It Generally Can Hold Its Own Against The Plant Populace Of Such Places
(Carum carui, Linn.), a biennial or an annual herb of the
natural order Umbelliferae. Its names, both popular and botanical, are
supposed to be derived from Caria, in Asia Minor, where the plant is
believed first to have attracted attention. From very early ages the
caraway has been esteemed by cooks and doctors, between which a friendly
rivalry might seem to exist, each vying to give it pr
minence. At the
present time the cooks seem to be in the ascendancy; the seeds or their
oil are rarely used in modern medicine, except to disguise the flavor of
Since caraway seeds were found by O'Heer in the debris of the lake
habitations of Switzerland, the fact seems well established that the
plant is a native of Europe and the probability is increased that the
Careum of Pliny is this same plant, as its use by Apicus would also
indicate. It is mentioned in the twelfth-century writings as grown in
Morocco, and in the thirteenth by the Arabs. As a spice, its use in
England seems to have begun at the close of the fourteenth century. From
its Asiatic home it spread first with Phoenician commerce to western
Europe, whence by later voyageurs it has been carried throughout the
civilized world. So widely has it been distributed that the traveler may
find it in the wilds of Iceland and Scandinavia, the slopes of sunny
Spain, the steeps of the Himalayas, the veldt of southern Africa, the
bush of Australia, the prairies and the pampas of America.
Caraway is largely cultivated in Morocco, and is an important article of
export from Russia, Prussia, and Holland. It has developed no clearly
marked varieties; some specimens, however, seem to be more distinctly
annual than others, though attempts to isolate these and thus secure a
quick-maturing variety seem not to have been made.
Description.--The fleshy root, about 1/2 inch in diameter, is
yellowish externally, whitish within, and has a slight carroty taste.
From it a rosette of finely pinnated leaves is developed, and later the
sparsely leaved, channeled, hollow, branching flower stem which rises
from 18 to 30 inches and during early summer bears umbels of little
white flowers followed by oblong, pointed, somewhat curved, light brown
aromatic fruits--the caraway "seeds" of commerce. These retain their
germinating power for about three years, require about 10,000 seeds to
make an ounce and fifteen ounces to the quart.
Cultivation.--Frequently, if not usually, caraway is sown together
with coriander in the same drills on heavy lands during May or early
June. The coriander, being a quick-maturing plant, may be harvested
before the caraway throws up a flowering stem. Thus two crops may be
secured from the same land in the same time occupied by the caraway
alone. Ordinary thinning to 6 or 8 inches between plants is done when
the seedlings are established. Other requirements of the crop are all
embraced in the practices of clean cultivation.
Harvest occurs in July of the year following the seeding. The plants are
cut about 12 inches above ground with sickles, spread on sheets to dry
for a few days, and later beaten with a light flail. After threshing,
the seed must be spread thinly and turned daily until the last vestige
of moisture has evaporated. From 400 to 800 pounds is the usual range of
If seed be sown as soon as ripe, plants may be secured which mature
earlier than the main crop. Thus six or eight weeks may be saved in the
growing season, and by continuing such selection a quick-maturing strain
may be secured with little effort. This would also obviate the trouble
of keeping seed from one year to the next, for the strain would be
practically a winter annual.
Uses.--Occasionally the leaves and young shoots are eaten either
cooked or as an ingredient in salads. The roots, too, have been esteemed
in some countries, even more highly than the parsnip, which, however,
largely because of its size, has supplanted it for this purpose. But the
seeds are the important part. They find popular use in bread, cheese,
liquors, salads, sauces, soups, candy, and especially in seed cakes,
cookies and comfits. The colorless or pale yellow essential oil
distilled with water from the seeds, which contain between 5% and 7-1/2%
of it, has the characteristic flavor and odor of the fruit. It is
extensively employed in the manufacture of toilet articles, such as
perfumery, and especially soaps.
or =cat mint= (Nepeta cataria, Linn.), a perennial herb of the
natural order Labiatae. The popular name is in allusion to the attraction
the plant has for cats. They not only eat it, but rub themselves upon it
purring with delight. The generic name is derived from the Etrurian city
Neptic, in the neighborhood of which various species of the genus
formerly became prominent.
