Monday, September 12, 2016

1889 - Skirret to Spinage - Part 18a of Sturtevant's History of Garden Vegetables

 (Continued from page 646.) 
Published August 1, 1889 

Remember, to see the footnotes to find the books he used, go to the link above.  

When I insert my two cents into Sturtevant's text I try to remember to do it in red type.

I broke this original installment of his work into two because, as I finished with Spinage and viewed the Squash section I had the gut feeling I might never finish it.  It is long and convoluted.   (I will finish it, after I gather my strength, as it is pumpkin season here in Connecticut in a few weeks!)

Skirret. Sium sisarum L. 

THIS plant seems to have been unknown to the ancients; certainly no mention can be found of an umbillifer with grouped and divergent roots, the peculiarity of the Skirret alone among European cultivated plants of this order.

In the sixteenth century the name siser was applied to the carrot as well as to the Skirret, as by Camerarius who describes siser, the sisaron of the Greeks, as a correct Skirret, and under siser alterum, Italian carota bianca, German gierlin, Spanish chirivias, French chervy or girolles or carottes blanche, as a carrot, and other illustrations of this period and earlier might be given. 

Fuchsius in 1542 figures the Skirret, as does also Ruellius in 1550, Tragus in 1552, and many others after this time, and it was well known in Europe as a plant of culture at this period. It perhaps came, says Decandolle, from Siberia to Russia, and from thence into Germany.

 It is not named by Turner in 1538, but is in 1551, and in 1570 the Adversaria gives the English name as scyrret

It was in American gardens in 1775. 

 There are no varieties described.  

The modern names of the Skirret are : 
In France, chervis, chironis, giroles 
in Germany, Zuckerwtirzel ; 
in Flanders, suikerwortel ; 
in Denmark, sukkerrod ; 
in Italy, sisaro ; 
in Spain, chirivia tudesca ; 
in Portugal, clierivia 
in Scotland, crummock ; 
in India, cheena aloo ; 
in Japan, muskago nisin sjakuna

The ancient names, as given by J. Bauhin, are

  • for Germany, gierlin, gierlen, geyerlein, gorlin, gerlin, klingei, rublin, garten rapunzel, zam rapunzel, klein morellen, klingel mohren, girgele, girgehn, and, above all others, zucker wurtzel; 
  • in Belgian, suycker wortelen, serillen
  • in French, esthervis, chervits, chervy, gyroles ; 
  • in Italy, sisaro ; 
  • in Spain, cherivias, chirivias, chirimas ; 
  • in English, scyrret. 

Snails. Medicago scutellata All.  (See previous Medicago posts - March 2014 - April 2014 )

This plant is not edible, but like the caterpillar-plant is grown on account of the singular shape of its seed-vessels. 

It was in Belgian and German gardens preceding 1616, and in American gardens in 1863 or before. 


  • in France, limacon
  • in Germany, schnirkel-schnecke, schneckenklee ; 
  • in Spain, caracol.

I like schnirkel-schnecke :-)

Soja bean. Soja hispida Moench. 

This leguminous plant, although popular in eastern countries, can scarcely be expected to obtain a foot-hold in European or American gardens. 
According to Bretschneider,  a Chinese writing of 163-85 B. C. records that Shen nung, 2800 B. C, sowed the five cereals, and another writing of A. D. 127-200 explains that these five cereals were rice, wheat, Panicum italicum, P. miliaceum, and the Soja. 

The same are also mentioned in the "Classics".  The use of this bean as a vegetable is also recorded in authors of the fifth, fourteenth, and sixteenth centuries. The first mention of Soja that I note is by Kaempfer, who was in Japan in 1690, and in his account of his travels he gives considerable space to this plant. 

It also seems to be mentioned by Ray in 1704. It is much cultivated in China and Cochin-china. 

There are a large number of varieties, — "as many as you have of beans", as a Japanese friend informed me. 

