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  Section: Edible Plant Species
 
 
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Edible Plant Species

 
     
 
Beckmannia erucaeformis Host. Gramineae.
Europe, temperate Asia and North America.
According to Engelmann, the seeds are collected for food by the Utah Indians.


Begonia barbata Wall. Begoniaceae. BEGONIA.
East Indies and Burma.
The leaves, called tengoor, are eaten by the natives as a pot-herb. Hooker says the stems of many species are eaten in the Himalayas, when cooked, being pleasantly acid. The stems are made into a sauce in Sikkim.


B. cucullata Willd. BEGONIA.
Brazil.
The leaves are used as cooling salads.


B. malabarica Lam. BEGONIA.
East Indies.
Henfrey says the plants are eaten as pot-herbs.


B. picta Sm. BEGONIA.
Himalayas.
The leaves have an acid taste and are used as food.


Bellis perennis Linn. Compositae. ENGLISH DAISY.
Europe and the adjoining portions of Asia.
Lightfoot says the taste of the leaves is somewhat acid, and, in scarcity of garden-stuff, they have been used in some countries as a pot-herb


Bellucia aubletii Naud. Melastomaceae.
Guiana.
A tree of Guiana which has an edible, yellow fruit.7


B. brasiliensis Naud.
Brazil.
The fruit is edible.


Benincasa cerifera Savi. Cucurbitaceae. WAX GOURD. WHITE GOURD. WHITE PUMPKIN.
Asia and African tropics.
This annual plant is cultivated in India for its very large, handsome, egg-shaped gourd. The gourd is covered with a pale greenish-white, waxen bloom. It is consumed by the natives in an unripe state in their curries. This gourd is cultivated throughout Asia and its islands and in France as a vegetable. It is described as delicate, quite like the cucumber and preferred by many. The bloom of the fruit forms peetha wax and occurs in sufficient quantity to be collected and made into candles. This cucurbit has been lately introduced into European gardens. According to Bret-schneider, it can be identified in a Chinese book of the fifth century and is mentioned as cultivated in Chinese writings of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In 1503- 08, Ludovico di Varthema describes this gourd in India under the name como-langa. In 1859, Naudin says it is much esteemed in southern Asia, particularly in China, and that the size of its fruit, its excellent keeping qualities, the excellence of its flesh and the ease of its culture should long since have brought it into garden culture. He had seen two varieties: one, the cylindrical, ten to sixteen inches long and one specimen twenty-four inches long by eight to ten inches in diameter, from Algiers; the other, an ovoid fruit, shorter, yet large, from China. The long variety was grown at the New York Agricultural Experiment Station in 1884 from seed from France. The fruit is oblong-cylindrical, resembling very closely a watermelon when, unripe but when ripe covered with a heavy glaucous bloom. This plant is recorded in herbariums as from the Philippine Islands, New Guinea, New Caledonia, Fiji Islands, Tahiti, New Holland and southern China and as cultivated in Japan and in China. This species is the Cumbulam of Rheede Hort. Mal., 8, p. 5, t. 3; the Camolenga of Rumphius Amb. 5, 395, t. 143; the Cucurbita Pepo of Loureiro Cochinch. 593.


Berberis angulosa Wall. Berberideae. BARBERRY.
India.
This is a rare Himalayan species with the largest flowers and fruit of any of the thirteen species found on that range. In Sikkim, it is a shrub four or more feet in height, growing at an elevation of from 11,000 to 13,000 feet, where it forms a striking object in autumn from the rich golden and red coloring of its foliage. The fruit is edible and less acid than that of the common species.


B. aquifolium Pursh. MAHONIA. MOUNTAIN GRAPE. OREGON GRAPE.
Western North America.
This shrub is not rare in cultivation as an ornamental. It has deep blue berries in clusters somewhat resembling the frost grape and the flavor is strongly acid. The berries are used as food, and the juice when fermented makes, on the addition of sugar, a palatable and wholesome wine. It is said not to have much value as a fruit. It is common in Utah and its fruit is eaten, being highly prized for its medicinal properties. The acid berry is made into confections and eaten as an antiscorbutic, under the name mountain grape.


B. aristata DC. NEPAL BARBERRY.
East Indies.
The Nepal barberry produces purple fruits covered with a fine bloom, which in India are dried in the sun like raisins and used like them at the dessert. It is native to the mountains of Hindustan and is called in Arabic aarghees. The plants are quite hardy and fruit abundantly in English gardens. Downing cultivated it in America but it gave him no fruit. In Nepal, the berries are dried by the Hill People and are sent down as raisins to the plains.


