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Home - List of Herbs and Articles - Rock Garden

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Finocchio
Southernwood
(archangelica Officinalis Hoffm)
And There Is Pansies That's For Thoughts
Acorn
Poppy
Bluebell (wild Hyacinth)
Asparagus
Anemone (wood)
House Leek (crassulaceoe)


Least Viewed Herbs

Finocchio
Southernwood
(archangelica Officinalis Hoffm)
And There Is Pansies That's For Thoughts
Acorn
Poppy
Bluebell (wild Hyacinth)
Asparagus
Anemone (wood)
House Leek (crassulaceoe)



Asparagus








The Asparagus, belonging to the Lily order of plants, occurs wild
on the coasts of Essex, Suffolk, and Cornwall. It is there a more
prickly plant than the cultivated vegetable which we grow for the
sake of the tender, [36] edible shoots. The Greeks and Romans
valued it for their tables, and boiled it so quickly that velocius
quam asparagi coquuntur--faster than asparagus is cooked--was
a proverb with them, to which our done in a jiffy closely
corresponds. The shoots, whether wild or cultivated, are succulent,
and contain wax, albumen, acetate of potash, phosphate of potash,
mannite, a green resin, and a fixed principle named asparagin.
This asparagin stimulates the kidneys, and imparts a peculiar,
strong smell to the urine after taking the shoots; at the same time,
the green resin with which the asparagin is combined, exercises
gently sedative effects on the heart, calming palpitation, or
nervous excitement of that organ. Though not producing actual
sugar in the urine, asparagus forms and excretes a substance
therein which answers to the reactions used by physicians for
detecting sugar, except the fermentation test. It may fairly be given
in diabetes with a promise of useful results. In Russia it is a
domestic medicine for the arrest of flooding.

Asparagin also bears the chemical name of althein, and occurs
in crystals, which may be reduced to powder, and which may
likewise be got from the roots of marsh mallow, and liquorice.
One grain of this given three times a day is of service for relieving
dropsy from disease of the heart. Likewise, a medicinal tincture is
made (H.) from the whole plant, of which eight or ten drops given
with a tablespoonful of water three times a day will also allay
urinary irritation, whilst serving to do good against rheumatic
gout. A syrup of asparagus is employed medicinally in France: and
at Aix-les-Bains it forms part of the cure for rheumatic patients to
eat Asparagus. The roots of Asparagus contain diuretic virtues
more abundantly than the shoots. An infusion [37] made from
these roots will assist against jaundice, and congestive torpor of
the liver. The shrubby stalks of the plant bear red, coral-like
berries which, when ripe, yield grape sugar, and spargancin.
Though generally thought to branch out into feathery leaves, these
are only ramified stalks substituted by the plant when growing on
an arid sandy soil, where no moisture could be got for the
maintenance of leaves. The berries are attractive to small birds,
who swallow them whole, and afterwards void the seeds, to
germinate when thus scattered about. Thus there is some valid
reason for the vulgar corruption of the title Asparagus into
Sparrowgrass, or Grass. Botanically the plant is a lily which has
seen better days. In the United States of America, Asparagus is
thought to be undeniably sedative, and a palliative in all heart
affections attended with excited action of the pulse. The water in
which asparagus has been boiled, if drunk, though somewhat
disagreeable, is beneficial against rheumatism. The cellular tissue
of the plant furnishes a substance similar to sago. In Venice, the
wild asparagus is served at table, but it is strong in flavour and
less succulent than the cultivated sort. Mortimer Collins makes Sir
Clare, one of his characters in Clarisse say: Liebig, or
some other scientist maintains that asparagin--the alkaloid in
asparagus-develops form in the human brain: so, if you get
hold of an artistic child, and give him plenty of asparagus, he
will grow into a second Raffaelle!

Gerard calls the plant Sperage, which is easily concocted when
eaten, and doth gently loose the belly. Our name, Asparagus, is
derived from a Greek word signifying the tearer, in allusion to
the spikes of some species; or perhaps from the Persian Spurgas,
a shoot.

[38] John Evelyn, in his Book of Salads, derives the term
Asparagus in easy fashion, ab asperitate, from the sharpness of
the plant. Nothing, says he, next to flesh is more nourishing;
but in this country we overboil them, and dispel their volatile salts:
the water should boil before they are put in. He tells of asparagus
raised at Battersea in a natural, sweet, and well-cultivated soil,
sixteen of which (each one weighing about four ounces) were
made a present to his wife, showing what solum, coelum, and
industry will effect. The Asparagus first came into use as a food
about 200 B.C., in the time of the elder Cato, and Augustus was
very partial to it. The wild Asparagus was called Lybicum, and by
the Athenians, Horminium. Roman cooks used to dry the shoots,
and when required these were thrown into hot water, and boiled
for a few minutes to make them look fresh and green. Gerard
advises that asparagus should be sodden in flesh broth, and eaten;
or boiled in fair water, seasoned with oil, pepper, and vinegar,
being served up as a salad. Our ancestors in Tudor times ate the
whole of the stalks with spoons. Swift's patron, Sir William
Temple, who had been British Minister at the Hague, brought the
art of Asparagus culture from Holland; and when William III.
visited Sir William at Moor Park, where young Jonathan was
domiciled as Secretary, his Majesty is said to have taught the
future Dean of St. Patrick's how to eat asparagus in the Dutch
style. Swift afterwards at his own table refused a second helping of
the vegetable to a guest until the stalks had been devoured,
alleging that King William always ate his stalks. When the large
white asparagus first came into vogue, it was known as the New
Vegetable. This was grown with lavish manure and was called
Dutch Asparagus. For [39] cooking the stalks should be cut of
equal lengths, and boiled standing upwards in a deep saucepan
with nearly two inches of the heads out of the water. Then the
steam will suffice to cook these tender parts, whilst the hard
stalky portions may be boiled long enough to become soft and
succulently wholesome. Two sorts of asparagus are now grown--
the one an early kind, pinkish white, cultivated in France and the
Channel Islands; the other green and English. At Kynance Cove in
Cornwall, there is an island called Asparagus Island, from the
abundance in which the plant is found there.

In connection with this popular vegetable may be quoted the
following riddle:--

What killed a queen to love inclined,
What on a beggar oft we find,
Show--to ourselves if aptly joined,
A plant which we in bundles bind.





Next: Balm

Previous: Arum--the Common



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