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98 • The Cultural History of Plants

Arugula/rocket (Eruca vesicaria subsp. sativa). USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database/Britton, N.L., and A. Brown.

1913. Illustrated flora of the northern states and Canada. Vol. 2, p. 192.

Basil Ocimum basilicum


Basil is native to tropical Asia and Africa and has been cultivated in Europe for centuries. The leaves

are used fresh in cooking being added to soups, salads, especially tomato salad, and meat and fish

dishes. Fresh basil is an essential ingredient in pesto sauce, made by pounding fresh leaves in a mortar with salt, olive oil, and garlic. Parmesan cheese, pine nuts, or walnuts may also be added, and

Herbs and Vegetables • 99

the resulting sauce is stirred into minestrone soup or hot pasta. Thai basil (O. × citriodorum “Thai”)

is an annual native to Thailand and Burma. It has a darker leaf than common basil and a slight

anise flavor. In Thailand it is used in salads and as a garnish.

Bay Laurus nobilis


The bay tree is native to Asia Minor and the Mediterranean. It is the aromatic leaves which are valued for their flavoring properties. The Greeks and Romans made laurel leaf crowns as symbols of

wisdom and glory for their athletes and emperors. In cooking the dried leaves are used in meat

pâtés and stews (drying reduces bitterness of the leaves) and are a key ingredient in bouquet garni.

They are also used for packing licorice and dried figs to discourage weevils.

Bearberry Arctostaphylos uva-ursi


The red berries of this small shrub were cooked with meat as a seasoning for the broth by North

American Indians. It grows in Canada and as far south in the United States as New Jersey and

Wisconsin, as well as in the northern latitudes of Europe and Asia.

Bergamot, Beebalm Monarda didyma


The bergamots are native to North America. The whole plant is pleasantly fragrant, and it is popular with bees on account of the quantity of nectar to be found in its blossom. It was used by the

North American Indians and the early settlers as Oswego tea, which tastes like a scented China tea

and is most refreshing when taken cold. The plant was brought to Europe and is cultivated as an

ornamental garden plant. M. fistulosa, or wild bergamot, is used in herbal teas. Neither should be

confused with the bergamot tree, Citrus bergamia, which yields the oils used in Earl Grey tea.

Borage Borago officinalis


Borage is indigenous to the Mediterranean area but has been cultivated in Britain and North America,

with a long history of use as a medicinal herb and used by beekeepers to attract bees and flavor

honey. Young fresh borage leaves are rich in vitamin C and can be used in salads. The pretty blue

Borage (Borago officinalis). USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database/Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. Illustrated

flora of the northern states and Canada. Vol. 3, p. 93.

100 • The Cultural History of Plants

Burnet (Sanguisorba minor) Joe F. Duft @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database/USDA NRCS. 1992. Western wetland flora: Field office guide to plant species. West Region, Sacramento, CA.

flowers can be candied and used for decoration. The flowers and leaves also make an attractive

addition to a wine and fruit cup when freshly picked.

See: Gathering Food from the Wild, p. 38

Burnet Sanguisorba minor, S. officinalis


This is the name for two common European herbs that bear dark crimson or deep brown flowers, hence the name, which is derived from the French word brunette. Salad burnet, Sanguisorba minor, is the species usually cultivated in gardens. It is native to the Mediterranean

countries, Asia Minor, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Middle Asia. Today it is cultivated sporadically in Europe, including Britain, Germany, and France, and in North America and Asia. The

leaves have a pleasant cucumber flavor and have been eaten since classical Greek times and

were commonly used in salads from the 15th to 19th centuries. In recent times they have been

used as ensalada italiana in Spain, especially in Catalonia. The leaves are also added to cold

drinks in the same way as the better-known borage. The upper parts of the plant and its roots

have been used in folk medicine for digestive disorders. In arid areas it is occasionally cultivated as fodder for sheep.