B. asiatica Roxb. ASIATIC BARBERRY.
Region of Himalayas.
According to Lindley, the fruit is round, covered with a thick bloom and has the appearance of the finest raisins. The berries are eaten in India. The plants are quite hardy and fruit abundantly in English gardens.


B. buxifolia Lam. MAGELLAN BARBERRY.
This evergreen shrub is found native from Chile to the Strait of Magellan.
According to Dr. Philippi, it is the best of the South American species; the berries are quite large, black, hardly acid and but slightly astringent. The fruit, says Sweet, is used in England both green and ripe as are gooseberries, for making pies and tarts. In Valdivia and Chiloe, provinces of Chile, they are frequently consumed. It has ripened fruit at Edinburgh, and Mr. Cunningham enthusiastically says it is as large as the Hamburg grape and equally good to eat. It is also grown in the gardens of the Horticultural Society, London, from which cions appear to have been distributed. Under the name Black Sweet Magellan, it is noticed as a variety in Downing. It was introduced into England about 1828.


B. canadensis Pursh. AMERICAN BARBERRY.
North America.
A species found in the Alleghenies of Virginia and southward but not in Canada. The berries are red and of an agreeable acidity.


B. darwinii Hook. DARWIN'S BARBERRY.
Chile and Patagonia.
In Devonshire, England, the cottagers preserve the berries when ripe, and a party of school children admitted to where there are plants in fruit will clear the bushes of every berry as eagerly as if they were black currants.


B. empetrifolia Lam. FUEGIAN BARBERRY.
Region of Magellan Strait.
The berry is edible.


B. glauca DC.
New Granada.
The berry is edible.


B. lycium Royle. INDIAN BARBERRY.
Himalayan region. I
n China, the fruit is preserved as in Europe, and the young shoots and leaves are made use of as a vegetable or for infusion as a tea.


B. nepalensis Spreng. MAHONIA.
An evergreen of the Himalayas.
The fruits are dried as raisins in the sun and sent down to the plains of India for sale.


B. nervosa Pursh. OREGON GRAPE.
Northwestern America;
pine forests of Oregon. The fruit resembles in size and taste that of B. aquifolium.


B. pinnata Lag. BLUE BARBERRY.
Mexico;
a beautiful, blue-berried barberry very common in New Mexico. It is called by the Mexicans lena amorilla. The berries are very pleasant to the taste, being saccharine with a slight acidity.


B. sibirica Pall. SIBERIAN BARBERRY.
Siberia.
The berry is edible.


B. sinensis Desf.
China.
The berry is edible.


B. tomentosa Ruiz & Pav. HAIRY BARBERRY.
Chile.
The berry is edible.


B. trifoliolata Moric.
Western Texas.
The bright red, acid berries are used for tarts and are less acid than those of B. vulgaris


B. vulgaris Linn. BARBERRY. JAUNDICE BERRY. PIPRAGE.
Europe and temperate Asia.
This barberry is sometimes planted in gardens in England for its fruit. It was early introduced into the gardens of New England and increased so rapidly that in 1754 the Province of Massachusetts passed an act to prevent its spreading. The berries are preserved in sugar, in syrup, or candied and are esteemed by some. They are also occasionally pickled in vinegar, or used for flavoring. There are varieties with yellow, white, purple, and black fruits. A celebrated preserve is made from a stoneless variety at Rouen, France. The leaves were formerly used to season meat in England. The berries are imported from Afghanistan into India under the name of currant. A black variety was found by Tournefort on the bank of the Euphrates, the fruit of which is said to be of delicious flavor.


Bertholletia excelsa Humb. & Bonpl. Myrtaceae (Lecythidaceae). AMAZON NUT. ALMONDS OF THE AMAZON. BRAZIL NUT. BUTTERNUT. CREAMNUT. PARA NUT. NIGGERTOE.
Brazil.
This is one of the most majestic trees of Guiana, Venezuela and Brazil. It furnishes the triangular nuts of commerce everywhere used as a food. It was first described in 1808. An oil is expressed from the kernels and the bark is used in caulking ships.


Besleria violacea Aubl. Gesneraceae.
Guiana.
The purple berry is edible.


