Natural History (Rackham, Jones, & Eichholz)/Book 19
I. AN account of the constellations, seasons and weather has now been given that is easy even for non-experts to understand does not leave any room for doubt; and for those who really understand the matter the countryside contributes to our knowledge of the heavens no less than astronomy contributes to agriculture. Many writers have made horticulture the next subject; we however do not think the time has come to pass straight to those topics, and we are surprised that some persons seeking from these subjects the satisfaction of knowledge, or a reputation for learning, have passed over so many matters without making any mention of all the plants that grow of their own accord or from cultivation, especially in view of the fact that even greater importance attaches to very many of these, in point of price and of practical utility, than to the cereals. And to begin with admitted utilities and with commodities distributed not only throughout all lands but also over the seas: flax is a plant that is grown from seed and that cannot be included either among cereals or among garden plants; but in what department of life shall we not meet with it, or what is more marvellous than the fact that there is a plant which brings Egypt so close to Italy that of two governors of Egypt Galerius reached Alexandria from the Straits of Messina in seven days and Balbillus in six, and that in the summer [AD 55] 15 years later the praetorian senator Valerius Marianus made Alexandria from Pozzuoli in nine days with a very gentle breeze? or that there is a plant that brings Cadiz within seven days' sail from the Straits of Gibraltar to Ostia, and Hither Spain within four days, and the Province of Narbonne within three, and Africa within two? The last record was made by Gaius Flavius, deputy of the proconsul Vibius Crispus, even with a very gentle wind blowing. How audacious is life and how full of wickedness, for a plant to be grown for the purpose of catching the winds and the storms, and for us not to be satisfied with being borne on by the waves alone, nay that by this time we are not even satisfied with sails that are larger than ships, but, although single trees are scarcely enough for the size of the yardarms that carry the sails, nevertheless other sails are added above the yards and others besides are spread at the bows and others at the sterns, and so many methods are employed of challenging death, and finally that out of so small a seed springs a means of carrying the whole world to and fro, a plant with so slender a stalk and rising to such a small height from the ground, and that this, not after being woven into a tissue by means of its natural strength but when broken and crushed and reduced by force to the softness of wool, afterwards by this ill-treatment attains to the highest pitch of daring! No execration is adequate for an inventor in navigation (whom we mentioned above in the proper place), who was not content that mankind should die upon land unless he also perished where no burial awaits him. Why, in the preceding Book we were giving a warning to beware of storms of rain and wind for the sake of the crops and of our food: and behold man's hand is engaged in growing and likewise his wits in weaving an object which when at sea is only eager for the winds to blow! And besides, to let us know how the Spirits of Retribution have favoured us, there is no plant that is grown more easily; and to show us that it is sown against the will of Nature, it scorches the land and causes the soil actually to deteriorate in quality.
II. Flax is chiefly grown in sandy soils, and with a single ploughing. No other plant grows more quickly: it is sown in spring and plucked in summer, and owing to this also it does damage to the land. Nevertheless, one might forgive Egypt for growing it to enable her to import the merchandise of Arabia and India. Really? And are the Gallic provinces also assessed on such revenue as this? And is it not enough that they have the mountains separating them from the sea, and that on the side of the ocean they are bounded by an actual vacuum, as the term is? The Cadurci, Caleti, Ruteni, Biturigcs, and the Morini who are believed to be the remotest of mankind, in fact the whole of the Gallic provinces, weave sailcloth, and indeed by this time so do even our enemies across the Rhine, and linen is the showiest dress-material known to their womankind. This reminds us of the fact recorded by Varro that it is a clan-custom in the family of the Serrani for the women not to wear linen dresses. In Germany the women carry on this manufacture in caves dug underground; and similarly also in the Alia district of Italy between the Po and the Ticino, where the linen wins the prize as the third best in Europe, that of Saetabis being first, as the second prize is won by the linens of Retovium near the Alia district and Faenza on the Aemilian Road. The Faenza linens are preferred for whiteness to those of Alia, which are always unbleached, but those of Retovium are supremely fine in texture and substance and are as white as the Faventia, hut have no nap, which quality counts in their favour with some people but puts off others. This flax makes a tough thread having a quality almost more uniform than that of a spider's web, and giving a twang when you choose to test it with your teeth; consequently it is twice the price of the other kinds.
And after these it is Hither Spain that has a linen of special lustre, due to the outstanding quality of a stream that washes the city of Tarragon, in the waters of which it is dressed; also its fineness is marvellous, Tarragon being the place where cambrics were first invented. From the same province of Spain Zola flax has recently been imported into Italy, a flax specially useful for hunting-nets; Zoel is a city of Gallaecia near the Atlantic coast. The flax of Comae in Campania also has a reputation of its own for nets for fishing and fowling, and it is also used as a material for making hunting-nets: in fact we use flax to lay no less insidious snares for the whole of the animal kingdom than for ourselves! But the Cumae nets will cut the bristles of a boar and even turn the edge of a steel knife; and we have seen before now netting of such fine texture that it could be passed through a man's ring, with running tackle and all, a single person carrying an amount of net sufficient to encircle a wood! Nor is this the most remarkable thing about it, but the fact that each string of these nettings consists of 150 threads, as recently made for Fulvius Lupus who died in the office of governor of Egypt. This may surprise people who do not know that in a breastplate that belonged to a former king of Egypt named Amasis, preserved in the temple of Minerva at Lindus on the island of Rhodes, each thread consisted of 365 separate threads, a fact which Mucianus, who held the consulship three times quite lately, stated that he had proved to be true by investigation, adding that only small remnants of the breastplate now survive owing to the damage done by persons examining this quality. Italy also values the Pelignian flax as well, but only in its employment by fullersno flax is more brilliantly white or more closely resembles wool; and similarly the flax grown at Cahors has a special reputation for mattresses: this use of it is an invention of the provinces of Gaul, as likewise is flock. As for Italy, the custom even now survives in the word used for bedding. Egyptian flax is not at all strong, but it sells at a very good price. There are four kinds in that country, Tanitic, Pelusiac, Butie and Tentyritie, named from the districts where they grow. The upper part of Egypt, lying in the direction of Arabia, grows a bush which some people call cotton, but more often it is called by a Greek work meaning 'wood': hence the name xylina given to linens made of it. It is a small shrub, and from it hangs a fruit resembling a bearded nut, with an inner silky fibre from the down of which thread is spun. No kinds of thread are more brilliantly white or make a smoother fabric than this. Garments made of it are very popular with the priests of Egypt. A fourth kind is called othoninum; it is made from a sort of reed growing in marshes, but only from its tuft. Asia makes a thread out of broom, of which specially durable fishing-nets are made, the plant being soaked in water for ten days; the Ethiopians and Indians make thread from apples, and the Arabians from gourds that grow on trees, as we said.
III. With us the ripeness of flax is ascertained by two indications, the swelling of the seed or its assuming a yellowish colour. It is then plucked up and tied together in little bundles each about the size of a handful, hung up in the sun to dry for one day with the roots turned upward, and then for five more days with the heads of the bundles turned inward towards each other so that the seed may fall into the middle. Linseed makes a potent medicine; it is also popular in a rustic porridge with an extremely sweet taste, made in Italy north of the Po, but now for a long time only used for sacrifices. When the wheat-harvest is over the actual stalks of the flax are plunged in water that has been left to get warm in the sun, and a weight is put on them to press them down, as flax floats very readily. The outer coat becoming looser is a sign that they are completely soaked, and they are again dried in the sun, turned head downwards as before, and afterwards when thoroughly dry they are pounded on a stone with a tow-hammer. The part that was nearest the skin is called oakumit is flax of an inferior quality, and mostly more fit for lamp-wicks; nevertheless this too is combed with iron spikes until all the outer skin is scraped off. The pith has several grades of whiteness and softness, and the discarded skin is useful for heating ovens and furnaces. There is an art of combing out and separating flax: it is a fair amount for fifteen ... to be carried out from fifty pounds' weight of bundles; and spinning flax is a respectable occupation even for men. Then it is polished in the thread a second time, after being soaked in water and repeatedly beaten out against a stone, and it is woven into a fabric and then again beaten with clubs, as it is always better for rough treatment.
IV. Also a linen has now been invented that is incombustible, it is called 'live' linen, and I have seen napkins made of it glowing on the hearth at banquets and burnt more brilliantly clean by the fire than they could be by being washed in water. This linen is used for making shrouds for royalty which keep the ashes of the corpse separate from the rest of the pyre. The plants grows in the deserts and sun-scorched regions of India where no rain falls, the haunts of deadly snakes, and it is habituated to living in burning heat; it is rarely found, and is difficult to weave into cloth because of its shortness; its colour is normally red hut turns white by the action of fire. When any of it is found, it rivals the prices of exceptionally fine pearls. The Greek name for it is asbestinon, derived from its peculiar property. Anaxilaus states that if this linen is wrapped round a tree it can be felled without the blows being heard, as it deadens their sound. Consequently this kind of linen holds the highest rank in the whole of the world. The next place belongs to a fabric made of fine flax grown in the neighbourhood of Elis in Achaia, and chiefly used for women's finery; I find that it formerly changed hands at the price of gold, four denarii for one twenty-fourth of an ounce. The nap of linen cloths, principally that obtained from the sails of seagoing ships, is much used as a medicine, and its ash has the efficacy of metal dross. Among the poppies also there is a kind from which an outstanding material for bleaching linen is extracted.
V. An attempt has been made to dye even linen so as to adapt it for our mad extravagance in clothes. This was first done in the fleets of Alexander the Great when he was voyaging on the river Indus, his generals and captains having held a sort of competition even in the various colours of the ensigns of their ships; and the river banks gazed in astonishment as the breeze filled out the bunting with its shifting hues. Cleopatra had a purple sail when she came with Mark Antony to Actium, and with the same sail she fled. A purple sail was subsequently the distinguishing mark of the emperor's ship.