Great burnet, Sanguisorba officinalis, is a larger plant of similar uses. It originates from the temperate zones of Eurasia and North America and is cultivated mainly in Asia and Japan. The young

leaves are used for salads and are also served with other vegetables or as a spice for soups. In folk

medicine, extracts of the roots are used in Russia, China, and Japan as an antiseptic.

Capers Capparis spinosa


Capers are the unopened flower buds of a spiny trailing shrub, which occurs in the Mediterranean

region and in North Africa and Asia Minor. It is cultivated mainly in Mediterranean areas, but also

in Tibet, India, and Southeast Asia. The biggest producers are Italy and Spain. The plant is sprawling and is covered in thorns, though highly domesticated races without thorns are also cultivated.

As the buds develop rapidly, they must be harvested daily which increases the costs of the product.

The buds are pickled in vinegar or preserved in salt and have been used since at least the time of the

ancient Greeks as a condiment to add a salty-sour flavor to sauces (e.g., tartare sauce), cheeses,

salad dressings, stews, pasta sauces, and various other meat and fish dishes. The fresh buds are not

Herbs and Vegetables • 101

eaten, because the characteristic slightly bitter flavor is due to the presence of capric acid which is

only developed by pickling. Pickled mature fruits are also eaten in southern Europe, known as cornichons de câprier. The bark of the root was used medicinally in classical times, and it is still considered a medicinal plant in India.

See: Spices, pp. 157–8

Chamomile, Roman camomile Chamaemilum nobile (syn. Anthemis nobilis)


Chamomile is native to southern Europe and northern Africa and grows wild as a perennial in parts

of Britain. It yields an essential oil used to flavor ice cream. The flower heads are used to make Chamomile tea. German chamomile, Matricaria recutita, also of the Asteraceae family, has a wider

native distribution in Europe and is naturalized in North America. It is used in similar ways. Both

species are grown commercially in Europe and the former USSR.

See: Plants as Medicines, p. 213

Chervil Anthriscus cerefolium


A native of Asia Minor, the Caucasus, and southern Russia, chervil was introduced and spread

throughout Europe by the Romans. Chervil leaves have a slightly sweet, aniseed taste, and are used

fresh or dried in France in omelettes, soups, and salads.

Chives Allium schoenoprasum


Chives grow wild in most of Europe, in Russia as far east as Siberia, in Canada, and the northern

part of the United States. Although used in antiquity, the herb was probably not cultivated until

the Middle Ages. The chopped young leaves have a fresh onion flavor which is delicious in salads,

in omelettes, and as a garnish for boiled new potatoes. Its purple flowers are sometimes added

to salads.

Comfrey Symphytum officinale


This plant is native to Europe, western Siberia, Caucasus, and North America. Since ancient times it

has been used as a medicinal plant, but it has also been used sporadically as a flavoring herb, particularly as a potherb, for homemade wine, and for butter in Bavaria. Both the leaves and stems have

been eaten and are usually boiled, and it can be eaten like spinach as a vegetable. In Bavaria the

leaves are dipped in batter and fried. The stems can be blanched by earthing them up, which makes

the astringent flavor milder. Although comfrey has been advocated as a health food for humans,

cultivation has mainly been for animal fodder.

Costmary, Alecost, Bible leaf Tanacetum balsamita subsp. balsamita (syn. Chrysanthemum majus)


Costmary is native to the Near East and was used by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans.

By the 16th century it was common in gardens in Britain though it was probably first introduced by

the Romans. The colonists took it to North America where it is common in the eastern and midwest states. It gets its American name, bibleleaf, from the long leaves being used as page markers in

the bibles of the early colonists. It is used for flavoring ale (beer) and can be used for flavoring

soups, game, poultry, veal, and stuffing. It has a soft balsam flavor and should be used sparingly in

cooking. The related C. coronarium (crown daisy, Shingiku, or chop suey green) has piquant leaves

which may be used in salads or cooked in Oriental cuisine.