Seed was brought from Japan to America by the Perry Expedition on its return, and were distributed from the U. S. Patent Office in 1854. 
Wikiwand: Varieties of soya beans!

I have since then received some of the seed from the South under the name of the cow-pea. In France the seed received distribution in 1855.  In 1869 Martens describes thirteen varieties. 

The Soja Bean is called 

  • in France, soja, pois oleagineux de la Chine ; 
  • in Germany, soja-bohne ;
  • in Japan, daidsu (daizu) or mame, the send miso ; (?the send?)
  • in China, yeou-teou.

 In some of its varieties this bean may be found useful for forage purposes, or perhaps for field culture. 

Sorrel. Rumex sp. 

The Sorrels are much used in many parts of Europe, but they do not seem to be popular in English-speaking countries. A number of species have been brought under culture, but the varieties referred to Rumex acetosa, R. montanus, and R. scutatus are now the only ones described by Vilmorin as under European vegetables. 

Rumex acetosa L. 
This species is very extensively used in France, and has four varieties. It was formerly much
cultivated in England for its leaves, which were used as spinach or in salads, and are agreeably acid. 

It is mentioned in nearly all the earlier botanies, and by Gerarde in 1597, as under culture in England, who also figures the blistered variety. It is spoken of in nearly all the later writers on garden subjects, and was in common use in 1807, but in 1874 is said to have been for many years entirely discarded, the French Sorrel having usurped its place. 

Gerarde's Herbal
The broad-leaved form was in American gardens in 1806. 
This plant is in great favor with the northern natives, as the Laplanders, the Hebrideans, etc., and in its varieties is largely cultivated. 

The common sorrel, sorrel, or green sauce is called 

  • in France, oseille commune, aigrette, oseille longue, surelle, surette, vinette ; 
  • in Germany, Sauerampfer, Sauerling ; 
  • in Flanders and Holland, zuring 
  • in Denmark, almindelig syre ; 
  • in Italy, acetosa, acetina, erba perpetua ; 
  • in Spain, acedera, agrella ; 
  • in Portugal, azedas ; 
  • in Greece, xunethra, zinitra, oxalithi ; 
  • in the Mauritius, oseille ;
  • in India, oovlaeeta chooka.

Gerarde's Herbal

 Rumex scutatus L.

 This species is mentioned in England by Gerarde in 1597, but he does not indicate its general cultivation; he calls it Oxalis franca seu romana

It is more acid than the preceding species, and has displaced it largely from English culture. It is mentioned by many of the early botanists, and is under extensive culture in continental Europe. 

It was in American gardens in 18o6, but is now scarcely cultivated, as would seem from its absence from our seed lists. 

French sorrel, round-leaved sorrel, buckler-shaped sorrel, or Roman sorrel is called: 

  • in France, oseille ronde, petite oseille ; 
  • in Germany, romischer sauerampfer 
  • in Italy, acetosa romana, acetosa tonda.

Rumex montanus Desf. 

This species occurs in French gardens under two varieties, the green-leaved and the crimped-leaved. The wild form, R. arifolius L., is often met with in France. In 1863 Burr describes it among American garden esculents. 

In India it is said by Firminger to be an excellent ingredient to use abundantly in soups, and to serve to impart a peculiarly fine flavor to omelettes.  

Mountain sorrel, or maiden sorrel is called 

  • in France, oseille vierge, oseille sterile ; 
  • in Italy, acetosa vergine. 

Rumex alpinus L. 

A species sometimes grown in France, but which does not appear to have entered American culture. It was grown in England by Gerarde in 1597 for use in "physicke," and is described as cultivated there in Miller's Dictionary, 1807. 
It is eaten as a herb in China. 

Pyrenean sorrel is called in France, oseille des Alpes, oseille des Pyrnees. 

Seboth, J., Graf, F., Die Alpenpflanzen nach der Natur gemalt, vol. 3: t. 69 (1839)

Rumex pulcher L. 

