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Page 2

THE LIBRARY
OF

THE UNIVERSITY
OF CALIFORNIA

AGRICULTURE

BEQUEST
OF

ANITA D. S. BLAKE

Page 128

H2 A GARDENOF HERBS

The antidote which Mercury gave to Ulysses against the
beverage of the Enchantress Circe has always been sup-
posed to be rue, and from the earliest times rue has had
a wonderful reputation. Galen, we are told, ate coriander
and rue raw, with oil and salt, against infection, and Dios-
corides recommends the juice as a counter-poison. Rue
was the chief constituent in the famous counter-poison
of Mithridates, King of Persia, and in later days in the
noted

"
Vinegar of the four thieves." According to tradi-

tion this vinegar enabled four thieves, during the great
plague of Marseilles, to enter all the stricken houses with

impunity and carry off all they chose. When gunpowder
was first used in Europe it was a popular belief that if the

gun-flint were boiled in rue and vervain the shot could not
miss. The Italian peasants still believe in rue as a pro-
tection from the evil eye, and many of them wear it con-
cealed on their persons. The name

" Herb of grace
"

is

by many believed to be due to the fact that holy water
was scattered with an aspergillum made of rue, but Britten
says there is no ground for this supposition. To the first
Duke of Saxony, Frederick Barbarossa in 1181 gave the
right to bear a chaplet of rue on his arms, and six centuries
later (1807) the first King of Saxony created the Order of
the Crown of Rue. This order was conferred on King
George when he was Prince of Wales in 1902.

Rue likes a poor, clayey loam mixed with calcareous
rubbish. Sow the seeds in March or April, or increase by
slips any time during spring. Rue must never be allowed
to run to seed.

A PREVENTIVE AGAINST THE PLAGUE. A handful each
of rue, sage, sweet-briar and elder. Bruise and strain with
a quart of white wine, and put thereto a little ginger and
a spoonful of the best treacle, and drink thereof morning
and evening. The Good Housewife's Jewell, 1585.

Page 129

OF SUNDRYHERBS 113

SAFFRON
"

Thy plants are an orchard of Pomegranates, with
pleasant fruits ; Camphire, with Spikenard, Spikenard and
Saffron ; Calamus and Cinnamon, with all trees of Frankin-
cense ; Myrrh and Aloes, with all the chief spices." Song
of Solomon, IV. 13,14.

" Pare saffron plot
Forget it not
His dwelling made trim
Look shortly for him
Whenharvest is gone,
Then saffron comes on ;
A little of ground
Brings saffron a pound."

Tusser, Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandry, 1580.
" For those at death's dpore and almost past breathing

saffron bringeth breath again." John Gerard, The Herball,
I597-

The saffron used in cookery for flavouring comes from the
crocus sativus, and from meadow saffron is obtained the
drug which is still much prescribed. Of the latter Turner
says, "It is sterke poyson and will strongell a man and
kill him in the space of one day !

"
The saffron used in

cookery was formerly much more popular than it is now,
and presumably our ancestors liked strong flavours. Now-
adays it is only in Cornwall that it is used to any extent,
and very few people unless born and bred to it like saffron
cakes. Hakluyt tells us that saffron was brought to this

country by a pilgrim who concealed a head of it in his
staff, and "so he brought the root into this realm with
venture of his life, for if he had been taken, by the law
of the countrey from whence it came he had died for the
fact." Saffron is the only herb with a town named after
it Saffron Walden, in Essex, where it was grown in enormous

quantities for over two hundred years. Several of our

kings were presented with saffron in a silver bowl when they
visited the town. Bacon had a very high opinion of this
herb, and said that

"
what made the English people sprightly

was the liberal use of saffron in their broths and sweet-
meats." Samuel Trowell, in his New Treatise of Husbandry

I

Page 255

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