102 • The Cultural History of Plants

Curry leaf Murraya koenigii


This species grows wild in much of South and Southeast Asia, and it is cultivated in India, Sri Lanka

and Southeast Asia, Australia, the Pacific islands, and Africa. The small, shiny, pungent leaves

are used for flavoring in cookery, in curry dishes, and in many kinds of chutney in south India,

Sri Lanka, and in some parts of Southeast Asia. The leaves are used in a similar way to the bay leaf in

western countries and are employed in fresh, dried, and powdered forms. When they are used fresh,

they are fried first to make them brown and crisp before adding to the dish. When dried, the leaves

retain their aroma and can be bought either whole or powdered.

See: Spices, p. 162

Dandelion Taraxacum officinale


The dandelion is native to Europe and Asia and was introduced by European colonists to North

America. The young leaves of this familiar wild plant can be eaten raw in salads or tossed in melted

butter as a vegetable or cooked as a potherb. The flowers are used to make dandelion wine and the

leaves to flavor herb beers. The dried root can be ground and roasted as a substitute for coffee.

See: Caffeine, Alcohol, and Sweeteners p. 177

Daun salam, Indonesian bay leaf Syzygium polyanthum


This tree is native to Malaysia, Indonesia (Java and Sumatra), and Thailand, and has edible flowers and

fruits. The leaves are used as a flavoring and play an important part in Indonesian cuisine, where a single leaf placed in the cooking pan gives a subtle aromatic flavor to dishes. Its leaves can be used dried or

powdered. It is used, for example, in nasi goring (fried rice), and its role is generally compared to the

curry leaf in Indian cuisine. Young leaves are also frequently cooked like greens, often with meat.

Dill Anethum graveolens


Dill is native to the Mediterranean countries and southern Russia and is now cultivated widely

in Europe, India, and North America. Dill has been used since classical times in herbalism to

aid digestion. The leaves and seeds have a similar flavor, reminiscent of caraway, though the seed

Dill (Anethum graveolens).USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database/Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. Illustrated flora

of the northern states and Canada. Vol. 2, p. 634.

Herbs and Vegetables • 103

has a more pronounced flavor. Its principal culinary use is in pickling cucumbers (dill pickles)

when the whole plant together with green seeds are used and are also used in sauerkraut. In parts of

northern Europe dill sauce (made with leaves or “dill weed”) is served with fish. Dill goes well in

celery or zucchini soups. Dill seed is used as a condiment and can be used to flavor root vegetables,

cakes, and sweets. The feathery leaves have a more delicate flavor; they should be used raw or added

at the end of cooking time to keep their flavor.

See: Spices, p. 163

Elecampane Inula helenium


Elecampane is native to Asia and parts of Europe. In the past the roots of elecampane were used in

Roman cooking for sauces or salted were served as an hors d’oeuvre or at the end of a meal to aid

digestion. From Medieval times onwards they were candied and used in confectionary. The aromatic leaves have also been used as a potherb.

Fennel Foeniculum vulgare


Fennel is a native perennial of southern Europe and the Caucasus and is widely naturalized in

Europe and North America. The leaves were very popular as a herb with the Romans. The leaves

and seeds both have a strong anise flavor. Fennel leaves have been used in Britain for centuries with

fresh or salted fish, as fennel sauce, or chopped in mayonnaise or in stuffing. In Italy it is used to flavor pork. Seeds are used to flavor bread, pastries, confectionary, liqueurs, and fish dishes. They contain an essential oil whose main constituent is anethole. The cultivated form, Florence fennel (see

following, subsp. vulgare var. azoricum), has an enlarged, sweet tasting leaf base or bulb that is

cooked as a vegetable or sliced raw in salads.