Beta vulgaris Linn. Chenopodiaceae. BEET. CHARD. CHILIAN BEET. LEAF-BEET. MANGEL. MANGEL WURZEL. MANGOLD. ROMAN KALE. SEA BEET. SEA-KALE BEET. SICILIAN BEET. SPINACH BEET. SUGAR BEET. SWISS CHARD.
Europe and North Africa.
The beet of the garden is essentially a modem vegetable. It is not noted by either Aristotle or Theophrastus, and, although the root of the chard is referred to by Dioscorides and Galen, yet the context indicates medicinal use. Neither Columella, Pliny nor Palladius mentions its culture, but Apicius, in the third century, gives recipes for cooking the root of Beta, and Athenaeus, in the second or third century, quotes Diphilus of Siphnos as saying that the beet-root was grateful to the taste and a better food than the cabbage. It is not mentioned by Albertus Magnus in the thirteenth century, but the word bete occurs in English recipes for cooking in 1390.

Barbarus, who died in 1493, speaks of the beet as having a single, long, straight, fleshy, sweet root, grateful when eaten, and Ruellius, in France, appropriates the same description in 1536, as does also Fuchsius in 1542; the latter figures the root as described by Barbarus, having several branches and small fibres. In 1558, Matthiolus says the white and black chards are common in Italian gardens but that in Germany they have a red beet with a swollen, turnip-like root which is eaten. In 1570, Pena and Lobel speak of the same plant but apparently as then rare, and, in 1576, Lobel figures this beet, and this figure shows the first indication of an improved form, the root portion being swollen in excess over the portion by the collar. This beet may be considered the prototype of the long, red varieties. In 1586, Camerarius figures a shorter and thicker form, the prototype of our half-long blood beets. This same type is figured by Daleschamp, 1587, and also a new type, the Beta Romana, which is said in Lyte's Dodoens, 1586, to be a recent acquisition. It may be considered as the prototype of our turnip or globular beets.

Another form is the flat-bottomed red, of which the Egyptian and the Bassano of Vilmorin, as figured, may be taken as the type. The Bassano was to be found in all the markets of Italy in 1841, and the Egyptian was a new sort about Boston in 1869. Nothing is known concerning the history of this type.

The first appearance of the improved beet is recorded in Germany about 1558 and in England about 1576, but the name used, Roman beet, implies introduction from Italy, where the half-long type was known in 1584. We may believe Ruellius's reference in 1536 to be for France. In 1631, this beet was in French gardens under the name, Beta rubra pastinaca, and the culture of "betteraves" was described in Le Jardinier Solitaire, 1612. Gerarde mentions the "Romaine beete" but gives no figure. In 1665, in England, only the Red Roman was listed by Lovell, and the Red beet was the only kind noticed by Townsend, a seedsman, in 1726, and a second sort, the common Long Red, is mentioned in addition by Mawe, 1778, and by Bryant, 1783. In the United States, one kind only was in McMahon's catalog of 1806 - the Red beet, but in 1828 four kinds are offered for sale by Thorbum. At present, Vilmorin describes seventeen varieties and names and partly describes many others.

CHARD.
Chard was the beta of the ancients and of the Middle Ages. Red chard was noticed by Aristotle about 350 B. C. Theophrastus knew two kinds-the white, called Sicula, and the black (or dark green), the most esteemed. Dioscorides also records two kinds. Eudemus, quoted by Athenaeus, in the second century, names four; the sessile, the white, the common and the dark, or swarthy. Among the Romans, chard finds frequent mention, as by Columella, Pliny, Palladius and Apicius. In China is was noticed in writings of the seventh, eighth, fourteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; in Europe, by all the ancient herbalists.

Chard has no Sanscrit name. The ancient Greeks called the species teutlion; the Romans, beta; the Arabs, seig; the Nabateans, silq. Albertus Magnus, in the thirteenth century, uses the word acelga, the present name in Portugal and Spain.

The wild form is found in the Canary Isles, the whole of the Mediterranean region as far as the Caspian, Persia and Babylon, perhaps even in western India, as also about the sea-coasts of Britain. It has been sparingly introduced, into kitchen-gardens for use as a chard. The red, white, and yellow forms are named from quite early times; the red by Aristotle, the white and dark green by Theophrastus and Disocorides. In 1596, Bauhin describes dark, red, white, yellow, chards with a broad stalk and the sea-beet. These forms, while the types can be recognized, yet have changed their appearance in our cultivated plants, a greater compactness and development being noted as arising from the selection and cultivation which has been so generally accorded in recent times. Among the varieties Vilmorin describes are the White, Swiss, Silver, Curled Swiss, and Chilian.