This species is said to be planted in gardens in France for use as a pot-herb, but the leaves to become very hard in summer. 
It is, however, scarcely to be considered a garden plant. 

English botany, or coloured figures of British plants, ed. 3 [B] [J.E. Sowerby et al], vol. 8: t. 1214 (1868)

Rumex sanguineus L. 

This weed of waste and cultivated grounds of America is mentioned, under the name Bloodwort, by Josselyn, about the middle of the seventeenth century, as introduced. 

As Gerarde in 1630 says it was sown in his time for a pot-herb in most gardens, and as Ray in 1686 also says it was planted in gardens as a vegetable, we may believe that it was in former use in colonial gardens in Massachusetts. 

Its use is as a spinage, and for this purpose the leaves of the wild plant are occasionally collected at the present time. 
Bloody-veined dock is the name under which the wild plant is now known. 

Southernwood. Artemisia abrotanum L. 

This aromatic plant is inconsiderably cultivated for  its agreeable taste and tonic properties. To some people its fragrance is very grateful. 

It is cultivated in most parts of China for the use of the young shoots made into cakes with meal.  

It was apparently known to the ancients, but the references are not as clear as might be. It was described as under cultivation by the herbalists of the sixteenth century, and Turner  in 1538 gives its English name as Suthernwoode

In 1859 Gray  says it is found in some American gardens. 

Southernwood, called in Anglo-Saxon, soethrenewudu or suthernwude,  is called:

  •  in France, aurone, aurone des jardins, aurone male, citronelle, garde-robe, herbe royale, vrogne ; 
  • in Denmark, ambra 
  • in Italy, abrotano, abrotino ; 
  • in Greece, pikrothanos ; 
  • in Egypt, semsoek, or msaek, or meskeh ; 
  • in China, yin-chin-hau. 

Interesting things that showed up while I read this:

  • Use in nasal spray
  • "To remedye baldnes of the heade.—Take a quantitye of Suthernwoode, and put it upon kindled coales to burne; and being made into powder, mix it with the oyle of radishes and anoynte the balde place, and you shall see great experiences." 

Darstellung und Beschreibung der Arzneygewächse welche in die neue Preussische Pharmacopöe aufgenommen sind nach natürlichen familien geordnet und erlautertVolume 1 - 1829

Spinage. Spinacea oleracea L. 

Fuchs, L., New Kreüterbuch, (1543)
This plant was unknown to the ancient Greeks and Romans, but appears to have been early used by the Arabs, and by the Moors carried to Spain, from which it gradually spread to the rest of Europe. 

The first notice I find is its occurrence in China in the seventh or eighth century, and one of its names is Po-ssv-ts'ao, Persian herb.  In the Nabathean agriculture in Spain, in the twelfth century, it is called by Ibn-al-awan, the prince of vegetables.    Albertus Magnus, who lived in Bavaria in the thirteenth century, describes the spinachia with spiny seed. Ammonius, a Bavarian physician writing in 1539, says it was mentioned by Avicenna, an Arab author born in Persia in 981, and is perhaps the aspenach of Serapio, another Arab author of the same period. 

In 1536 Ruellius says it was called spinacia in France, and spinachia by the modern Greeks. In England it is mentioned by Turner in 1538, who calls it Atriplex hispaniensis of some, spinachia of the English.    It was new in Italy in 1558, according to Matthiolus. 

We thus find its presence universal in Europe in the early part of the sixteenth century. Indeed its use has become for some time so extended as to supplant many other vegetables formerly grown as pot herbs. 

Two races are now known in our gardens; the one with prickly seed, and the other with smooth seed. These have been described as species. 

Spinacia spinosa Moench. 