Like several of its relatives catnip is a well-known weed. It has become
naturalized in America, and is most frequently observed in dry, waste
places, especially in the East, though it is also often found in gardens
and around dwellings throughout the United States and Canada.
Description.--Its erect, square, branching stems, from 18 to 36 inches
tall, bear notched oval or heartshaped leaves, whitish below, and during
late summer terminal clusters of white flowers in small heads, far
apart below, but crowded close above. The fruits are small, brown,
ovoid, smooth and with three clearly defined angles. An ounce contains
about 3,400 seeds. Viability lasts for five years.
Cultivation. Catnip will grow with the most ordinary attention on any
fairly dry soil. The seed need only be sown in autumn or spring where
the plants are to remain or in a nursery bed for subsequent
transplanting. If to be kept in a garden bed they should stand 18 to 24
inches apart each way. Nothing is needful except to keep down weeds in
order to have them succeed for several years on the same spot.
Uses.--The most important use of the plant is as a bee forage; for
this purpose waste places are often planted to catnip. As a condiment
the leaves were formerly in popular use, especially in the form of
sauces; but milder flavors are now more highly esteemed. Still, the
French use catnip to a considerable extent. Like many of its relatives,
catnip was a popular medicinal remedy for many fleshly ills; now it is
practically relegated to domestic medicine. Even in this it is a
moribund remedy for infant flatulence, and is clung to only by
unlettered nurses of a passing generation.
(Scandix Cerefolium, Linn.), a southern Europe annual, with
stems about 18 inches tall and bearing few divided leaves composed of
oval, much-cut leaflets. The small white flowers, borne in umbels, are
followed by long, pointed, black seeds with a conspicuous furrow from
end to end. These seeds, which retain their germinability about three
years, but are rather difficult to keep, may be sown where the plants
are to stay, at any season, about eight weeks before a crop is desired;
cultivation is like that of parsley. During summer and in warm climates,
cool, shady situations should be chosen, otherwise any situation and
soil are suitable. The leaves, which are highly aromatic, are used,
especially in France and England, for seasoning and for mixed salads.
Chervil is rarely used alone, but is the chief ingredient in what the
French call fines herbes, a mixture which finds its way into a host of
culinary concoctions. The best variety is the Curled, which, though it
has the same flavor as the plain, is a prettier garnish.
(Allium Schoenoprasum, Linn.), a bulbous, onion-like
perennial belonging to the Liliaceae. Naturally the plants form thick
tufts of abundant, hollow, grasslike leaves from their little oval bulbs
and mat of fibrous roots. The short flower stems bear terminal clusters
of generally sterile flowers. Hence the plants are propagated by
planting the individual bulbs or by division of clumps in early spring.
Frequently chives are planted in flower borders as an edging, for which
purpose the compact growth and dainty flowers particularly recommend
them. They should not be allowed to grow in the same place more than
Strictly speaking, chives do not belong with the herbs, but their leaves
are so frequently used instead of onions for flavoring salads, stews and
other dishes, and reference has been so often made to them in these
pages, that a brief description has been included. For market the clumps
are cut in squares and the whole plant sold. Treated in this way the
greengrocers can keep them in good condition by watering until sold. For
use the leaves are cut with shears close to the ground. If allowed to
stand in the garden, cuttings may be made at intervals of two or three
weeks all through the season.
(Salvia sclarea, Linn.), a perennial herb of the natural order
Labiatae. The popular name is a corruption of the specific. In the
discussion on sage will be found the significance of the generic name.
