Toxicodendron. POISON-ASH.-The juice of the leaves of this
plant is so very acrid as often to corrode the skin, if the leaves are
gathered when the dew is on them. Great care should certainly be taken
in the giving such a medicine internally, as also in its preparation, it
being usually administered in a dried state.
Rhus radicans differs from this in having a more trailing habit of
growth; otherwise it is scarcely different, so little so, as to baffle a
distinction being made by description alone.
* * * * *
The substances that deaden the effects of the poisons of this class are
vegetable acids, which should be thrown into the stomach in large
quantities. After the operation of emetics, cream of tartar is also
considered of great use, as also oxymuriatic acid, infusions of
nut-gall, oak bark; warm spices are considered also of use, for they may
separate some part of the deleterious matter, as is shown by their
effect when mixed with decoction of these plants; acerb and astringent
wines are also of great use.
632. AETHUSA Cynapium. FOOL'S PARSLEY.--Fool's Parsley seems generally
allowed to be a plant which possesses poisonous qualities. Baron Haller
has taken a great deal of pains to collect what has been said concerning
it, and quotes many authorities to show that this plant has been
productive of the most violent symptoms; such as anxiety, hiccough, and
a delirium even for the space of three months, stupor, vomiting,
convulsions, and death.
Where much parsley is used, the mistress of the house therefore would do
well to examine the herbs previous to their being made use of; but the
best precaution will be, always to sow that variety called Curled
parsley, which cannot be mistaken for this or any other plant. We might
also observe, that the scent is strong and disagreeable in the aethusa:
but this property, either in the plant or the poison, is not at all
times to be trusted in cases of this nature.
Parsley. The lobes of the leaves are larger in this plant, and are not
quite so deep a green. The leaves of fool's parsley are also finer
cleft, and appear to end more in a short point.
Celery, being much larger, cannot easily be confounded with it.
Chervil. Fool's parsley, when young, differs from this plant but very
little, being much the same in size, and the laciniae of the leaves of a
similar form. Chervil, however, is much lighter in colour, and the
flavour more pleasant, both to the taste and smell.
Hemlock is commonly a larger plant; and, exclusive of the generic
distinctions, may be generally known by its spotted stalk.
When fool's parsley is in bloom, it is readily known by the length of
633. ATROPA Belladonna. DEADLY NIGHTSHADE.--Some boys and girls
perceiving in a garden at Edinburgh the beautiful berries of the deadly
nightshade, and unacquainted with their poisonous quality, ate several.
In a short time dangerous symptoms appeared; a swelling of the abdomen
took place; they became convulsed. The next morning one of them died,
and another in the evening of the same day, although all possible care
was taken of them.
Another case is related by Dr. Lambert, who was desired to visit two
children at Newburn, in Scotland, who the preceding day had swallowed
some of the berries of the deadly nightshade. He found them in a
deplorable situation. The eldest (ten years of age) was delirious in
bed, and affected with convulsive spasms: the younger was not in a much
better condition in his mother's arms. The eyes of both the children
were particularly affected. The whole circle of the cornea appeared
black, the iris being so much dilated as to leave no vestige of the
pupil. The tunica conjunctiva much inflamed. These appearances,
accompanied with a remarkable kind of staring, exhibited a very
affecting scene. The symptoms came on about two hours after they had
eaten the berries: they appeared at first as if they had been
intoxicated, afterwards lost the power of speaking, and continued the
whole night so unruly, that it was with much difficulty they were kept
in bed. Neither of these ever recovered.
634. DATURA Stramonium. THORN-APPLE.--The seeds and leaves of the
thorn-apple received into the human stomach produce first a vertigo, and
afterwards madness. If the quantity is large, and vomiting is not
occasioned, it will undoubtedly prove fatal. Boerhaave informs us, that
some boys eating some seeds of the thorn-apple which were thrown out of
a garden, were seized with giddiness, horrible imaginations, terrors,
and delirium. Those that did not soon vomit, died.