VI. Linen cloths were used in the theatres as awnings, a plan first invented by Quintus Catulus when dedicating the Capitol. Next Lentulus Spinther is recorded to have been the first to stretch awnings of cambric in the theatre, at the games of Apollo. Soon afterwards Caesar when dictator stretched awnings [49-44 B.C.]. over the whole of the Roman Forum, as well as the Sacred Way from his mansion, and the slope right up to the Capitol, a display recorded to have been thought more wonderful even than the show of gladiators which he gave. Next even when there was no display of games Marcellus the son of Augustus's sister Octavia, during his period of office as aedile, in the eleventh consulship of his uncle, from the first of August onward fixed awnings of sailcloth over the forum, so that those engaged in lawsuits might resort there under healthier conditions: what a change this was from the stern manners of Cato the ex-censor, who had expressed the view that even the forum ought to be paved with sharp pointed stones! Recently awnings actually of sky blue and spangled with stars have been stretched with ropes even in the emperor Nero's amphitheatres. Red awnings are used in the inner courts of houses and keep the sun off the moss growing there; but for other purposes white has remained persistently in favour. Moreover as early as the Trojan war linen already held a place of honourfor why should it not be present even in battles as it is in shipwrecks? Homer testifies that warriors, though only a few, fought in linen corslets. This material was also used for rigging ships, according to the same author as interpreted by the more learned scholars, who say that the word sparta used by Homer means 'sown'.
VII. As a matter of fact the employment of esparto began many generations later, and not before the first invasion of Spain by the Carthaginians. Esparto also is a plant, which is self-sown and cannot be grown from seed; strictly it is a rush, belonging to a dry soil, and all the blame for it attaches to the earth, for it is a curse of the land, and nothing else can be brown or can spring up there. In Africa it makes a small growth and is of no use. In the Cartagena section of Hither Spain, and not the whole of this but as far as this plant grows, even the mountains are covered with esparto grass. Country people there use it for bedding, for fuel and torches, for footwear and for shepherd's clothes; but it is unwholesome fodder for animals, except the tender growth at the tops. For other purposes it is pulled out of the ground, a laborious task for which gaiters are worn on the legs and the hands are wrapped in woven gauntlets, and levers of bone or holm-oak are used; nowadays the work goes on nearly into winter, but it is done most easily between the middle of May and the middle of June, which is the season when the plant ripens.
VIII. When it has been plucked it is tied up in bundles in a heap for two days and on the third day untied and spread out in the sun and dried, and then it is done up in bundles again and put away under cover indoors. Afterwards it is laid to soak, preferably in sea water, but flesh water also will do if sea water is not available; and then it is dried in the sun and again moistened. If need for it suddenly becomes pressing, it is soaked in warm water in a tub and put to dry standing up, thus securing a saving of labour. After that it is pounded to make it serviceable, and it is of unrivalled utility, especially for use in water and in the sea, though on dry land they prefer ropes made of hemp; but esparto is actually nourished by being plunged in water, as if in compensation for the thirstiness of its origin. Its quality is indeed easily repaired, and however old a length of it may be it can be combined again with a new piece. Nevertheless one who wishes to understand the value of this marvellous plant must realize how much it is employed in all countries for the rigging of ships, for mechanical appliances used in building, and for other requirements of life. A sufficient quantity to serve all these purposes will be found to exist in a district on the coast of Cartagena that extends less than 100 miles along the shore and is less than 30 miles wide. The cost of carriage prohibits its being transported any considerable distance.
IX. We may take it on the evidence of the Greek word for a rush that the Greeks used to employ that plant for making ropes; though it is well known that afterwards they used the leaves of palm trees and the inner bark of lime trees. It is extremely probable that the Carthaginians imported the use of esparto grass from Greece.
X. Theophrastus states that there is a kind of bulb growing in the neighbourhood of river banks, which contains a woolly substance (between the outer skin and the edible part) that is used as a material for making felt slippers and certain articles of dress; but he does not state, at all events in the copies of his work that have come into my hands, either the region in which this manufacture goes on or any particulars in regard to it beyond the fact that the plant is called 'wool-bearing'; nor does he make any mention at all of esparto grass, although he has given an extremely careful account of all plants at a date 390 years before our time (as we have also said already in another place); which shows that esparto grass came into use after that date.
XI. And now that we have made a beginning in treating of the marvels of nature, we shall proceed to take them in order, by far the greatest among them being that a plant should spring up and live without having any root. The growths referred to are called truffles; they are enveloped all round with earth and are not strengthened by any fibres or at least filaments, nor yet does the place they grow in show any protuberance or undergo cracks; and they themselves do not stick to the earth, and are actually enclosed in a skin, so that while we cannot say downright that they consist of earth, we cannot call them anything but a callosity of the earth. They usually grow in dry and sandy soils and in places covered with shrubs. They often exceed the size of a quince, even weighing as much as a pound. They are of two kinds, one gritty in texture and unkind to the teeth, and the other devoid of impurities; they also differ in their colour, which is red or black, and the inside is white. The African variety is the most highly spoken of. I do not think it can be easily ascertained whether they grow in size, or whether this blemish of the earthfor they cannot be understood as anything elseforms at once a ball of the size that it is going to be; nor whether they are alive or not, for they decay in the same way as wood does. We know for a fact that when Lartius Licinius, an official of praetorian rank, was serving as Minister of Justice at Cartagena in Spain a few years ago, he happened when biting a truffle to come on a denarius contained inside it, which bent his front teeth; this will clearly show that truffles are lumps of earthy substance balled together. One thing that is certain is that truffles will be found to belong to the class of things that spring up spontaneously and cannot be grown from seed.
XII. There is also a similar plant the name of which in the province of Cyrene is which has a remarkably sweet scent and flavour, but is more fleshy than the truffle; and one in Thrace called iton, and one in Greece, ceraunion or 'thunder-truffle'.
XIII. Peculiarities reported about truffles are that they spring up when there have been spells of rain in autumn and repeated thunderstorms, and that thunderstorms bring them out particularly; that they do not last beyond a year; and that those in spring are the most delicate to eat. In some places acceptable truffles only grow in marshy places, for instance at Mytilene it is said that they only grow on ground flooded by the rivers, when the floods have brought down seed from Tiara: that is the place where most grow. The most famous Asiatic truffles grow round Lampsacus and Alopeconnesus, and the most famous Greek ones in the district of Elis.
XIV. The fungus class also includes those called by the Greeks pezicae, which grow without root or stalk.
XV. Next after these we will speak about laser-wort, a remarkably important plant, the Greek name for which is silphium; it was originally found in the province of Cyrenaica. Its juice is called laser, and it takes an important place in general use and among drugs, and is sold for its weight in silver denarii. It has not been found in that country now for many years, because the tax-farmers who rent the pasturage strip it clean by grazing sheep on it, realizing that they make more profit in that way. Only a single stalk has been found there within our memory, which was sent to the Emperor Nero. If a grazing flock ever chances to come on a promising young shoot, this is detected by the indication that a sheep after eating it at once goes to sleep and a goat has a fit of sneezing. And for a long time now no laser-wort has been imported to us except what grows in Persia or Media and Armenia, in abundant quantity but much inferior quality to that of Cyrenaica, and even so adulterated with gum, sacopenium, or with crushed beans; this makes it even more necessary for us not to omit to state the facts that in the consulship of Gaius Valerius and Marcus Herennius, 30 pounds of laser-wort plant was imported to Rome by the government, and that during the dictatorship of Caesar, at the beginning of the civil war he produced out of the treasury together with gold and silver 1500 lbs. of laser-wort plant.
We find it stated in the most reliable authors of Greece that this plant first sprang up in the vicinity of the Gardens of the Hesperids and the Greater Syrtis after the ground had been suddenly soaked by a shower of rain the colour of pitch, seven years before the foundation of the town of Cyrenae, which was in the year of our city 143; that the effect of this rainfall extended over 500 miles of Africa; and that the laser-wort plant grew widely in that country as an obstinate weed, and if cultivated, escaped into the desert; and that it has a large thick root and a stalk like that of fennel and equally thick. The leaves of this plant used to be called maspetunt; they closely resembled parsley, and the seed was like a leaf, the actual leaf being shed off in spring. It used to be customary to pasture cattle on it; it first acted as a purgative, and then the beasts grew fat and produced meat of a marvellously agreeable quality. After the plant had shed its leaves the people themselves used to eat the actual stalk, cooked in all sorts of ways, boiled and roasted; with them also it operated as a purge for the first six weeks. The juice used to be obtained in two ways, from the root and from the stalk, and the two corresponding names for it were rizias and cazciias, the latter inferior to the former and liable to go had. The root had a black rind. The juice itself was adulterated for trade purposes by being put into vessels with a mixture of bran added and then shaken up till it was brought into ripe condition; without this treatment it went bad. A proof of its being ripe was its colour and dryness, the damp juice having completely disappeared. Other accounts say that the plant had a root more than 18 inches long, and that at all events there was an excrescence on it protruding above the surface of the ground; that when an incision was made in this, a juice resembling milk would flow out; and that there was a stalk growing above the excrescence which they called magydaris; that the plant had leaves of a golden colour which served as seed, being shed after the rise of the Dog-star when a south wind was blowing, and that out of these fallen leaves shoots of laser-wort used to spring, both root and stalk making full growth in the space of a year. These authors also stated that it was customary to dig round the roots of the plant; and that it did not act as a purge with cattle, but if they were ailing it cured them, or else they died at once, the latter not happening in many cases. The former view corresponds with the Persian variety of silphium.
XVI. There is another kind of laser-wort called magydaris, which is gentler and less violent in its effects, and has no juice; this grows in the neighbourhood of Syria, not being found in the Cyrenaica region. Also there is a plant growing in great abundance on Mount Parnassus that is called laserwort plant by some persons. All these varieties are used for adulteration, bringing discredit on a very salutary and useful commodity. The first test of the genuine article is in the colour, which is reddish, and white inside when the mass is broken; and the next test is if the juice that drips out is transparent and melts very quickly in saliva. It is employed as an ingredient in a great many medicaments.
XVII. There are also two kinds that are known only to the avaricious herd, as they are very profitable articles of trade. First comes madder, which is indispensable for dyeing woollens and leather; the most highly esteemed is the Italian, and especially that grown in the neighbourhood of Rome, and almost all the provinces teem with it. It grows of itself, but a variety that resembles fitch, but has prickly leaves and stalk, is also grown from seed. This plant has a jointed stem, with five leaves arranged in a circle round each joint. The seed is red and finally turns black, and the root red. Its medicinal properties we shall state in their proper place.