SEA BEET.
The leaves of the sea beet form an excellent chard and in Ireland are collected from the wild plant and used for food; in England the plant is sometimes cultivated in gardens. This form has been ennobled by careful culture, continued until a mangold was obtained.

SWISS CHARD.
Swiss chard is deemed by Ray to have been known to Gerarde, 1597, for Gerarde, in his Herball, indicates the sportive character of the seed as to color and mentions a height which is attained only by this plant. He says of it, "another sort hereof that was brought unto me from beyond the seas," and particularly notices the great breadth of the stalk; but the color particularly noticed is the red sort. Ray gives as a synonym Beta italica Parkinson. Swiss chard is quite variable in the stalks, according to the culture received.

SILVER-LEAF BEET.
The silver-leaf beet (Poiree blonde a carde blanche Vilm. 1883) is a lighter green form of swiss chard, as described by Vilmorin, but with shorter and much broader stalk. It seems to be a variety within the changes which can be effected by selection and culture and perhaps can be referred to the Chilean type.

CHILEAN BEET.
The Chilean beet is a form usually grown for ornamental purposes. The stalks are often very broad and twisted and the colors very clear and distinct, the leaf puckered and blistered as in the Curled Swiss. In the Gardeners' Chronicle, 1844, it is said that "these ornamental plants were introduced to Belgium some ten or twelve years previously." It is yellow or red and varies in all the shades of these two colors. In 1651, J. Bauhin speaks of two kinds of chard as novelties: the one, white, with broad ribs; the other, red. He also speaks of a yellow form, differing from the kind with a boxwood-yellow root. In 1655, Lobel describes a chard with yellowish stems, varied with red. The forms now found are described by their names: Crimson-veined Brazilian, Golden-veined Brazilian, Scarlet-ribbed Chilean, Scarlet-veined Brazilian, Yellowribbed Chilean and Red-stalked Chilean.

The modern chards are the broad-leaved ones and all must be considered as variables within a type. This type may be considered as the one referred to by Gerarde in 1597, whose "seedes taken from that plant which was altogether of one colour and sowen, doth bring foorth plants of many and variable colours." Our present varieties now come true to color in most instances but some seeds furnish an experience such as that which Gerarde records.

MANGOLD.
Mangolt was the old German name for chard, or rather for the beet species, but in recent times the mangold is a large-growing root of the beet kind used for forage purposes. In the selections, size and the perfection of the root above ground have been important elements, as well as the desire for novelty, and hence we have a large number of very distinct-appearing sorts: the long red, about two-thirds above ground; the olive-shaped, or oval; the globe; and the flat-bottomed Yellow d'Obendorf. The colors to be noted are red, yellow and white. The size often obtained in single specimens is enormous, a weight of 135 pounds has been, claimed in California, and Gasparin in France vouches for a root weighing 132 pounds.

Very little can be ascertained concerning the history of mangolds. They certainly are of modem introduction. Olivier de Serres, in France, 1629, describes a red beet which was cultivated for cattle-feeding and speaks of it as a recent acquisition from Italy. In England, it is said to have arrived from Metz in 1786; but there is a book advertised of which the following is the title: Culture and Use of the Mangel Wurzel, a Root of Scarcity, translated from the French of the Abbe de Commerell, by J. C. Lettson, with colored plates, third edition, 1787, by which it would appear that it was known earlier. McMahon records the mangold as in American culture in 1806. Vilmorin describes sixteen kinds and mentions many others.

SUGAR BEET.
The sugar beet is a selected form from the common beet and scarcely deserves a separate classification. Varieties figured by Vilmorin are all of the type of the half-long red, and agree in being mostly underground and in being very or quite scaly about the collar. The sugar beet has been developed through selection 6f the roots of high sugar content for the seedbearers. The sugar beet industry was born in France in 1811, and in 1826 the product of the crop was 1,500 tons of sugar. The use of the sugar beet could not, then, have preceded 1811; yet in 1824 five varieties, the grosse rouge, petite rouge, rouge ronde, jaune and blanche are noted and the French Sugar, or Amber, reached American gardens before 1828. A richness of from 16 to 18 per cent of sugar is now claimed for Vilmorin's new Improved White Sugar.

The discovery of sugar in the beet is credited to Margraff in 1747, having been announced in a memoir read before the Berlin Academy of Sciences.

