Caraway (Carum carvi; Umbelliferae)

Description

A taprooted, hardy biennial to 2 ft (60 cm) tall, with frond-like, much divided leaves, and umbels of small white flowers in the second June after sowing seed. Origin, Europe to India, cultivated in Britain for many centuries, possibly since the time of the Romans.

Uses

The small, black, narrow seeds are the seed of the seedcake, or caraway cake; they are also used in biscuits, bread and cheese, in fact in very many dishes and recipes. Young roots can be used as a vegetable rather like parsnip or carrot, and the leaves in salads. Oil from the seeds is used to perfume brown Windsor soap, and some Continental liqueurs, for instance Kummel.

History

Caraway was prescribed by Culpeper for flatulence, and the powder of the seeds put into a poultice would take away the ‘Black and blue spots of blows and bruises’. It was described in an Egyptian papyrus in 2,500 B.C. and was also used medicinally by the Greeks and Romans. Seedcakes were popular in Tudor and Elizabethan days.

Cultivation

Seeds are sown outdoors in spring in rows 1 ft (30 cm) apart, thinning to the same distance. Supply a well drained soil and sunny place — winter waterlogging will kill it. Harvest the seeds in July-August the following year.

Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis; Compositae)

Description

Roman chamomile is a low growing herbaceous perennial 6-9 in. (15-22 cm) tall, spreading to about 1 ft (30 cm). Leaves very finely cut and fern-like forming a thick covering; white daisy flowers about 1 in. (2 ½ cm) wide from June-August. There is a non-flowering strain called the Treneague strain. It remains green through the winter. Origin: a native plant. There is also Matricaria chamomilla, wild chamomile, also a native plant, very similar in appearance, but taller, to about 15 in. (40 cm); this is an annual.

Uses

Roman chamomile is used mainly for small lawns; it has

some medicinal properties. Wild chamomile flowers are used considerably in medicine, and for shampoos. A tisane made of the flowers helps in digestion popular on the Continent, and a concentrated infusion acts as an emetic. All parts of the plant are strongly aromatic.

History

Roman chamomile has been used for hundreds of years to make lawns; it was probably used for the lawn on which Drake was playing bowls when the Armada hove in sight. A chamomile of some kind is said to have been used by the ancient Egyptians, and it was certainly much used by the Greeks and Romans.

Cultivation

Roman chamomile can be grown from rooted cuttings put out in spring in a sandy soil and sunny place about 6 in. (15 cm) apart for a lawn, or about 12 in. (30 cm) apart, if grown as a herb. Chamomile lawns are cut three or four times a year. Seed is sown in spring outdoors and later thinned, or indoors under glass in February.

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