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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Colonial Kitchen Plants on "In the Garden"

Thanks for joining us In the Garden today for Colonial American (& Elizabethan) Kitchen Plants! If you missed today's show, no worries, I'll catch you up a little in this post and you can always listen to the show when it is posted next week on Podcasts on Demand.

In the time allowed, we touched on only a handful of common plants that the Gentlewoman of the 17th-century might have used for food, medicine, dye and for crafting her tools to tend to home, hearth and gardens.

We started with the charming Houseleek, also called Hens-n-chicks (Sempervivum tectorum), a succulent little low-growing plant that might have been found growing on the rooftops of England, thus the name! Its cooling, soothing juices were used for treating burns, scaldings, shingles, ringworm as well as for making an eyewash. Not to mention that it was believed to ward of lightening strikes! Why did you think the English would have it planted on their roofs?

We explored lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) and gill-over-the-ground (Glechoma hederacea), both used in ale brewing, among other things. We spoke of bedstraw (Galium verum), also called curdwort, for its use as ointment, in baths and broths, as well as in cheese-making. The virtues of beautiful sage (Salvia officinalis) were praised for their use in strengthening the brain and quickening the memory. It was even used to whiten the teeth and freshen the breath by rubbing the leaf on tooth and gum! We couldn't forget Lady's Mantle (Alchemilla vulgaris), an important medicinal to women then ... and now. Did I mention Egyptian onion (Allium cepa aggregatum)? I know I closed the show with the native american bee balm (Monarda didyma), also called Oswego tea, which the colonists made a fragrant tea they called "Liberty Tea" as a substitute for the expensive, highly taxed British imports of the day. And there was jump-up-and-kiss-me (Viola tricolor), also called heartease and by other charming names - pictured above - that's been used (at least) since Medieval days to influence all manner of heart distress, including amorous intentions. I mean - just look at it!

If this intrigues you at all, you can start to earn so much more with just these few books:

The Herbal, or General History of Plants by John Gerard, as Revised and Enlarged by Thomas Johnson, 1633 - ISBN 0-486-23147-X

Culpeper’s Complete Herbal & English Physician, by Nicholas Culpeper - ISBN 0-916638-38-3 (hardbound) and 0-916638-20-3 (softbound)

Simples & Worts, Herbs of the American Puritans by Elaine Dow - ISBN 0-9615107-2-2

And another that I did not mention, since it only fits the far fringe of this topic, but one that is fine reading for grasping the ever-shifting history of (plant) medicine is: Herbal Diplomats, The Contribution of Early American Nurses (1830-1860) to Nineteenth-Century Health Care Reform and the Botanical Medical Movement by Martha M. Libster, Ph.D, R.N. - ISBN 0-9755018-0-1

Happy reading and I hope you'll join us next Thursday at 11:30 AM, easter on Blockhead Radio when we will shift gears a bit by looking at the creative side of life with Crafting from Garden! So pop a player, join us in chat and we'll see you ... In the Garden!


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