XVIII. But the plant called the rootlet has a juice that is only used for washing woollens, contributing in a remarkable degree to their whiteness and softness. It can he grown anywhere under cultivation, but an outstanding self-sown variety occurs in Asia and Syria, on rocky and rugged ground, though the most highly esteemed grows beyond the Euphrates. Its stalk being slender resembles fennel; and it is much sought after by the natives to supply articles of food or perfumes, according to the ingredients with which it is boiled down. It has the leaf of an olive. The Greek name of this plant is 'little sparrow'. It flowers in summer, and the blossom is pretty to look at but has no scent. It is a thorny plant, with a stalk covered with down. It has no seed, but a large root, which is cut up for the purpose mentioned.
XIX. It remains to return from these plants to the cultivation of gardens, a subject recommended to our notice both by its own intrinsic nature and by the fact that antiquity gave its highest admiration to the garden of the Hesperids and of the kings Adonis and Alcinous, and also to hanging gardens, whether those constructed by Semiramis or by Syrus King of Assyria, about whose work we shall speak in another volume. The kings of Rome indeed cultivated their gardens with their own hands; in fact it was from his garden that even Tarquin the Proud sent that cruel and bloodthirsty message to his son. In our Laws of the Twelve Tables the word 'farm' never occursthe word 'garden' is always used in that sense, while a garden is denoted by 'family estate'. Consequently even a certain sense of sanctity attached to a garden, and only in a garden and in the Forum do we see statues of Satyrs dedicated as a charm against the sorcery of the envious, although Plautus speaks of gardens as being under the guardianship of Venus. Nowadays indeed under the name of gardens people possess the luxury of regular farms and country houses actually within the city. This practice was first introduced at Athens by that connoisseur of luxurious ease, Epicurus; down to his day the custom had not existed of having country dwellings in towns.
At Rome at all events a garden was in itself a poor man's farm; the lower classes got their market-supplies from a gardenhow much more harmless their fare was then! It gives more satisfaction, forsooth, to dive into the depth of the sea and seek for the various sorts of oysters at the cost of a shipwreck, and to fetch birds from beyond the river Rion, birds which not even legendary terrors can protectin fact these actually make them more prized! or to go fowling for other birds in Numidia and among the tombs of Ethiopia, or to fight with wild beasts, and, in hunting for game for someone else to devour, to be devoured oneself! But I protest, how little does garden produce cost, how adequate it is for pleasure and for plenty, did we not meet with the same scandal in this as in everything else! We could no doubt have tolerated that choice fruits forbidden to the poor because of their flavour or their size or their portentous shape should be grown, that wines should be kept to mature with age and robbed of their virility by being passed through strainers, and that nobody should live so long as not to be able to drink vintages older than himself, and that luxury should also have long ago devised for itself a malted porridge made from the crops and should live only on the marrow of the grain, as well as on the elaborations and modellings of the bakers' shopsone kind of bread for my lords and another for the common herd, the yearly produce graded in so many classes right down to the lowest of the lout: but have distinctions been discovered even in herbs, and has wealth established grades even in articles of food that sell for a single copper? The ordinary public declares that even among vegetables some kinds are grown that are not for them, even a kale being fattened up to such a size that there is not room for it on a poor man's table. Nature had made asparagus to grow wild, for anybody to gather at random; but lo and behold! now we see a cultivated variety, and Ravenna produces heads weighing three to a pound. Alas for the monstrosities of gluttony! It would surprise us if cattle were not allowed to feed on thistles, but thistles are forbidden to the lower orders! Even the water-supply is divided into classes, and the power of money has made distinctions in the very elements. Some people drink snow, others ice, and turn what is the curse of mountain regions into pleasure for their appetite. Coolness is stored up against the hot weather, and plans are devised to keep snow cold for the months that are strangers to it. Other people first boil their water and then bring even that to a winter temperature. Assuredly mankind wants nothing to be as nature likes to have it. Shall even a particular kind of plant be reared to serve only the rich man's table? Can nobody have been warned by the Sacred Mount or the Aventine Hill, and the secessions of the angry Commons? Doubtless the provision-market will level up persons whom money divides into classes. And so, I vow, no impost at Rome bulked larger than the market dues in the outcry of the common people, who denounced them before all the chiefs of state until the tax on this commodity was remitted, and it was discovered that there was no method of rating that was more productive or safer and less governed by chance as this payment is trusted to the poorest, the surety is in the soil, and the revenues lie in open daylight, just as does the surface of their land, rejoicing in the sky whatever be its aspect.
Cato sings the praises of garden cabbages; people in old days used to estimate farmers by their garden-produce and thus at once to give a verdict that there was a bad mistress in the house where the garden outside, which used to be called the woman's responsibility, was neglected, as it meant having to depend on the butcher or the market for victuals. Nor did people approve very highly of vegetables as they do now, since they condemned delicacies that require another delicacy to help them down. This meant economizing oil, since it was actually counted as a reproach to need a rich sauce. Those products of the garden were most in favour which needed no fire for cooking and saved fuel, and which were a resource in store and always ready; whence their name of salads, easy to digest and not calculated to overload the senses with food, and least adapted to stimulate the appetite. The fact that one set of herbs is devoted to seasoning shows that it used to be customary to do one's borrowing at home, and that there was no demand for Indian pepper and the luxuries that we import from overseas. Indeed the lower classes in the city used to give their eyes a daily view of country scenes by means of imitation gardens in their windows, before the time when atrocious burglaries in countless numbers compelled them to bar out all the view with shutters. Therefore let vegetables also have their need of honour and do not let things be robbed of respect by the fact of their being common, especially as we see that vegetables have supplied even the names of great families, and a branch of the Valerian family were not ashamed to bear the surname Lettuce. Moreover some gratitude may attach to our labour and research on the ground that Virgil also confessed how difficult it is to provide such small matters with dignified appellations.
XX. There is no doubt that it is proper to have gardens adjoining the farm-house, and that they should be irrigated preferably by a river flowing past them, if it so happens, or if not, be supplied with water from a well by means of a wheel or windmills, or ladled up by swing-beams. The soil should be broken up in preparation for autumn a fortnight after the west wind sets in, and gone over again before midwinter. It will take eight men to dig over an acre of land, mix dung with the soil to a depth of three feet, mark it out in plots and border these with sloping rounded banks, and surround each plot with a furrowed path to afford access for a man and a channel for irrigation.
XXI. Some plants growing in gardens are valued for their bulb, others for their head, others for their stalk, others for their leaf, others for both, others for their seed, others for their cartilage, others for their flesh, or for both, others for their husk or skin and cartilage, others for their fleshy outer coats.
XXII. Some plants produce their fruits in the earth, others outside as well, others only outside. Some grow lying on the ground, for instance gourds and cucumbers; these also grow in a hanging position, though they are much heavier even than fruits that grow on trees, but the cucumber is composed of cartilage and flesh and the gourd of rind and cartilage; the gourd is the only fruit whose rind when ripe changes into a woody substance. Radishes, navews and turnips are hidden in the earth, and so in a different way are elecampane, skirret and parsnips. Some plants we shall call of the fennel class, for instance dill and mallow; for authorities report that in Arabia mallows grow into trees in seven months, and serve as walking-sticks. There is an instance of a mallow-tree on the estuary of the town of Lixus in Mauretania, the place where the Gardens of the Hesperids are said to have been situated; it grows 200 yards from the ocean, near a shrine of Hercules which is said to be older than the one at Cadiz; the tree itself is 20 ft. high, and so large round that nobody could span it with his arms. Hemp will also be placed in a similar class. Moreover there are also some plants to which we shall give the name of 'fleshy', for instance the spongy plants that grow in water-meadows. As to the tough flesh of funguses, we have mentioned it already in treating the nature of timber and of trees, and in the ease of another class, that of truffles, a short time ago.
XXIII. Belonging to the class of cartilaginous plants and growing on the surface of the ground is the cucumber, a delicacy for which the emperor Tiberius had a remarkable partiality; in fact there was never a day on which he was not supplied with it, as his kitchen-gardeners had cucumber beds mounted on wheels which they moved out into the sun and then on wintry days withdrew under the cover of frames glazed with transparent stone. Moreover it is actually stated in the writings of early Greek authors that cucumber seed should be soaked for two days in milk mixed with honey before it is sown, in order to make the cucumbers sweeter. They grow in any shape they are forced to take; in Italy green ones of the smallest possible size are popular, but the provinces like the largest ones possible, and of the colour of wax or else dark. African cucumbers are the most prolific, and those of Moesia the largest. When they are exceptionally big they are called pumpkins. Cucumbers when swallowed remain in the stomach till the next day and cannot be digested with the rest of one's food, but nevertheless they are not extremely unwholesome. They have by nature a remarkable repugnance for oil, and an equal fondness for water; even when they have been cut from the stem, they creep towards water a moderate distance away, but on the contrary they retreat from oil, or if something is in their way or if they are hanging up, they grow curved and twisted. This may be observed to take place even in a single night, because if a vessel with water is put underneath them they descend towards it a hand's breadth before the next morning, but if oil is similarly near they will be found curved into crooked shapes. Also if their flower is passed down into a tube they grow to a remarkable length. Curious to say, just recently a new form of cucumber has been produced in Campania, shaped like a quince. I am told that first one grew in this shape by accident, and that later a variety was established grown from seed obtained from this one; it is called apple-pumpkin. Cucumbers of this kind do not hang from the plant but grow of a round shape lying on the ground; they have a golden colour. A remarkable thing about them, beside their shape, colour and smell, is that when they have ripened, although they are not hanging down they at once separate from the stalk. Columella gives a plan of his own for getting a supply of cucumbers all the year roundto transplant the largest blackberry bush available to a warm, sunny place, and about the spring equinox to cut it back, leaving a stump two inches long; and then to insert a cucumber seed in the pith of the bramble and bank up fine earth and manure round the roots, so that they may withstand the cold. The Greeks have produced three kinds of cucumbers, the Spartan, the Sevtalic and the Boeotian; of these it is said that only the Spartan variety is fond of water. Some people tell us to steep cucumber seed in the plant called cidia pounded up before sowing it, which will produce a cucumber having no seed.
