Saturday, July 7, 2012

the Amari file: A Modern Herbal

Mrs. Maud Grieve (1858-1941) was a Fellow of the Royal Horticultural Society in England and the owner of a large herb garden in Chalfont St. Peter, Buckinghamshire. During the First World War Mrs. Grieve trained students in the preparation of medicinal herbs, to help supplement diminished medical supplies. To this end she issued several pamphlets about specific herbs and their respective qualities. In 1931 these writings culminated in the pulication of A Modern Herbal, a comprehensive reference work that cataloged the herbs of the world and their known properties.

A Modern Herbal, which is available online in its entirety and for free set forth the sum total of what was known in English about these herbs as the twentieth century began. I find it interesting to page (er, click) through the text in part because it summarizes the knowledge of these herbs at the point in history that also saw the development of many Barolo Chinato recipes. From reading A Modern Herbal you can discern not only more information about the ingredients of many Chinato recipes, but also what was known about them at the time that they were being added to those recipes.

Also, there are detailed prints for each of the herbs.

Calisaya, from A Modern Herbal

In case you are curious, I have gone ahead and linked to directly to A Modern Herbal entries for items that are common to Chinato ingredient lists:

Calisaya
also known as "Jesuit's Powder"

Cardamoms
"In Egypt they are ground and put in coffee"

Cinnamon
"The Dutch owned the monopoly of the trade of the wild produce, and it was not cultivated until 1776, owing to Dutch opposition and the belief that cultivation would destroy its properties."

Cloves
"Each berry has only one seed."

Coriander
"Distillers of gin make use of it, and veterinary surgeons employ it as a drug for cattle and horses."

Coriander, from A Modern Herbal

Gentians
"During the Middle Ages, Gentian was commonly employed as an antidote to poison."

Mints
"In Athens where every part of the body was perfumed with a different scent mint was specially designated to the arms."

Nutmeg
"There is a large trade in wild nutmegs, which are known in commerce under the names of long, female, Macassar, Papua, Guinea, or Norse nutmegs."

Rhubarbs
"Rhubarb occurs in commerce under various names: Russian, Turkey, East Indian and Chinese; but the geographical source of all species is the same, the commercial names of the drug indicating only the route by which it formerly reached the European market."

Rhubarbs, from A Modern Herbal

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