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Finocchio
Southernwood
(archangelica Officinalis Hoffm)
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Poppy
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House Leek (crassulaceoe)



Caraway








The common Caraway is a herb of the umbelliferous order found
growing on many waste places in England, though not a true
native of Great Britain. Its well-known aromatic seeds should be
always at hand in the cupboard of every British housewife. The
plant got its name from inhabiting Caria, a province of Asia
Minor. It is now cultivated for commerce in Kent and Essex; and
the essential oil distilled from the home grown fruit is preferred in
this country. The medicinal properties of the Caraway are cordial
and comforting to [82] the stomach in colic and in flatulent
indigestion; for which troubles a dose of from two to four drops of
the essential oil of Caraway may be given on a lump of sugar, or
in a teaspoonful of hot water.

For earache, in some districts the country people pound up the
crumb of a loaf hot from the oven, together with a handful of
bruised Caraway seeds; then wetting the whole with some spirit,
they apply it to the affected part. The plant has been long
naturalised in England, and was known here in Shakespeare's time,
who mentions it in the second part of Henry IV. thus: Come,
cousin Silence! we will eat a pippin of last year's graffing, with a
dish of Caraways; and then to bed! The seeds grow numerously
in the small flat flowers placed thickly together on each floral
plateau, or umbel, and are best known to us in seed cake, and in
Caraway comfits. They are really the dried fruit, and possess,
when rubbed in a mortar, a warm aromatic taste, with a fragrant
spicy smell. Caraway comfits consist of these fruits encrusted with
white sugar; but why the wife of a comfit maker should be given
to swearing, as Shakespeare avers, it is not easy to see. The young
roots of Caraway plants may be sent to table like parsnips; they
warm and stimulate a cold languid stomach. These mixed with
milk and made into bread, formed the chara of Julius Caesar,
eaten by the soldiers of Valerius. Chemically the volatile
oil obtained from Caraway seeds consists of carvol, and a
hydro-carbon, carvene, which is a sort of camphor. Dioscorides
long ago advised the oil for pale-faced girls; and modern ladies
have not disregarded the counsel.

From six pounds of the unbruised seeds, four ounces of the pure
essential oil can be expressed. In Germany the peasants flavour
their cheese, soups, and household [83] bread--jager--with the
Caraway; and this is not a modern custom, for an old Latin author
says: Semina carui satis communiter adhibentur ad condiendum
panem; et rustica nostrates estant jusculum e pane, seminibus
carui, et cerevisa coctum.

The Russians and Germans make from Caraways a favourite
liqueur Kummel, and the Germans add them as a flavouring
condiment to their sawerkraut. In France Caraways enter into the
composition of l'huile de Venus, and of other renowned
cordials.

An ounce of the bruised seeds infused for six hours in a pint of
cold water makes a good Caraway julep for infants, from one to
three teaspoonfuls for a dose, It consumeth winde, and is
delightful to the stomack; the powdered seed put into a poultice
taketh away blacke and blew spots of blows and bruises. The oil,
or seeds of Caraway do sharpen vision, and promote the secretion
of milk. Therefore dimsighted men and nursing mothers may
courageously indulge in seed cake!

The name Caraway comes from the Gaelic Caroh, a ship, because
of the shape which the fruit takes. By cultivation the root
becomes more succulent, and the fruit larger, whilst more oily, and
therefore acquiring an increase of aromatic taste and odour. In
Germany the seeds are given for hysterical affections, being finely
powdered and mixed with ginger and salt to spread with butter on
bread. As a draught for flatulent colic twenty grains of the
powdered seeds may be taken with two teaspoonfuls of sugar in a
wineglassful of hot water. Caraway-seed cake was formerly a
standing institution at the feasts given by farmers to their labourers
at the end of wheat sowing. But narcotic effects have been known
to follow the chewing of Caraway seeds in a large quantity, such
as three ounces at a time.

[84] As regards its stock of honey the Caraway may be termed,
like Uriah Heep, and in a double sense, truly umbel. The
diminutive florets on its flat disk are so shallow that lepidopterous
and hymenopterous insects, with their long proboses, stand no
chance of getting a meal. They fare as poorly as the stork did in
the fable, whom the fox invited to dinner served on a soup plate.
As Sir John Lubbock has shown, out of fifty-five visitants to the
Caraway plant for nectar, one moth, nine bees, twenty-one flies,
and twenty-four miscellaneous midges constituted the dinner
party.





Next: Chamomile

Previous: Capsicum (cayenne)



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