XXIV. The gourd is also of a similar nature, at all events in its manner of growing: it has an equal aversion for cold and is equally fond of water and manure. Both gourds and cucumbers are grown from seed sown in a hole dug in the ground eighteen inches deep, between the spring equinox and midsummer, but most suitably on the day of the Parilia. Some people however prefer to start sowing gourds on March 1 and cucumbers on March 7, and to go on through the Feast of Minerva. These two plants both climb upward with shoots creeping over the rough surface of walls right up to the roof, as their nature is very fond of height. They have not the strength to stand without supports, but they shoot up at a rapid pace, covering vaulted roofs and trellises with a light shade. Owing to this they fall into these two primary classes, the roof-gourd and the common gourd which grows on the ground; in the former class a remarkably thin stalk has hanging from it a heavy fruit which a breeze cannot move. The gourd as well as the cucumber is made to grow in all sorts of long shapes, mostly by means of sheathes of plaited wicker, in which it is enclosed after it has shed its blossom, and it grows in any shape it is compelled to take, usually in the form of a coiled serpent. But if allowed to hang free it has before now been seen three yards long. The cucumber makes blossoms one by one, one flowering on the top of the other, and it can do with rather dry situations; it is covered with white down, especially when it is growing.
There are a larger number of ways of using gourds. To begin with, the stalk is an article of food. The part after the stalk is of an entirely different nature; gourds have recently come to be used instead of jugs in bathrooms, and they have long been actually employed as jars for storing wine. The rind of gourd while it is green is thin, but all the same it is scraped off when they are served as food; and although it is healthy and agreeable in a variety of ways, it is nevertheless one of the rinds that cannot be digested by the human stomach, but swell up. The seeds that were nearest the neck of the plant produce long gourds, and so do those next to the bottom, though the gourds grown from them are not comparable with those mentioned above; the seeds in the middle grow into round gourds, and those at the sides into thick and shorter ones. The seeds are dried in the shade, and when they are wanted for sowing they are steeped in water. The longer and thinner gourds are, the more agreeable they are for food, and consequently those which have been left to grow hanging are more wholesome; and this kind contain fewest seeds, the hardness of which limits their agreeableness as an article of diet. Gourds kept for seed are not usually cut before winter; after cutting they are dried in smoke for storing seeds of garden plantsthe farm's stock in store. A plan has been invented by which they are preserved for food alsoand the same in the case of cucumbersto last almost until the next crops are available. This method employs brine; but it is reported that gourds can also be kept green in a trench dug in a shady place and floored with sand and covered over with dry hay and then with earth. There are also wild varieties of both cucumbers and gourds, as is the case with almost all garden plants; but these also only possess medicinal properties, and therefore they will be deferred to the Books devoted to them.
XXV. The remaining plants of a cartilaginous nature are all hidden in the ground. Among these, we might appear to have already spoken amply about the turnip, were it not that medical men class the round plants in this group as being of the male sex and the more spread out and curved ones as female, the latter being superior in sweetness and easier to store; though after being repeatedly sown they turn into male plants. The same authorities have made four classes of navews, the Corinthian, Cleonaean, Liothasian and Boeotian, the last also called merely the green turnip. Of these the Corinthian turnip grows to a very large size, with its root almost bare, for only this kind grows upward, not down into the ground as the others do. The Liothasian kind is by some called Thracian navew; it stands cold extremely well. The Boeotian navew is sweet, and also is remarkable for its short round shape, not being elongated like the Cleonaean variety. In fact, generally speaking, navews the leaves of which are smooth also themselves have a sweeter taste, and those with rough and angular and bristly leaves are more bitter. There is also a wild kind the leaves of which resemble colewort. At Rome the prize is given to the turnips of San Vettorino, and next to those of Norcia, and the third place to the local variety. The rest of the facts about growing navews have been stated in the passage dealing with turnips.
XXVI. Radishes consist of an outer skin and a cartilage, and with many of them the skin is even thicker than the bark of some kinds of trees. They have an extremely pungent flavour, which varies in proportion to the thickness of the skin. The other parts as well are sometimes of a woody substance. They have a remarkable power of causing flatulence and eructation; consequently they are a vulgar article of diet, at all events if cabbage is eaten immediately after them, though if the radish itself is eaten with over-ripe olives, the eructation caused is less frequent and less offensive. In Egypt the radish is held in remarkable esteem because it produces oil, which they make from its seed. The people are very fond of sowing radish seed if opportunity offers, because they make more profit from it than from corn and have a smaller duty to pay on it, and because no plant there yields a larger supply of oil. The Greeks have made three kinds of radish, distinguished by difference of the leavesthe wrinkled a radish, the smooth radish and third the wild kind; though the last has smooth leaves, they are shorter and round, and numerous and bushy; the taste of this radish is however rough, and it acts like a drug with a purgative effect. Among the kinds mentioned before however there is also a difference arising from the seed, since some produce an inferior seed and some an extremely small one; but these defects only apply to the wrinkled-leaf variety. Our own people have made other classesthe Monte Compatri radish, named from its locality, a long and semi-transparent radish, and another shaped like a turnip which they call Syrian radish, about the sweetest and most tender of any, and exceptionally able to stand the winter. It appears however to have been imported from Syria only lately, since it is not found mentioned in the authorities; still, it lasts through the whole of the winter. There is also one wild variety, called by the Greeks cerais, in the Pontus country armor, or by other people leuce, and by our nation armoracia; this radish grows more leaves than root. But in testing the value of all kinds of radishes most attention is given to the stems, as those of a harsh flavour have stems that are rounded and thicker and grooved with long channels, and the leaves themselves are more crinkled and have prickly corners.
The radish likes to be sown in loose, damp soil. It dislikes dung and is content with a dressing of chaff; and it is so fond of cold that in Germany it grows as big as a baby child. Radish for the spring crop is sown after February 13, and the second sowing, which is a better crop, is about the Festival of Vulcan; but many also sow it in March and April and in September. When it begins to make growth, it pays to bank up every other leaf on each plant and to earth up the roots themselves, as a root that projects above the ground becomes hard and full of holes. Aristomachus advises stripping off the leaves during winter, and piling up earth round the plants to prevent muddy puddles forming round them; and he says that this will make them grow a good size in summer. Some authors have stated that if a hole is made by driving in a stake and covered at the bottom with chaff to a depth of six inches, and a seed is sown in it and dung and earth are heaped on it, a radish grows to the size of the hole. All the same they find saltish soils specially nourishing, and so they are even watered with salt water, and in Egypt, where they are remarkable for sweetness, they are sprinkled with soda. Also brackishness has the effect of entirely removing their pungency, and making them like radishes that have been boiled, inasmuch as boiling a radish sweetens it and turns it into something like a navew.
Medical men recommend giving raw radishes with salt for the purpose of concentrating the crude humours of the bowels, and they use this mixture to act as an emetic. They also say that radish juice is an essential specific for disease of the diaphragm, inasmuch as in Egypt, when the kings ordered post mortem dissections to be made for the purpose of research into the nature of diseases, it was discovered that this was the only dose that was capable of removing phtheiriasis attacking the internal parts of the heart. Also it is said that the radish was rated so far above all other articles of food that, such is the frivolity of the Greeks, in the temple of Apollo at Delphi, a radish modelled in gold was dedicated as a votive offering, though only a silver beetroot and a turnip of lead. You might be sure that Manius Curius was not a native of Delphi, the general who is recorded in our annals to have been found by the enemy's envoys roasting a turnip at the fire, when they came bringing the gold which he was going indignantly to refuse. Also the Greek author Moschion wrote a whole volume about the radish. Radishes are considered an extremely valuable article of food in winter time, though at the same time people think them to be always bad for the teeth, because they wear them down; at all events they can be used for polishing ivory. There is a great antipathy between radishes and vines, which shrink away from radishes planted near them.
XXVII. The rest of the plants that we have placed in the cartilaginous class are of a woodier substance, and it is noticeable that they all have an extremely pungent taste. Among these there is one wild kind of parsnip that grows of its own accord, and another kind belonging to Greece that is grown from a root or from seed set at the beginning of spring or else in autumn, according to Hyginus, in February or in August or September or October, the ground having been dug over as deeply as possible. A root only a year old begins to be serviceable, but a two year old plant is more valuable; it is more agreeable in autumn, and especially for boiling in saucepans, and even so it has a pungency that cannot be got rid of. The marsh-mallow differs from the parsnip in being of a more slender shape; it is condemned as an article of diet, but is useful for medical purposes. There is also a fourth kind of plant that bears the same resemblance to a parsnip, which our people call the Gallic parsnip, but the Greeks, who have subdivided it also into four classes, call daucos; this will have to be mentioned among the medicinal plants.
XXVIII. The skirret also has been advertised by the emperor Tiberius's requisitioning an annual supply of it from Germany. There is a castle on the Rhine called Gelb where a specially fine kind of skirret grows, showing that cold localities suit it. It contains a core running through its whole length, which is drawn out when it has been boiled, though nevertheless a great part of its bitterness remains, which when it is used as a food is modified by adding wine sweetened with honey, and is actually turned into an attraction. The larger parsnip also contains a core of the same kind, though only when it is a year old. The time for sowing skirret is in the months of February, March, April, August, September and October.
XXIX. Elecampane is shorter and more substantial than the roots described, and also more bitter; eaten by itself it disagrees violently with the stomach, but it is very wholesome when blended with sweet things. There are several ways of overcoming its acridity and rendering it agreeable: it is dried and pounded into flour and seasoned with some sweet juice, or it is boiled or kept in soak in vinegar and water, or steeped in various ways, and then mixed with boiled down grapejuice or flavoured with honey or raisins or juicy dates. Another method again is to flavour it with quinces or sorbs or plums, and occasionally with pepper or thyme, making it a tonic particularly salutary for a weak digestion; it has become specially stimulating from having been the daily diet of Julia the daughter of Augustus. Its seed is superfluous, as it is propagated like a reed, from eyes cut out of the root; it also, like the skirret and the parsnip, is planted at either season, spring or autumn, with large spaces left between the plantsfor elecampane not less than a yard, because it throws out shoots over a wide space. Skirret is better transplanted.