See: Gathering Food from the Wild, p. 40; Spices, p. 163; Plants as Medicines, p. 214

Fitweed, Shado beni Eryngium foetidum


The origin of this species is not known, but it is native to Central and South America, from

southern Mexico to Panama, Colombia, Bolivia and Brazil, and from Cuba to Trinidad. It has

been introduced into Florida and the Old World tropics where it has naturalized in many places.

It was introduced to Southeast Asia by the Chinese as a substitute for coriander, both as a garnish and in cooking. Although it is collected from the wild or gardens in most places, it is also

cultivated in South America and occasionally elsewhere in Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, the

Philippines and Japan. The leaves are aromatic and smell like coriander. Its fresh leaves are used

as a flavoring in soups, curries, stews, rice, and fish dishes. The tender, young leaves are eaten raw

or cooked as a vegetable. It also has many medicinal uses throughout its distribution and has been

used as an aphrodisiac.

Garden angelica Angelica archangelica


Angelica grows wild over much of Asia and Europe and is cultivated in Belgium, Hungary, and

Germany. The young green stems are commonly candied and used to decorate cakes and puddings.

In some countries it is eaten as a green vegetable, and sometimes the young shoots are blanched and

used in salads. It has been added to rhubarb and to marmalade as a flavoring. It has been used to

flavor drinks such as vermouth, chartreuse, and especially gin.

104 • The Cultural History of Plants

Garlic Allium sativum


Garlic was cultivated in Mesopotamia and Egypt in antiquity (remains of garlic bulbs have been

found at Deir el Medina and in the tomb of Tutankhamun for example), and it was well known to

the Greeks and Romans. The Romans used it to strengthen laborers and to make their soldiers more

courageous; but Horace, in his third Epode, describes how infuriated he was to be given some by

Maecenas at a feast:

“If ever man with impious hand

Strangled an aged parent,

May he eat garlic, deadlier than hemlock!

(Ah, what hardy stomachs reapers have!)

What is this venom savaging my frame?

Has viper’s blood, unknown to me,

Been brewed into these herbs. . . .”

The common name is Anglo-Saxon in origin. Today garlic is cultivated widely around the world,

the best-flavored bulbs coming from warm countries. The bulbs are broken up into individual

cloves for culinary use. The strong, onion-like, pungent flavor is not to everyone‘s taste, and it

should be used in very small quantities if it is not to overpower other flavors in cooking. It can also

be used raw in garlic butter as a dressing for cooked meat.

See: Plants as Medicines, p. 219

Gallant soldier, Guascas Galinsoga parviflora


This species is native to South America, particularly the Andean region and Colombia, and has

naturalized into parts of North America, Europe, Africa, and Asia to become a cosmopolitan weed.

In its native countries it is considered of culinary importance. The steamed young tops of the plant

can be eaten as a vegetable. In Colombia it can be bought dried and ground into a green powder

which adds a delicious flavor to soups and stews. It also makes good fodder for animals.

See: Gathering Food from the Wild, p. 31

Horseradish Armoracia rusticana


Horseradish is probably indigenous to the east and southeastern Europe, where it has been cultivated since antiquity, and spread to other parts of Europe in medieval times. Today, it is cultivated

in many places within the temperate zones of the Old and New World, mainly in Europe and North

America. Although it is cultivated on a larger scale in Europe, North America, and South Africa, it

is mostly grown by smallholders and in home gardens for both culinary and medicinal uses.

The roots, when grated, yield a volatile oil which is very pungent. Its pungent taste is due to the

volatile essential oils similar to those of mustard, which are lost in cooking. The peeled and grated

roots are used fresh to make a hot, spicy sauce by mixing with salt, vinegar, and oil and are eaten

with meat and fish dishes. In Britain it is most famously served with roast beef. The leaves are used

medicinally. The hot, flavored young leaves are one of the bitter herbs used for the Jewish Passover.