Syria is said to be the original home of clary, but Italy is also
mentioned. The presumption is in favor of the former country, as it is
the older, and the plant was probably carried westward from it by
soldiers or merchants. In England clary was known prior to 1538, when
Turner published his garden lore, but in America, except in foreigners'
gardens, it is rarely seen. It has been listed in seedsmen's catalogs
Description.--The large, very broad, oblong, obtuse, toothed, woolly
haired, radical leaves are grayish green and somewhat rumpled like those
of Savoy cabbage. From among them rise the 2-foot tall, square,
branching, sparsely leaved stems, which during the second year bear
small clusters of lilac or white showy flowers in long spikes. The
smooth brown or marbled shining seeds retain their germinating power for
Cultivation.--The plants thrive in any well-drained soil. Seed may be
sown during March in drills 18 inches apart where the plants are to
remain or in a seedbed for transplanting 18 inches asunder in May. Clean
cultivation is needed throughout the summer until the plants have full
possession of the ground. In August the leaves may be gathered, and if
this harvest be judiciously done the production of foliage should
continue until midsummer of the second year, when the plants will
probably insist upon flowering. After this it is best to rely upon new
plants for supplies of leaves, the old plants being pulled.
Uses.--In America, the leaves are little used in cookery, and even in
Europe they seem to be less popular than formerly, sage having taken
their place. Wine is sometimes made from the plant when in flower. As an
ornamental, clary is worth a place in the hardy flower border.
(Coriandrum sativum, Linn.), "a plant of little beauty and
of easiest culture," is a hardy annual herb of the natural order
Umbelliferae. The popular name is derived from the generic, which comes
from the ancient Greek Koris, a kind of bug, in allusion to the
disagreeable odor of the foliage and other green parts. The specific
name refers to its cultivation in gardens. Hence the scientific name
declares it to be the cultivated buggy-smelling plant.
Coriander has been cultivated from such ancient times that its land of
nativity is unknown, though it is said to be a native of southern Europe
and of China. It has been used in cookery and of course, too, in
medicine; for, according to ancient reasoning, anything with so
pronounced and unpleasant an odor must necessarily possess powerful
curative or preventive attributes! Its seeds have been found in Egyptian
tombs of the 21st dynasty. Many centuries later Pliny wrote that the
best quality of seed still came to Italy from Egypt. Prior to the Norman
conquest in 1066, the plant was well known in Great Britain, probably
having been taken there by the early Roman conquerors. Before 1670 it
was introduced into Massachusetts. During this long period of
cultivation there seems to be no record or even indication of varieties.
In many temperate and tropical countries it has become a frequent weed
in cultivated fields.
Description.--From a cluster of slightly divided radical leaves
branching stems rise to heights of 2 to 2-1/2 feet. Toward their summits
they bear much divided leaves, with linear segments and umbels of small
whitish flowers, followed by pairs of united, hemispherical,
brownish-yellow, deeply furrowed "seeds," about the size of a sweet pea
seed. These retain their vitality for five or six years. The seeds do
not have the unpleasant odor of the plant, but have a rather agreeable
smell and a moderately warm, pungent taste.
Cultivation.--Coriander, a plant of the easiest culture, does best in
a rather light, warm, friable soil. In Europe it is often sown with
caraway, which, being a biennial and producing only a rosette of leaves
at the surface of the ground the first year, is not injured when the
annual coriander is cut. The seed is often sown in the autumn, though
spring sowing is perhaps in more favor. The rows are made about 15
inches apart, the seeds dropped 1 inch asunder and 1/2 inch deep and the
plantlets thinned to 6 or 8 inches. Since the plants run to seed
quickly, they must be watched and cut early to prevent loss and
consequent seeding of the ground. After curing in the shade the seed is
threshed as already described (see page 28). On favorable land the yield
may reach or even exceed 1,500 pounds to the acre.
Uses.--Some writers say the young leaves of the plant are used in
salads and for seasoning soups, dressings, etc. If this is so, I can
only remark that there is no accounting for tastes. I am inclined to
think, however, that these writers are drawing upon their imagination or
have been "stuffed" by people who take pleasure in supplying
misinformation. The odor is such as to suggest the flavor of "buggy"
raspberries we sometimes gather in the fence rows. Any person who
relishes buggy berries may perhaps enjoy coriander salad or soup.