XXX. Next after these in natural properties are the bulbs, which Cato particularly recommends for cultivation, specially praising the Megarian kind. But the most famous bulb is the squill, although it naturally serves as a drug and is used for increasing the sourness of vinegar; and no other bulb is of larger size, just as also no other has a more powerful pungency. There are two kinds used for medicine, the male squill with white leaves and the female squill with dark leaves; and there is also a third kind, agreeable as an article of diet, called Epimenides's squillthis has a narrower leaf with a less pungent taste. All produce a very large quantity of seed, though they come up more quickly if grown from the bulbs that shoot out round their sides; and to make them grow bigger, the leaves, which in this plant are of a large size, are bent down in a circle round them and covered with soil, so causing the heads to draw all the juice into themselves. They grow wild in very large quantities in the Balearic Islands and Iviza, and throughout the Spanish provinces. The philosopher Pythagoras wrote a whole book about them, including an account of their medicinal properties, which we shall record in the next Volume. The remaining kinds of bulbs differ in colour and size and in flavour, some being eaten raw, for instance in the Crimea; next after these the ones that grow in Africa are most highly spoken of, and then those of Anulia. The Greeks have distinguished the following kindsbolbine, setanion, opition, cyix, aegilops and sisyrinchion; the last possesses the remarkable property that its bottom roots grow in winter, but in the springtime, when the violet has appeared, these diminish while the actual bulb, on the other hand, afterwards begins to swell out. Among the varieties of bulb there is also the one that in Egypt they call the arum, which is very near to the squill in size and to the sorrel in foliage, with a straight stalk a yard long of the thickness of a walking-stick, and a root of softer substance, which can even be eaten raw. Bulbs are dug up before the beginning of spring, or else they at once go off in quality; it is a sign that they are ripe then the leaves become dry at the lower end. The rather green ones are disapproved of, as also are the long and the small ones, whereas those of a reddish colour and rounder shape are praised, as also are those of the largest size. Usually their top has a bitter taste and the middle parts are sweet. Previous writers have stated that bulbs only grow from seed, but as a matter of fact they spring up of themselves in the plains near Palestrina, and also in unlimited quantity in the country round Reims.
XXXI. Nearly all kitchen-garden plants have only a single root, for instance radish, beet, parsley mallow. Sorrel has the largest root, going as far as a yard and a half into the ground (the root of the wild sorrel is smaller), and its root is full of sap, and lives a long time even after being dug up. In some of these plants, however, for instance parsley and mallow, the root is fibrous, in some, for instance basil, woody, in others fleshy, as in beet or still more in saffron, and with some, for instance radish and turnip, the roots consist of rind and flesh, and the roots of some, for instance hay-grass, are jointed. Those which have not a straight root support themselves immediately with a great many hairy fibres, for instance orage and blite; but squill and the bulbs and onion and garlic only throw out straight roots. Some of the plants that grow self-sown have more root than leaf, for instance partridge-plant and crocus. Wild thyme, southernwood, turnips, radishes, mint and rue blossom all in a bunch. All other plants shed their blossom all at once as soon as they have begun to do so, but basil does so gradually, starting from the bottom, and consequently it flowers for a very long time. This also happens in the case of the heliotrope. Some plants have a white flower, others yellow and others purple. Wild marjoram and elecampane shed their leaves from the top down, and so sometimes does rue when it has been damaged by an accident. The onion and the leek have especially hollow leaves.
XXXII. In Egypt people swear by garlic and onions as deities in taking an oath. Among the Greeks the varieties of onion are the Sardinian, Samothracian, Alsidenian, setanian, the split onion, and the Ascalon onion, named from a town in Judea. In all these the body consists entirely of coats of greasy cartilage; also they all have a smell which makes one's eyes water, especially the Cyprus onions, but least of all those of Cnidos. The smallest of all except the Tuscany onion is the setanian, though it has a sweet taste; but the split onion and the Ascalon onion need flavouring. The split onion is left with its leaves on in winter, these being pulled off in spring, and others grow in their place at the same divisions, from which these onions get their name. This has suggested the recommendation to strip the other kinds also of their leaves, so as to make them grow to heads rather than run to seed. Ascalon onions also have a peculiar nature, being in a manner sterile at the root, and consequently the Greeks have advised growing them from seed and not planting them, and moreover sowing them rather late, about springtime, but transplanting them when they are in bud; this method, they say, causes them to fill out and grow quickly, making up for the time lost. But in their case haste is necessary, because when ripe they quickly go rotten. If growls from roots they throw out a stalk and run to seed, and the bulb withers away. There is also a difference of colours, the whitest onions growing at Issus and at Sardis. Those of Crete are also esteemed, though the question is raised whether they are identical with the Ascalon variety, because when grown from seed they make large heads but run to stalk and seed when planted; they only differ from the Ascalon onions in their sweet flavour. In our country we have two principal varieties, one the kind of onion used for seasoning, the Greek name for which is getion-leek and the Latin 'pallaeana', which is sown in March, April or May, and the other the onion with a head, which is sown after the autumn equinox or when the west wind has begun to blow in the springtime. The varieties of the latter, in order of their degrees of pungency, are the African, the Gallic, and those of Tusculum, Ascalon and Amiternae. Those of the roundest shape are the best; also a red onion is more pungent than a white one, or a dry one than one still fresh, and a raw one than one that has been cooked, and also than one that has been kept in store. The Amitemum kind is grown in cold and damp places, and is the only one that grows with a head only, like garlic, all other varieties being grown from seed and next summer producing no seed but only a head which goes on growing in size; but in the following year just the contrary, seed is produced but the actual head goes rotten. Consequently every year there are two separate processes, seed being sown to produce onions and onions planted for seed. Onions keep best stored in chaff. The scallion has hardly any head at all, only a long neck, and consequently it all goes to leaf, and it is cut back several times, like common leek; consequently it also is grown from seed, not by planting. In addition, they recommend digging over the ground three times and weeding out the plant-roots before sowing onions; and using ten pounds of seed to the acre, with savoury mixed in, as the onions come up better; and moreover stubbing and hoeing the ground four times, if not more. Our farmers sow the Asealon onion in February. The seed of onions is harvested when they begin to turn black, before they get dry.
XXXIII. It may also be suitable to mention the leek in this family of plants, especially as importance has recently been given to the chive by the emperor Nero, who on certain fixed days of every month always ate chives preserved in oil, and nothing else, not even bread, for the sake of his voice. It is grown from seed sown just after the autumnal equinox; if it is for the purpose of chives, it must be sown rather thickly. It goes on being cut in the same bed till it gives out; and if it is being grown to make heads it is always well manured before it is cut. When it is fully grown, it is moved to another bed, after having the points of the leaves above the central part carefully trimmed off and the tips of the coats drawn back from the heads. Growers in former times used to broaden out the heads by putting them under a stone or a potsherd, and the same with bulbs as well; but now the practice is gently to pull the roots loose with a hoe, so that being bent they may feed the plant and not draw it apart. It is a remarkable fact that although the leek likes manure and a rich soil, it hates damp places. Nevertheless there is a connexion between the varieties and some peculiarity of the soil: the most highly esteemed kind belongs to Egypt, and the next to Ostia and to La Iticcia. There are two kinds of chive; one with grass-green leaves, with distinct markings on themthis is the chive used by druggistsand another kind with leaves of a yellower colour and rounder in shape, on which the markings are less prominent. There is a story that a member of the Order of Knights named Mela, when recalled from a deputy-governorship by the emperor Tiberius to be impeached for maladministration, in extreme despair swallowed a dose of leek-juice weighing three denarii in silver, and immediately expired without suffering any pain. A larger dose is said to have no injurious effect.
XXXIV. Garlic is believed to be serviceable for making a number of medicaments, especially those used in the country. It is enveloped in very fine skins in entirely separate layers, and then consists of several kernels in a cluster, each of these also having a coat of its own; it has a pungent flavour, and the more kernels there were the more pungent it is. Garlic as well as onions gives an offensive smell to the breath, though when boiled it causes no smell. The difference between the various kinds consists in the time they take to ripenthe early kind ripens in 60 daysand also in their size. Ulpicum also comes in this class, the plant called by the Greeks Cyprian garlic, or by others antiscorodon; it holds a high rank among the dishes of the country people, particularly in Africa, and it is larger than garlic; when beaten up in oil and vinegar it swells up in foam to a surprising size. Some people say that ulpiciim and garlic must not be planted in level ground, and advise placing it in little mounds a yard apart like a chain of forts; there must be a space of four inches between the grains, and as soon as three leaves have broken out the plants must be hoed over: they grow larger the oftener they are hoed. When they begin to ripen, their stalks are pressed down into the earth and covered up: this prevents their making too lush foliage. In cold soils it pays better to plant in the spring than in autumn. Moreover with all of these plants, to prevent their having an objectionable smell, it is advised to plant them when the moon is below the horizon and to gather them when it is in conjunction. The Greek writer Menander states that people eating garlic without taking these precautions can neutralize the smell by eating after it a beetroot roasted on the hot coals. Some people think that the best time for planting both garlic and ulpicum is between the Feast of the Crossways and the Feast of Saturn. Garlic can also be grown from seed, but it is a slow process, as the head only makes the size of a leek in the first year and divides into cloves in the second year, making full growth in the third year; and some people think that this variety of garlic is a finer kind. It must not be allowed to run to seed, but the stalks must be twisted up for purposes of propagation, so that it may form a stronger head. But if garlic or onions are wanted to keep for some time, their heads should be soaked in warm salt water; that will make them last longer and will render them better for use, though barren in seeding. Others are content to begin by hanging them up over burning coal, and think that this expedient is quite sufficient to prevent their sprouting, which it is well known that garlic and onions do even when out of the ground, and after enlarging their small stalk they wither away. Also some people think that garlic keeps best when stored in chaff. There is also another garlic called alum that grows self-sown in the fields, which, after having been boiled to prevent its shooting up again, is scattered about as a protection against the ravages of birds that eat up the seeds, and the birds that swallow it at once become stupefied, and if you wait a little, go completely unconscious and can be caught by hand. There is also a wild kind called bear's garlic, with a similar smell, which has a very small head and large leaves.