Hyssop Hyssopus officinalis


Hyssop is native to the Mediterranean and Central Asia and has naturalized in North America. It is

an attractive shrub with blue flowers that is chiefly cultivated for its medicinal properties. The aromatic, slightly bitter flavor of hyssop counteracts fatty, oily meat and fish. A few chopped leaves go

Herbs and Vegetables • 105

well with stuffings or sausages, or they can be added to salads, stewed fruit, or fruit pies. The tops

are used to flavor liqueurs such as Chartreuse.

Lemon balm Melissa officinalis


Lemon balm is native to southern Europe and has been in cultivation for the past two thousand years.

It was brought to Britain by the Romans. The leaves, which have a pleasant lemon flavor, are

used in salads and added to cool drinks and wine cups. Chopped leaves can be added to

omelettes. In Belgium and Holland they are used when pickling herrings and eels. It is the basic

ingredient of Melissa cordial, eau-de-melisse des carmes, and Benedictine liqueur. It is much loved

by honeybees.

Lemon verbena, Lemon beebrush Aloysia citrodora


A native of South and Central America, this deciduous shrub was introduced to Europe in the

18th century by Spanish explorers. Its sweetly lemon-scented leaves are used chopped in seasonings

or to flavor fish, poultry, jams, jellies, and puddings. The leaves also make a refreshing tea.

See: Fragrant Plants, p. 219

Lovage Levisticum officinale


Lovage is native to southern Europe (a related plant, Ligusticum scoticum, grows wild in northern

Britain and on the Atlantic coasts of North America). It was used by the Greeks and Romans to aid

digestion. The seeds, leaves, and leafstems have a strong, earthy, celery flavor and are chiefly used to

flavor soups and stews. It is particularly useful in vegetarian dishes, with rice, vegetable seasonings,

and nut roasts. Its stems can be used in salads or candied like angelica. The seeds are used on bread

or cheese biscuits.

Makrut lime, Kaffir lime Citrus hystrix


This species of Citrus is native to tropical Southeast Asia, but is now grown throughout Southeast

Asia, Central America, and the Mascarene and Hawaiian Islands for its leaves and fruit juice, which

are used as a flavoring. The leaves are a more common ingredient in Southeast Asian dishes and are

particularly ubiquitous in Thai cuisine. It is usual to tear the lime leaves before adding them to the

cooking pot and to remove them once the dish is cooked. The leaves are used both fresh and dried

in soups, curries, sauces, and gravies. Usually sold fresh in the native countries, dried whole and

powdered leaves of makrut lime can also be found in Asian and western supermarkets. The dried or

candied peels and the juice of the fruits also serve as a flavoring, and essential oils obtained from the

leaves and fruit peel are utilized in the cosmetics industry.

Marsh mallow Althaea officinalis


The native distribution of this species extends from the Middle Asian steppes through the Ukraine,

the Balkans, and the Mediterranean region. From the Atlantic coast of Europe it reached southern

England, the Netherlands, and central Europe. Although its leaves are edible, the main use of the

plant is its roots, which yield a mucilaginous substance which is the traditional basis for the sweet

confection known as marshmallow, but it has now been almost completely replaced by gum arabic.

It was formerly cultivated in France, Italy, Germany, Balkan, Hungary, and southern parts of Russia;

however, in recent years cultivation has decreased. The roots of this species have been used medicinally, and in India the leaves are eaten as a green vegetable.

106 • The Cultural History of Plants

Milfoil, Yarrow Achillea millefolium


This plant is native to Europe but is now widely naturalized in North America, New Zealand, and

Australia. It has pungent, strong-flavored leaves used in salads and soups, and a tisane is also made

from the plant, and it has been used to flavor beef. Most commonly, this species has been used as a

medicinal plant. It has also been used as a substitute for tobacco, nutmeg, cinnamon, and hops.

See: Plants as Medicines, p. 218

Mint Mentha spp.