Spinachia. Alb. Mag., 13th Cent, Jessen Ed., 563 ; Fuchsius, 1542, 666, cum ic Dod., 1616, 619, cum ic.Binetsch, Spinat, Spinacia. Roszlin, 1550, cum ic.Olsus hispanicus. Trag., 1552, 325, cum ic.Spinacia. Matth., 1570, 342, cum ic ; Lob. Obs., 1576, 129, cum ic, 1591 ; ic, 1591, 1., 257 ; Lugd., 1587, 544, cum ic; Ger., 1597, 260, cum ic.Spanachum. Cam. Epit, 1586, 245, cum ic.Lapathum hortense alterum, seu spinacia semine spinoso. Bauh. Phytopin., 
1596, 183.
Spinachia mas. J. Bauhin, 165 1, II., 964, cum ic
Spinacia oleracea L. var. A. Lin. Sp., 2ded., 1456.
Epinard d'Angleterre. Vilm., 1883,203.
Large Prickly or Winter Spinage. Vil., 1885, 533.
Spinacia inermis Moench. 
Spinachia nobilis. Tragus, 1552, 324.
Lapathum hortense alterum spinacia, semine non spinoso. Bauh. Phytopin., 1596, 184.
Spinacia II. Ger., 1597, 260.
Spinachia foemina. J. Bauh., 165 1, II., 964.
Spinachia semine 7ion pungente , folio majore rotundiore. Ray, 1686, 162 ; Chabr., 1677, 303 cum ic.
Spinacia glabra. Mill. Diet., 1733.
Spinacia oleracea, L. var. B. Lin. Sp., 1762, 1456.
Epinards a graine ronde. Vil., 1883, 204
Round-Seeded Spinage. Vil., 1885, 534.
Spinage was in American gardens in 1806. 

There is but one variety of the prickly-seeded described by Vilmorin, and five of the smooth-seeded form. 

Spinage is called 

  • in France, epinard; 
  • in Germany, spinat ; 
  • in Flanders and Holland, spinazie ; 
  • in Denmark, spinat ; 
  • in Italy, spinaccio ; 
  • in Spain, espinacia ; 
  • in Portugal, espinafre ; 
  • in Norway, spinat; 
  • In Arab, sebanakh,  taektera, ispanaj, m isfanadsch, esbanach 
  • in China, po-ling, po-ts'ai, po-ssv-ts'ao; 
  • in Hindustani, sag-paluk ; 
  • in Persia, ispanaj.


I was wondering how spinach was used over 100 and 200 years ago.  Well cooked, I'd say.

From 1725 - Court cookery: or, The compleat English cook by Robert Smith (cook.)

From 1827, this similar recipe for spinach is from The Cook's Oracle: Containing Receipts for Plain Cookery, on the Most Economical Plan for Private Families, Also the Art of Composing the Most Simple, and Most Highly Finished Broths, Gravies, Soups, Sauces, Store Sauces, and Flavouring Essences ... by William Kitchiner.  

Spinage. (No. 122.) 
Spinage should be picked a leaf at a time, and washed in three or four waters; when perfectly clean, lay it on a sieve or cullender, to drain the water from it.  
Put a saucepan on the fire, three parts filled with water, and large enough for the Spinage to float in it; put a small handful of salt in it, let it boil, skim it, and then put in the Spinage, make it boil as quick as possible till quite tender, pressing the Spinage down frequently that it may be done equally; it will be enough in about ten minutes, if boiled in plenty of water; if the Spinage is a little old, give it a few minutes longer. 
When done,strain it on the back of a sieve, squeeze it dry with a plate, or between two trenchers, chop it fine, and put it into a stewpan 'with a bit of butter and a little salt; a little cream is a great improvement, or, instead of either, some rich Gravy. Spread it in a dish, and score it into squares of proper size to help at table. 
Obs.—Grated nutmeg, or mace, and a little lemon juice, is a favourite addition with some cooks, and is added when you stir it up in the stewpan with the butter garnished. Spinage is frequently served with Poached Eggs with fried bread.

The last section of this installment, SQUASH, PUMPKIN, AND GOURD, will be posted on its own.