XXXV. Of kitchen-garden plants the quickest to grow are basil, blite, rape and rocket; these break out of the ground two days after they are sown. Dill comes up in 3 days, lettuce 4, radish 9, cucumber 5, gourd even 6cucumber is earliercress and mustard 4, summer beet 5, winter beet 9, orage 7, onions 13 or 19, long onion 9 or 11; coriander is more obstinate, and indeed cunila and wild marjoram do not come up before 30 days, but the most difficult of all is parsley, for it comes up in 39 days at the quickest, and in the majority of cases in 49 days. Something also depends on the age of the seed, as fresh seed comes up more quickly in the case of leek, long onion, cucumber and gourd, but parsley, beet, cress, cunila, wild marjoram and coriander grow more quickly from old seed. There is a curious thing about beet seed that the whole of it does not germinate in the same year but some only in the year following, and some even two years later; and consequently a quantity of seed only produces a moderate crop. Some plants only produce seed in the same year as they are planted, but some more often, for instance parsley, leek and long onion, as these when once sown retain their fertility and come up several years running.
XXXVI. The seeds of most plants are round, but those of some oblong; in a few they are foliated and broad, for instance orage, in some narrow and grooved, for instance cummin. They differ in colour as well, dark or lighter, and also in woody hardness. The seeds of radishes, mustard and turnip are contained in a pod; the seed of coriander, dill, fennel and curnxnin has no cover, that of blite, beet, orage and basil is covered with a skin, while that of lettuces is wrapped in down. No seed is more prolific than basil; they recommend sowing it with curses and imprecations. to make it come up more abundantly; when it. is sown the earth is rammed down. Also people sowing cummin pray for it not to come up. It is difficult for seeds contained in a pod to get dry, particularly basil, and consequently they are all dried artificially to make them fertile. In any case plants grow better when the seed is sown in heaps than when it is scattered; indeed it is on that principle that they sow leek and parsley tied up in strips of rag, and also before sowing parsley they make a hole with a dibble into which they put dung. All plants grow either from seed or from slips, or some both from seed and from cuttings, as rue, wild marjoram, basilfor people lop off the top of this plant too when it has reached the height of a palm; and some plants grow both from seed and from a root, as onion, garlic, bulbs, and the perennials the roots of which stay alive. But with plants that grow from a root the root lives a long time and throws out shoots, for instance bulbs, long onions and squills. Others make shrubby growth and without heads, for instance parsley and beet. When the stalk is cut back, nearly all plants except those which have not got a rough stem throw out fresh shoots, indeed basil, radish and lettuce put out new shoots that can be used; lettuce is thought to be even sweeter if grown from a fresh sprouting. Anyway radish is more agreeable when its leaves have been stripped off before it runs to stalk. The same is also true in the case of turnips, for they likewise if banked up with earth after the leaves have been pulled off go on growing and last into summer.
XXXVII. Basil, sorrel, spinach, cress, rocket, orage, coriander and dill are plants of which there is Set., only one kind, as they are the same in every locality and no better in one place than another. It is a common belief that rue which you have stolen grows better, just as stolen bees are believed to do very badly. Wild mint, cat-mint, endive and pennyroyal spring up even without being sown. On the other hand plants which we have mentioned and are going to mention have several varieties, and particularly parsley. The parsley that grows wild in damp places has a Greek name meaning marsh-parsley; it has a single leaf and is not of shaggy growth; again, the Greek name of another, a many-leaved parsley resembling marsh-parsley, but growing in dry places, is horse-parsley; a third kind is called mountain-parsley in Greekit has the leaves of hemlock, a thin root, and seed like that of dill only smaller. Moreover cultivated parsley also has varieties in the leaf, which is bushy and crinkled or scantier and smoother, and also in the stalk, thinner or thicker, and in some plants the stalk is white, in others purple, in others mottled.
XXXVIII. The Greeks have distinguished three kinds of lettuce, one with so broad a stalk that it is said that the wicket-gates of kitchen gardens are often made of them; these plants have leaves rather larger than those of the green garden-lettuce, and extremely narrow, the nutriment being apparently used up elsewhere; the second kind has a round stalk, and the third is a squat-growing plant, called the Spartan lettuce. Other people have classified lettuces by colour and season of sowing, saying that the black lettuce is the kind sown in January, the white in March and the red in April, and that all of these kinds can be transplanted at the end of two months. More precise authorities make a larger number of varieties, the purple, the crinkly, the Cappadocian, the Greekthe last with a smoother leaf and a broad stalk, and in addition the lettuce with a long and narrow leaf, which resembles endive; while the worst kind of all has been given the name in Greek of bitter lettuce, in condemnation of its bitter taste. There is moreover another variety of white lettuce the Greek name for which is poppy-lettuce, from its abundance of juice with a soporific property, although all the lettuces are believed to bring sleep; this was the only kind of lettuce in Italy in early times, which accounts for the Latin name for lettuce, derived from the Latin for milk. A purple lettuce with a very large root is called Caecilius's lettuce, while a round one with a very small root and broad leaves is called in Greek the anti-aphrodisiac, or otherwise the eunuch's lettuce, because this kind is an extremely potent check to amorous propensities. Indeed they all have a cooling quality, and consequently are acceptable in summer. They relieve the stomach of distaste for food and promote appetite. At all events it is stated that the late lamented Augustus in an illness, thanks to the sagacity of his doctor, Musa, was cured by lettuce, which had been refused him by the excessive scruples of his previous doctor, Gaius Aemilius; this was such a good advertisement for lettuces that the method was then discovered of keeping them into the months when they are out of season, pickled in honey-vinegar. It is also believed that lettuces increase the blood-supply.
There is also a variety called the goat-lettuce of which we shall speak among drugs; and only quite recently there has begun to be introduced among the cultivated lettuces a kind held in considerable esteem called the Cilician lettuce, which has the leaf of the Cappadocian kind, only crinkly and broader.
XXXIX. Endive cannot be said to belong either to the same class of plant as lettuce or to another class, being better able to endure the winter and having more acridity of flavour; but its stalk is equally agreeable. It is sown after the spring equinox, and the seedlings are bedded out at the end of the spring. There is also a wild endive called in Egypt succory, about which more will be said elsewhere. A method has been discovered of preserving all the stalks or leaves of lettuces by storing them in pots and boiling them in saucepans while fresh. Lettuces can be sown all the year round in favourable soil that is watered by streams and manured, with two months between sowing and bedding out and two between that and maturity. The regular plan, however, is to sow just after midwinter and to bed out when the west wind sets in, or else to sow then and bed out at the spring equinox. White lettuce stands the winter best. All garden plants are fond of moisture and manure, especially lettuce, and even more endive: indeed it pays to plant them with the roots smeared with dung and to loosen the ground round them and fill up with dung. Some use other means also of increasing their size, cutting them back when they have reached six inches high and giving them a dressing of fresh swine's dung. As for colour, it is thought that at all events lettuces grown from white seed can be blanched if as soon as they begin to grow sand from the sea-shore is heaped round them up to half their height and the leaves as they start sprouting are tied hack against the plants themselves.
XL. Beet is the smoothest of the garden plants. The Greeks distinguish two kinds of beet also, according to the colour, black and whitishthey prefer the latter, which has a very scanty supply of seed, and call it Sicilian beet; indeed they prefer lettuce also with distinctive quality of whiteness. Our people distinguish two kinds of beet according to time of sowing, spring beet and autumn beet, although beet is also sown in June, and the plant transplanted in autumn. Beets also like even their roots to be smeared with dung, and have, a similar liking for a damp place. Beets are also made into a salad with lentils and beans, and are dressed in the same way as cabbages, the best way being to stimulate their insipidity with the bitterness of mustard. The doctors have pronounced beet to be more unwholesome than cabbage, on account of which there are persons who scruple even to taste beets when served at table; and consequently they are preferably an article of diet for people with strong digestions. Beets have a double structure, that of the cabbage, and, at the actual head of the root as it springs up, that of an onion. They are most valued for width, which is secured, as in lettuces, by placing a light weight on them when they have begun to assume their colour. No other garden plant grows broader: occasionally beets spread out to two feet across, the nature of the soil also contributing a great deal to this, inasmuch as the widest spreading beets grow in the territory of Circeii. Some people think that beets are best sown when the pomegranate is in blossom, and transplanted when they have begun to make five leaves; and that by a remarkable difference (if this really exists) white beet acts as a purge and black beet as an astringent; and that when the flavour of wine in a cask is getting spoiled by 'cabbage' it can be restored to what it was by plunging in some leaves of beet.
XLI. Cabbages and kales which now have pre-eminence in gardens, I do not find to have been held in honour among the Greeks; but Cato sings marvellous praises of the head of cabbage, which we shall repeat when we deal with medicine. He classifies cabbages as followsa kind with the leaves wide open and a large stalk, another with a crinkly leaf, which is called celery-cabbage, and a third with, very small stalks; the last is a smooth and tender cabbage, and he puts it lowest in value. Cabbage is sown all the year round, since it is also cut all the year round, but it pays best to sow it at the autumnal equinox; and it is transplanted when it has made five leaves. In the next spring after its first sowing it yields sprout-cabbage; this is a sort of small sprout from the actual cabbage stalks, of a more delicate and tender quality, though it was despised by the fastidious taste of Apicius and owing to him by Drusus Caesar, not without reproof from his father Tiberius. After the sprout-cabbage from the same stalk we get summer and autumn sprouts, and then winter ones, and a second crop of sprout-cabbage, as no kind of plant is equally productive, until it gets exhausted by its own fertility. The second sowing begins at. the spring equinox, and the seedling is bedded out at the end of spring, so that it may not bear in the sprout-cabbage stage before making cabbage-head; the third is about midsummer, and the produce of this is bedded out during the summer if the place is rather damp and in autumn if it is drier. It has a more agreeable taste if it has not had much moisture or manure, but makes a more abundant growth if they have been plentiful. Ass's dung makes the most suitable manure for it.