There are a number of different species of mint found, but they hybridize easily and may be difficult to

identify botanically. Mint was used by the Greeks and Romans for its scent; for the Athenians in particular it indicated strength as they used to rub it on their arms to make them stronger. The Romans

are said to have brought mint to Britain and to have introduced mint sauce to British cuisine. The following are among the most common wild mints that have contributed to cultivated forms.

Water mint (Mentha aquatica) is a strongly-flavored mint found in very damp conditions. It was

crossed with spearmint (M. spicata) to give rise to the hybrid peppermint (M. × piperita). It is

believed to have been used and grown since at least Roman times. In the Middle Ages it was a popular strewing herb known as menastrum.

Cultivated varieties of peppermint, known as black peppermint with dark stems and white peppermint with green stems, are grown chiefly for the production of peppermint oil which is mainly

used in the manufacture of sweets and candies. Peppermint oil contains menthol which has anesthetic properties and produces a cool sensation in the mouth. It is also used in the production of

peppermint-flavored liqueurs such as crème de menthe. Pliny says that the Greeks and Romans

crowned themselves with peppermint at their feasts, and that their cooks flavored both sauces and

wines with it.

Pennyroyal (M. pulegium) is a low-growing species of mint that grows wild in damp, shady parts

of temperate Europe and Asia. It has a pungent peppermint smell and a sharp taste. It was used by

the Romans to drive away fleas and is often mentioned in Anglo-Saxon herbals as a cure for whooping cough, asthma, and indigestion. It is an essential flavoring herb in black pudding, the English

north country delicacy. It was also used to make pennyroyal tea, an old-fashioned remedy for colds.

Spearmint (Mentha spicata).USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database/Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. Illustrated

flora of the northern states and Canada. Vol. 3, p. 149.

Herbs and Vegetables • 107

The well-known cultivars of round-leaved mint M. rotundifolia, apple mint, Bowles’ mint,

and pineapple mint are amongst the best-flavored of all the culinary mints. Spearmint (M. spicata)

is native to the Mediterranean and was probably introduced to Britain by the Romans. It has

been grown in America for well over two centuries. It is the commonest form of mint grown in

gardens, and there are a number of different varieties based on the shape and color of the leaves,

the color of the stem, and the hairiness of the plant. As with other forms of mint it is inclined to

spread vigorously in cultivation. Gerard says of it, “The smell of Mint does stir up the minde

and the taste to a greedy desire of meate.” It was also thought to prevent milk from curdling.

This form of mint is used in British cooking to flavor new potatoes and peas and to make mint

sauce, traditionally served with lamb. It is also much used in the Levant, Middle East, and in

India as a flavoring.

The flowers and buds of mountain mint, Koellia virginiana, were used by North American

Indians to flavor meat and soups.

See: Plants as Medicines, pp. 215–6; Fragrant Plants, pp. 249–50

Mitsuba, Japanese parsley Cryptotaenia japonica


This species is native to far eastern Russia, Japan, Korea, and China. It is cultivated in Japan,

Korea, China, and occasionally Southeast Asia and North America as a culinary herb. The main

parts used are the leaves, the green stems, and the highly-prized blanched white stems, which

look similar to coriander but have a milder flavor. Mitsuba comes from two main varieties, kansai

(green) and kanto (whiter). In Japan, great care is taken in its cultivation and to techniques such

as winter and summer blanching to make the stems more tender. It has a similar role in Japan to

parsley in western countries and coriander in most other Asian countries, with a wide range of

uses. These are eaten, fresh or blanched, to season clear and fish soups and a wide range of

Japanese dishes. They should never be cooked for more than a couple of minutes or the flavor

is lost. The seeds are also used as a seasoning. The plant has been widely employed for its

medicinal properties.