Only the seed is of commercial importance. It is used largely in making
comfits and other kinds of confectionery, for adding to bread, and,
especially in the East, as an ingredient in curry powder and other
condiments. In medicine its chief use now is to disguise the taste of
disagreeable drugs. Distillers use it for flavoring various kinds of
(Cuminum Cyminum, Linn.), a low-growing annual herb of the Nile
valley, but cultivated in the Mediterranean region, Arabia, Egypt,
Morocco, India, China, and Palestine from very early times, (See Isaiah
xviii, 25-27 and Matthew xxiii, 23.) Pliny is said to have considered it
the best appetizer of all condiments. During the middle ages it was in
very common use. All the old herbals of the sixteenth and the
seventeenth centuries figure and describe and extol it. In Europe it is
extensively cultivated in Malta and Sicily, and will mature seed as far
north as Norway; in America, today, the seed is cataloged by some
seedsmen, but very little is grown.
Description.--The plant is very diminutive, rarely exceeding a height
of 6 inches. Its stems, which branch freely from the base, bear mere
linear leaves and small lilac flowers, in little umbels of 10 to 20
blossoms each. The six-ribbed, elongated "seeds" in appearance resemble
caraway seeds, but are straighter, lighter and larger, and in formation
are like the double seeds of coriander, convex on one side and concave
on the other. They bear long hairs, which fold up when the seed is dry.
After the seed has been kept for two years it begins to lose its
germinating power, but will sprout reasonably well when three years old.
It is characterized by a peculiar, strong aromatic odor, and a hot
Culture.--As soon as the ground has become warm the seed is sown in
drills about 15 inches apart where the plants are to remain. Except for
keeping down the weeds no further attention is necessary. The plants
mature in about two months, when the stems are cut and dried in the
shade. (See page 28.) The seeds are used in India as an ingredient in
curry powder, in France for flavoring pickles, pastry and soups.
(Anethum graveolens, Linn.), a hardy annual, native of the
Mediterranean and the Black Sea regions, smaller than common fennel,
which it somewhat resembles both in appearance and in the flavor of the
green parts, which are, however, less agreeable.
In ancient times it was grown in Palestine. The word translated, "anise"
in Matthew xxiii, 23, is said to have been "dill" in the original Greek.
It was well known in Pliny's time, and is often discussed by writers in
the middle ages. According to American writings, it has been grown in
this country for more than 100 years and has become spontaneous in many
Description.--Ordinarily the plants grow 2 to 2-1/2 feet tall. The
glaucous, smooth, hollow, branching stems bear very threadlike leaves
and in midsummer compound umbels with numerous yellow flowers, whose
small petals are rolled inward. Very flat, pungent, bitter seeds are
freely produced, and unless gathered early are sure to stock the garden
with volunteer seedlings for the following year. Under fair storage
conditions, the seeds continue viable for three years. They are rather
light; a quart of them weighs about 11 ounces, and an ounce is said to
contain over 25,000 seeds.
Cultivation.--Where dill has not already been grown seed may be sown
in early spring, preferably in a warm sandy soil, where the plants are
to remain. Any well-drained soil will do. The drills should be 1 foot
apart, the seeds scattered thinly and covered very shallow; a bed 12
feet square should supply abundance of seed for any ordinary family. To
sow this area 1/4 to 1/2 ounce of seed is ample. For field use the rows
may be 15 inches apart and the seed sown more thinly. It should not be
covered much more than 1/4 inch. Some growers favor fall sowing, because
they claim the seed is more likely to germinate than in the spring, and
also to produce better plants than spring-sown seed.
At all times the plants must be kept free from weeds and the soil loose
and open. When three or four weeks old the seedlings are thinned to 9
inches, or even a foot apart. As soon as the seed is ripe, shortly after
midsummer, it must be gathered with the least possible shaking and
handling, so as to prevent loss. It is well to place the stems as cut
directly in a tight-bottomed cart or a wheelbarrow, with a canvas
receptacle for the purpose, and to haul direct to the shade where drying
is to occur. A good place for this is a barn, upon the floor of which a
large canvas sheet is spread, and where a free circulation of air can be
secured. (See page 28.)