Growing cabbages is also one of the ways of supplying table luxuries, so it will not be out of place to pursue the subject at greater length. A way to produce a kale of outstanding flavour and size is if first of all you sow it in ground that has been dug, and next keep pace with the shoots breaking through the soil by earthing them up and when they begin to rise to a luxuriant height make another pile of earth against them by raising the bank so that not more than their head emerges. The kind so grown is called Tritian cabbage, and it may be estimated that it takes twice the usual outlay and trouble. There are quite a number of other varieties: Cumae cabbage, with its leaf close to the ground and a spreading head; La Riccia cabbage, no taller in height, with a leaf more plentiful than tenderthis kind is considered extremely useful because underneath almost all the leaves it throws out small sprouts of a peculiar kind; the Pompeii cabbage is taller, and has a thin stalk near the root but grows thicker between the leaves, these being scantier and narrower, but their tenderness is a valuable quality. This cabbage cannot stand cold, which actually promotes the growth of Bruttian cabbages with their extremely large leaves, thin stalk and sharp taste. The Sabellian cabbage has leaves that are quite remarkably crisp and so thick as to exhaust the stalk itself, but these are said to be the sweetest of all the cabbages. There have recently come into notice the Lacuturna cabbages from the valley of La Iticcia, which have a very large head and leaves too many to count; some of these cabbages are bunched together into a circular shape and others bulge out broadwise; and no other cabbages make more head, not counting the Tritian kind, which is sometimes seen with a head measuring a foot across, and which sprouts as early as any other sort. But with any kind of cabbages hoarfrosts contribute a great deal to their sweetness, although a frost after the cabbages have been cut does the plants a great deal of damage, unless the pith is safeguarded by using a slanting cut. Cabbages intended for seed are not cut. A peculiarly attractive kind is one that never exceeds the size of a young plant; they call these halmyridia, because they only grow on the seacoast. They say that these keep green even on a long voyage if as soon as they are cut they are prevented from touching the earth by being put into oil-jars that have been dried just before and are bunged up so as to shut out all air. Some people think that the plant will mature more quickly if in the process of transplanting some seaweed is placed under the foot-stalk, or else a pinch of pounded soda, as much as can be picked up with three fingers; and some have a plan of sprinkling the leaves with soda ground up with trefoil seed. Soda added in cooking also preserves the greenness of cabbages, as does also Apicius's a recipe for steeping them in oil and salt before they are boiled. There is a method of grafting vegetables by cutting short the shoots and inserting into the pith of the stalk seed obtained from other plants; this has even been done in the case of wild cucumber. There is also a kind of wild cabbage which has been made famous particularly by the songs and jests of the troops at the triumph of the late lamented Julius, as in capping verses they taunted him with having at the siege of Durazzo made them live on white charlockthis was a hit at the stinginess with which he rewarded their services. This is a wild cabbage sprout.
XLII. Of all cultivated vegetables asparagus needs the most delicate attention. Its origin from wild asparagus has been fully explained, and how Cato recommends growing it in reed-beds. There is also another kind less refined than garden asparagus but less pungent than the wild plant, which springs up in many places even in mountain districts; the plains of Upper Germany are full of it, the emperor Tiberius not ineptly remarking that in that country a plant very like asparagus grows as a weed. In fact the kind that grows wild in the island of Nisita off the coast of Campania is deemed far the best asparagus there is. Garden asparagus is grown from root-clumps, for it is a plant with a large amount of root and it buds very deep down. When the thin stem first shoots above ground the plant is green, and the shoot while making a longer stalk simultaneously tops off into grooved protuberances. It can also be grown from seed. No subject included by Cato is treated more carefully, and it is the last topic of his book, showing that it was a novelty just creeping in. His advice is to dig over a place with a damp or heavy soil and sow the seeds six inches apart each way, so as to avoid treading on them; and moreover to put two or three seeds in each hole, made with a dibble along a lineobviously at that time asparagus was only grown from seed. He recommends doing this after the vernal equinox, using plenty of dung, frequently cleaning with the hoe, taking care not to pull up the asparagus with the weeds, in the first year protecting the plants against winter with straw, uncovering them in spring and hoeing and stubbing the ground; and setting fire to the plants in the third spring. The earlier asparagus is burnt off, the better it thrives, and consequently it is specially suitable for growing in reed-beds, which burn speedily. He also advises not hoeing the beds before the asparagus springs up, for fear of disturbing the roots in the process of hoeing; next plucking off the asparagus heads close to the root, because if they are broken off, the plant runs to stalk and dies off; going on plucking them till they run to seed (which begins to mature towards springtime) and burning them off, and when the asparagus plants have appeared, hoeing them over again and manuring them. Nine years later, he says, when the plants are now old, they must be separated and the ground worked over and manured, and then they must be replanted with the tufts spaced out a foot apart. Moreover he expressly specifies using sheep's dung, as other manure produces weeds. No method of cultivation tried later has proved to be more useful, except that they now sow about February 13 by digging in the seed in heaps in little trenches, usually preparing the seed by soaking it in dung; as a result of this process the roots twine together and form tufts, which they plant out at spaces of a foot apart after the autumn equinox, the plants going on bearing for ten years. There is no soil that asparagus likes better than that of the kitchen-gardens at Ravenna, as we have pointed out. I find it stated that corruda (which I take to be a wild asparagus, called by the Greeks horminos or myacanthos as well as by other names) will also come up if pounded rams' horns are dug in as manure.
XLIII. It might bethought that all the vegetables of value had now been mentioned, did not there still remain an extremely profitable article of trade, which must be mentioned not without a feeling of shame. The fact is it is well known that at Carthage and particularly at Cordova crops of thistles yield a return of 6000 sesterces from small plotssince we turn even the monstrosities of the earth to purposes of gluttony, and actually grow vegetables which all four-footed beasts without exception shrink from touching. Thistles then we grow in two ways, from a slip planted in autumn and from seed sown before March 7, the seedlings from which are planted out before November 13, or in cold localities about the season of the west wind. They are sometimes manured as well, if heaven so wills, and come up more abundantly. They are also preserved in honey diluted with vinegar, with the addition of laser-wort root and cummin, so that there may be no day without thistles for dinner.
XLIV. A cursory description can suffice for the rest of the plants. The best time for sowing basil is said to be at the Feast of Pales, and some say in autumn also, advising that when it is sown for winter the seed should be moistened with vinegar. Also rocket and cress can be grown very easily either in summer or in winter. Rocket particularly thinks nothing of cold. Its properties are quite different from those of lettuce, and it acts as an aphrodisiac; consequently it is usually blended with lettuce in a salad, so that the excessive chilliness of the lettuce may be tempered and counterbalanced by being mingled with an equal amount of heat. Cress has got its Latin name from the pain that it gives to the nostrils, and owing to this the sense of vigorousness has attached itself to that word in the current expression as denoting a stimulant. It is said to grow to a remarkably large size in Arabia.
XLV. Rue also is sown when the west wind blows in spring, and just after the autumn equinox. It hates cold weather, damp and dung, and likes sunny, dry places and a soil containing as much brick-clay as possible; it requires to be manured with ashes, which are also mixed with the seed to banish caterpillars. Rue was held in special importance in old times: I find that honied wine flavoured with rue was given to the public by Cornelius, Quintus Flamininus's colleague in the consulship, after the election had been concluded. Rue is so friendly with the fig that it grows better under this tree than anywhere else. It can also be grown from a slip, preferably inserted into a hole made in a bean, which holds the slip firmly and nourishes it with its juice. It also reproduces itself by layering, since if the end of a branch curves over, when it touches the ground the plant at once strikes root. Basil also has the same properties, except that its seed dries with more difficulty. Stubbing rue is a process not without difficulty, because it causes itching ulcers, unless it is done with the hands protected by gloves or safeguarded by oiling. The leaves of rue are also preserved, being kept in bundles.
XLVI. Parsley sowing begins at the vernal equinox, the seed being first gently pounded in a mortar: it is thought that the parsley is made crisper by this process, or if the seed is rolled or trodden into the earth after being sown. A peculiarity of parsley is that it changes its colour. Achaia it has the distinction of providing the wreath worn by the winners of the sacred contest at Neniea.
XLVII. This is also the time for planting mint, using a shoot, or if it is not yet making bud, a matted tuft. Mint is equally fond of damp ground. It is green in summer and turns yellow in winter. There is a wild kind of mint called mentastrum; this is propagated by layering, like a vine, or by planting stalks end downwards. The name of mint has been altered in Greece because of its sweet scent; it used to be called mintha, from which our ancestors derived the Latin name, but now it has begun to be called by a Greek word meaning 'sweet-scented'. It is agreeable for stuffing cushions, and pervades the tables with its scent at country banquets. One planting lasts for a long period. It is closely related to pennyroyal, which has the property which we have spoken of more than once of flowering when it is in a larder. These other herbs, I mean mint and also pennyroyal and catmint, are kept in the same kind of way. Yet of all the seasonings which gratify a fastidious taste, cummin is the most agreeable. It grows on the surface of the ground, hardly adhering to the soil and stretching upward, and it should be sown in the middle of spring, in crumbly and specially warm soils. Another kind of cummin is the wild variety called country cummin, or by other people Thebaic cummin. For pounding up in water and using as a draught in cases of stomachache the most highly esteemed kind in our continent is that grown at Carpetania, though elsewhere the prize is awarded to Ethiopian and African cummin; however some prefer the Egyptian to the African.
XLVIII. A herb of exceptionally remarkable nature is black-herb, the Greek name for which is horse-parsley, and which others call zmyrnium. It is reproduced from the gum that trickles from its own stalk, but it can also be grown from a root. The people who collect its juice say that it tastes like myrrh, and Theophrastus states that it sprang first from sown myrrh seed. Old writers had recommended sowing horse-parsley in uncultivated stony ground near a garden wall; but at the present day it is sown in land that has been dug over and also after a west wind has followed the autumn equinox. The reason for the old plan was that the caper also is sown principally in dry places, after a plot has been hollowed out for deep digging and stone banks have been built all round it: otherwise it strays all over the fields and takes the fertility out of the soil. It blossoms in summer and continues green till the setting of the Pleiades; it is most at home in sandy soil. The bad qualities of the caper that grows over seas we have spoken of among the exotic shrubs.
XLIX. The caraway is also an exotic, and bears a name derived from the country it belongs to; it is chiefly for the kitchen. It will grow in any country if cultivated in the same way as black-herb, though the kind most highly spoken of grows in Carla, and the next best in Phrygia.