Mustards: Black mustard Brassica nigra, Brown mustard B. juncea,

White mustard Sinapis alba


The condiment mustard is based on the seeds of these three plants of the cabbage family. Black

mustard has been in cultivation for more than two thousand years and is native to Europe and

Asia and has become naturalized in North America. It was the main ingredient of mustard

until World War II, but because it sheds its seeds readily when ripe it is unsuited to mechanical

harvesting and has now been largely replaced by brown mustard whose seed is not so strongly

flavored. Black mustard is still grown in areas where hand harvesting persists. White mustard

(known as yellow mustard in the United States) is the mustard of “mustard and cress.” It is

used in American mixed mustards and to some extent in English mustard but is forbidden in

Dijon mustard.

The young leaves of all mustard varieties can be eaten. In Europe and Asia black mustard is cultivated for its young leaves, eaten raw as salad or cooked as a potherb. Brown mustard, known as

mustard greens, is also eaten in young tender form as a salad green, or cooked in soups and stews.

Mizuna or Japanese mustard (Brassica juncea var. japonica) has a mild, sweet earthy flavour and is a

common component of mesclun salad.

See: Spices, p. 165

108 • The Cultural History of Plants

Nasturtium Tropaeolum majus


Nasturtium seeds were first brought to Europe from Peru by the Spanish in the 16th century.

The succulent leaves, buds, and flowers have a sharp, peppery taste and can be added to salads.

The unripe fruits can be pickled like capers but should only be eaten in small quantities.

Parsley Petroselinum crispum


Parsley is one of the best-known and most widely grown herbs. In England and America the curlyleaved varieties are most popular; elsewhere the plain, flat-leaved forms are favored, and they do

have a better flavor. The Greeks used it to make victory wreaths to crown the athletes at the

Isthmian Games and for offerings at the tombs of the dead. The Romans were the first to use it for

flavoring food. It is native to the Mediterranean region and was introduced into Britain in the

16th century and later to the United States. The Hamburg variety is grown for its enlarged fleshy

taproot and was introduced to Britain from Holland in 1727 by Miller. Fresh or dried leaves are

used, finely chopped, as flavorings for sauces, soups, seasonings, rissoles, and mince, and sprinkled

over vegetables and salads.

Poke root Phytolacca decandra


This is regarded as one of the most important of indigenous North American plants, with the plant

being used as a dye and the dried root used in many traditional herbal remedies. It is now also common in the Mediterranean region. The young shoots are used as a good substitute for asparagus,

and poultry are very happy to eat the berries (hence the common name pigeon berry), although

eating too many can give their flesh an unpleasant flavor. In Portugal the juice of the berries was

used to color port wines, but this was discontinued as it affected the flavor. As the plant matures the

whole plant becomes poisonous.

Rosemary Rosemarinus officinalis


Rosemary is native to the rocky limestone hillsides around the Mediterranean and was introduced

to Britain by the Romans. It is fairly tender and needs winter protection in the northern parts of

Britain and the United States. Sprigs of leaves are used in cooking lamb, stews, and strong game

and have a camphor-like flavor. Leaves may be infused in milk for sweet puddings and custards.

Rosemary was one of the most popular herbs for flavoring ale.

Rue Ruta graveolens


Rue is native to the Mediterranean region, although it has naturalized elsewhere now. It was cultivated by the ancient Greeks and Romans as a spice and medicinal plant and was also commonly used during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. In Britain, it grew wild in parts of

Lancashire and Yorkshire in 1597, possibly as a remnant of Roman cultivation. The leaves are

blue-green and fleshy and have a strong aroma and bitter flavor. In the kitchen it was used as an

occasional flavoring to soups and stews and was often pickled to use as a relish with meat.

Today, the plant is cultivated in several countries of Europe, Asia, Africa, and America. The bitter pungent leaves are used, fresh or dried, in small quantities for salads and as a flavoring for

bread, meat, vinegars, and various dishes. It is also used to impart bitterness to wines. Rue oil,

obtained by distillation of the leaves, is mainly produced in Spain and Portugal. It is used as a

spice and perfume.

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