A partial synonymy of Beta vulgaris is as follows:

RED BEETS.
I. Beta rubra. Lob. 124. 1576; Icon. 1:248. 1591; Matth. 371. 1598.
B. rubra Romana. Dod. 620. i6i6.
Common Long Red. Mawe. 1778.
Betterave rouge grosse. Vilm. 38. 1883.
Long Blood. Thorb. 1828, i886.

II. Beta rubra. Cam. Epit. 256. 1586; Lugd. 535. 1587; Pancov. n. 607. 1673
Betiola rossa. Durc. 71. 1617.
Betterave rouge naine. Vilm. 37. 1883.
Pineapple beet.

III. Beta erythorrhizos Dodo. Lugd. 533. 1587.
Beta rubra radice crassa, alia species. Bauh. J. 2:961. 1651.
B. rubra . . . russa; Beta-rapa. Chabr. 303. 1677.
Turnip-pointed red. Mawe. 1778.
Turnip-rooted red. Bryant 26. 1783.
Early Blood Turnip. Thorb. 1828, i886.


YELLOW BEETS.
IV. Beta quarto radice buxea. Caesalp. 1603 from Mill. Diet. 1807.
Yellow-rooted. Mill. Diet. 1807.
Betterave jaune grosse. Vilm. 41. 1883.
V. Beta rubra, lutea; Beta-rapa. Chabr. 305. 1677.
Turnip-pointed yellow. Mawe. 1778.
Yellow Turnip. Thorb. 1828.
Betterave jaune ronde sucre. Vilm. 41. 1883.


SEA BEET.
VI. Beta sylvestris spontanea marina. Lob.Obs.125. 1576.
B. sylvestris maritima. Bauh. Phytopin. 191. 1596.
Sea Beet. Ray Hist. l :204. 1686.


WHITE BEET.
VII. Beta alba lactucaeand rumicis folio, etc. Advers. 93. 1570. B. alba vel
pallescens, quawi Cicia officin. Bauh. Pin. n8. 1623. White Beet. Ray
204. 1686. Beta cicla. Linn. Sp. 322. 1774. Common White-Leaved.
Mawe. 1778. White-leaved. McMahon 187. 18o6. Spinach-Beet.
Loudon. 1860. Poiree blonde ou commune. Vilm. 421. 1883.


SWISS CHARD.
VIII. Beta alba? 3. Gerarde 251. 1597.
The Sicilian Broad-Leaved Beet. Ray 205. 1686.
White Beet. Townsend. 1726.
Chard, or Great White Swiss Beet. Mawe. 1778.
Swiss, or Chard Beet. Mill. Diet. 1807.
Swiss Chard, or Silver Beet. Buist. 1851.
Silver-Leaf Beet. Burr 292. 1863.
Poiree a carde blanche. Vilm. 421. 1883.


SILVER-LEAF BEET.
IX. Poiree blonde a carde blanche. Vilm. 1883.


CURLED SWISS CHARD.
X. Curled-Leaf Beet. Burr 291. 1863.
Beck's Seakale Beet. Card. Chron. 1865.
Poiree a blanche frises. Vilm. 1883.


Betula alba Linn. Cupuliferae (Betulaceae). CANOE BIRCH. LADY BIRCH. PAPER BIRCH. WHITE BIRCH.
Europe, northern Asia and North America.
The bark, reduced to powder, is eaten by the inhabitants of Kamchatka, beaten up with the ova of the sturgeon, and the inner bark is ground into a meal and eaten in Lapland in times of dearth. Church says sawdust of birchwood is boiled, baked and then mixed with flour to form bread in Sweden and Norway. In Alaska, says Dall, the soft, new wood is cut fine and mingled with tobacco by the economical Indian. From the sap, a wine is made in Derbyshire, England, and, in 1814, the Russian soldiers near Hamburg intoxicated themselves with this fermented sap. The leaves are used in northern Europe as a substitute for tea, and the Indians of Maine make from the leaves of the American variety a tea which is relished. At certain seasons, the sap contains sugar. In Maine, the sap is sometimes collected in the spring and made into vinegar.


B. lenta Linn. BLACK BIRCH. CHERRY BIRCH. MAHOGANY BIRCH. SWEET BIRCH.
North America.
The sap, in Maine, is occasionally converted into vinegar.


B. nigra Linn. RED BIRCH. RIVER BIRCH.
From Massachusetts to Virginia.
The sap contains sugar in the spring, according to Henfrey.
 
     
 
 
     



     
 
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