L. Lovage grows wild in the mountains of its native Liguria, but is cultivated everywhere; the cultivated kind is sweeter but lacks strength. Some people call it panax, but the Greek writer Crateuas gives that name to cow-cunila, though all others call that conyra, which is really cunilago, while real cunila they call thymbra. With us cunila has another name also being called satureia and classed as a spice. It is sown in February; and it is a rival of wild marjoram, the two never being used as ingredients together, because they impart a similar flavour; but only the Egyptian wild marjoram is reckoned superior to cunila.
LI. Pepperwort also was originally an exotic. It is sown after the spring west wind starts, and then, when it has begun to shoot, it is cut down close to the ground and afterwards hoed and manured. Subsequently the plant thus treated is serviceable for two years with the same shoots, provided it is not attacked by a severe winter, as it is very incapable of bearing cold. It grows to a height of as much as eighteen inches; it has the leaves of the bay-tree, but softer. It is always used mixed with milk.
LII. Git is grown for use in bakeries, anise and dill for the kitchen and for doctors; sacopenium, employed for adulterating laserwort, is also grown as a garden plant, but only for medicinal purposes.
LIII. There are some plants that are sown in company with others, for instance the poppy, which is sown with cabbage and purslain, and rocket is sown with lettuce. There are three kinds of cultivated poppy: the white, the seed of which in old days used to be roasted and served with honey at second course; it is also sprinkled on the top crust of country loaves, an egg being poured on to make it stick, while celery and git are used to give the bottom crust a festival flavour. The second kind of poppy is the black poppy, from which a milky juice is obtained by making an incision in the stalk. The third kind is called by the Greeks rhoeas and in our country wild poppy; it does indeed grow uncultivated, but chiefly in fields sown with barley; it resembles rocket, and grows eighteen inches high, with a red flower which falls very quickly, and which is the origin of its Greek name. We shall speak of the remaining kinds of self-sown poppy under the head of drugs. That the poppy has always been in favour at Rome is indicated by the story of Tarquinius the Proud, who knocked off the heads of the tallest poppies in his garden and by means of this unspoken rebus conveyed to the envoys sent to him by his son that sanguinary answer of his.
LIV. Again there is another group of plants which are sown at the autumn equinoxcoriander, dill, orage, mallow, sorrel, chervil, the Greek name for which is lad's love, and mustard, which with its pungent taste and fiery effect is extremely beneficial for the health. It grows entirely wild, though it is improved by being transplanted: but on the other hand when it has once been sown it is scarcely possible to get the place free of it, as the seed when it falls germinates at once. It is also used to make a relish, by being boiled down in saucepans till its sharp flavour ceases to be noticeable; also its leaves are boiled, like those of all other vegetables. There are three kinds of mustard plant, one of a slender shape, another with leaves like those of turnip, and the third with those of rocket. The best seed comes from Egypt. The Athenian word for mustard is napy, those of other dialects thlaspi and lizard-herb.
LV. Most mountains teem with thyme and wild mint, for instance the mountains of Thrace, and so people pluck off sprays of them there and bring them down to plant; and they do the same at Sicyon from mountains there and at Athens from Hymettus. Wild mint is also planted in a similar manner; it grows most abundantly on the walls of wells and round fish-pools and ponds.
LVI. There remain the garden plants of the fennel-giant class, for instance fennel, which snakes are very fond of, as we have said, and which when dried is useful for seasoning a great many dishes, and thapsia, which closely resembles it, of which we have spoken among foreign bushes, and then hemp, which is exceedingly useful for ropes. Hemp is sown when the spring west wind sets in; the closer it grows the thinner its stalks are. Its seed when ripe is stripped off after the autumn equinox and dried in the sun or wind or by the smoke of a fire. The hemp plant itself is plucked after the vintage, and peeling and cleaning it is a task done by candle light. The best is that of Arab-Hissar, which is specially used for making hunting-nets. Three classes of hemp are produced at that place: that nearest to the bark or the pith is considered of inferior value, while that from the middle, the Greek name for which is 'middles', is most highly esteemed. The second best hemp comes from Mylasa. As regards height, the hemp of Rosea in the Sabine territory grows as tall as a fruit-tree. The two kinds of fennel-giant have been mentioned above among exotic shrubs. In Italy its seed is an article of diet; in fact it is stored in pots and lasts for as much as a year. Two different parts of it are used as vegetables, the stalks and the branches. This fennel is called in Greek clump-fennel, and the parts that are stored, clumps.
LVII. Garden vegetables are also liable to disease, like the rest of the plants on earth. For instance basil degenerates with old age into wild-thyme and sisymbrium into mint, and old cabbage seed produces turnip, and so on. Also cummin is killed by broom-rape unless it is thoroughly cleaned: this is a plant with a single stalk and a root resembling a bulb, and it only grows in a thin soil. Another disease peculiar to cummin is scab. Also basil turns pale at the rising of the Dog-star. All plants indeed turn yellow when a woman comes near them at her monthly period. Also various insects breed on garden plantsspringtails in turnips, caterpillars and maggots in radish, and also on lettuces and cabbage, both of which are more infested by slugs and snails than radish; and the leek has special insects of its own, which are easily caught by throwing dung on the plants, as they burrow into it. According to Sabinus Tiro in his book On Gardening, which he dedicated to Maecenas, it is also bad for rue, savoury, mint or basil to come in contact with iron.
LVIII. The same author has given an account of a remedy against ants, which are not the least destructive of pests in gardens not well supplied with water; the plan is to stop up the mouths of ant-holes with sea-slime or ashes. But the most effective thing for killing ants is the heliotrope plant; and some people also think that water in which an unbaked brick has been soaked is injurious to these insects. A protection for rapes is to sow some fitch with them, and similarly chick-pea for cabbages, as it keeps off caterpillars. If neglect of this precaution has led to the appearance of caterpillars, the remedy is to sprinkle them with a decoction of wormwood or of houseleek; we have mentioned this class of plant, which some call immortel. It is stated that if cabbage seed is soaked in the juice of houseleek before being sown, the cabbages will be immune from all kinds of insects; and it is said that caterpillars can be totally exterminated in gardens by fixing up on a stake the skull of an animal of the horse class, provided it is that of a female. There is also a story that a river crab hung up in the middle of a garden is a protection against caterpillars. Some people touch plants which they want to be immune from caterpillars with slips of blood-red cornel. Also gnats infest damp gardens, especially if there are any shrubs in them; these can be driven away by burning galbanum resin.
In regard to the deterioration of seeds, some keep longer than others, for instance coriander, beet, leek, cress, mustard, rocket, savory and the pungent seeds generally; while the seeds of orage, basil, gourd and cucumber do not keep so well, and summer seeds in general are not so strong as winter ones. The least lasting is long-onion seed. Of these however which keep best none is of any use after four years, at all events for sowing; they are fit for kitchen use even beyond that period.
LIX. There is a curative property specially effective for raffish, beet, rue and savory in salt water, which moreover also contributes a great deal to their sweetness and to their fertility. All other plants are benefited by being watered with fresh water, the most useful for the purpose being water from streams, which is extremely cool and very sweet to drink; water from a pond or brought by a conduit is not so useful, because it carries with it the seeds of weeds. However it is rain that nourishes plants best, as rainwater also kills insects that breed on them.
LX. For gardens the times for watering are in the morning and the evening, so that the water may not be heated by the sun. It only suits basil to water it at midday as well; for it is thought that this plant even when first sown will break out most rapidly if at the first stage it is watered with water that is warm. All plants grow better and larger when transplanted, most of all leeks and navews. Also transplanting has a medicinal effect, and such plants as long onion, leek, radishes, parsley, lettuces, turnip and cucumber cease to suffer from injuries when transplanted. But almost all the wild varieties, for example savory, wild marjoram, rue, are smaller in leaf and stalk, and have a more acrid juice. Indeed sorrel is the only one of all the plants of which the wild variety is the better, the cultivated sorrel is called rumix, and it is the strongest of all the plants grown under cultivation or wild; at all events it is reported that when once it has been established it lasts on and is never overcome, and that it is specially everlasting when close to water. It is only used for the table mixed with pearl-barley, which gives it a softer and more agreeable flavour. The wild variety supplies a number of drugs. (And so careful has research been to overlook nothing, that I actually find it stated in a poem that if the seeds of leek, rocket, lettuce, parsley, endive and cress are planted enclosed in hollow pellets of goat's dung, each seed in a separate pellet, they come up wonderfully. With plants of which there is also a wild variety, the latter are thought to be more dry and acrid than the cultivated sort.)
LXI. Now we ought also to speak of the difference of the juices and flavours of herbs, this being even greater in their case than in fruits. The juice of savory, wild marjoram, cress and mustard has an acrid taste; the juice of wormwood and centaury is bitter, that of cucumbers, gourds and lettuces watery; that of thyme and cunilago pungent; that of parsley, dill and fennel pungent and scented. The only flavour not found in plants is the taste of salt, though occasionally it is present as a sort of external layer, like a dust, and this only in the case of the small chick-pea.
LXII. And to show how unfounded, as so frequently, is the view ordinarily held, all-heal has the taste of pepper, and still more so has pepperwort, which consequently is called pepper-plant; and grass of Lebanon has the scent of frankincense, and alexanders that of myrrh. About all-heal enough has been said already. Libanotis grows in thin powdery soil, and in places where there is a heavy dew; it has the root of olusatrum, exactly like frankincense; when a year old it is extremely wholesome for the digestion. Some people call it by another name, rosemary. Alexanders is a garden herb that grows in the same places, and its root has the taste of myrrh. Pepperwort grows in the same way. The remaining plants are peculiar in both scent and taste, for example anise; and so great is their diversity and their potency that not only is one of them modified by another but it is entirely counteracted: cooks use parsley to remove the tang of vinegar from their dishes, and parsley enclosed in bags is also employed by butlers to rid wine of disagreeable odour.
And so far we have spoken about garden plants merely as providing articles of diet. There still remains indeed a most important operation of nature in the same department, inasmuch as hitherto we have only treated of their produce and given certain summary outlines; whereas the true nature of each plant can only be fully understood by studying its medicinal effect, that vast and recondite work of divine power, and the greatest subject that can possibly be found. Due regard for method has led us not to combine with each object in succession the question of its medicinal value, because a different set of people are concerned with the requirements of medical practice, and either topic would have met with lone interruptions if we had mixed the two together. As it is, each subject will occupy its own section, and any who wish will be able to combine them.