Mucuna capitata Sweet. Leguminosae.
Malay Archipelago and the Himalayas.
This species, according to
Elliott, is cultivated in native gardens in India and even among some of
the Hill Tribes.
M. cochinchinensis Lour.
This species is cultivated in Cochin China for its legumes which are
served and eaten as we do string beans.
M. gigantea DC. COWITCH.
The beans are eaten by the natives and are esteemed as
both palatable and wholesome.
M. monosperma DC. NEGRO BEAN.
This is a favorite vegetable with Brahmins.
M. nivea DC.
Bengal and Burma.
This species is cultivated by the natives in India.
Roxburgh says that, by removing the velvety skin of the large, fleshy,
tender pods, they are a most excellent vegetable for the table, and the
full-grown beans are scarcely inferior to the large garden beans of
Europe. Drury reaffirms this opinion.
M. pruriens DC. COWITCH. COWHAGE.
The cowitch, or cowhage, has, says Livingstone, a
velvety covering to its pods of minute prickles, which, if touched, enter
the pores of the skin and cause a painful tingling. The women, in times
of scarcity, collect the pods, kindle a fire of grass over them to destroy
the prickles, then soak the beans until they begin to sprout, wash them
in pure water and either boil them or pound them into meal. Its name
on the Zambezi is kitedzi.
M. urens Medic. HORSE-EYE BEAN.
In Jamaica, the legume is said by Plumier to have been eaten by the
Caribs but Lunan says it is poisonous.
Muntingia calabura Linn. Tiliaceae (Elaeocarpaceae). CALABUR.
This is the guasem of Jamaica. An infusion of the leaves is
used in the Caracas as a tea.
Murraya exotica Linn. Rutaceae. CHINESE BOX.
Asia and Australian tropics.
The fruit is red and edible.
M. koenigii Spreng. CURRY-LEAF TREE.
A tree of tropical Hindustan, cultivated for its leaves, which are used to
flavor curries. The leaves are aromatic and fragrant and, with the root
and bark, are used medicinally. From the seeds, a medicinal oil called
zimbolee oil is extracted.
M. longifolia Blume.
The fruit is edible.
Musa chinensis Sweet. Scitamineae (Musaceae). CHINESE
This very delicious plantain, says Firminger, is of a rich and
peculiar flavor. The fruits are borne in enormous bunches, each fruit
about 10 inches long, of moderate and uniform shape and thickness,
and when ripe are pea-green in color. The bananas are exceedingly
difficult to obtain in perfection, as they are uneatable until quite ripe,
and on becoming ripe, commence almost immediately to decay. This
variety, in 1841, was grown in abundance for the table of the King of
France at Versailles and Menton. In 1867, young plants of this dwarf
banana were sent to Florida from the United States Department of
Agriculture, and now they may be seen quite generally in gardens
there. It is quite frequently fruited in greenhouses, being of easy culture
and management. Hawkins, 1593, saw small, round, plantains, "green
when they are ripe " in Brazil.
M. ensete J. F. Gmel. ABYSSINIAN BANANA.
The fruit is dry and inedible, containing a few large,
stony seeds, but, says Masters, the base of the flower-stalk is cooked
and eaten by the natives. Unger says the fruit is not palatable and is
rarely eaten, but the white, marrowy portion of the young stems, freed
from the rind and cooked, has the taste of the best wheat bread and,
dressed with milk and butter, supplies a very excellent, wholesome diet.
The plant occurs even in the Egyptian antiques and seems to have been
more widely distributed at an earlier period than at the present. There
are large plantations of it at Maitsha and Goutto. The tree grows about
20 feet high and is a striking ornament in our best conservatories.
M. maculata Jacq. BANANA.
The fruit is very spicy and of excellent flavor. This is
a tender banana not profitable for cultivation above south Florida.
M. rosacea Jacq. BANANA.
This is the vai of Cook, the fahie of Wilkes, the fae of the
natives. It was seen by Wilkes in groves in Tahiti, the fruit borne on an
upright spike, of the shape of the banana but twice as large and of a
deep golden hue, with pulp of a dark orange color. It is destitute of
seeds, of high flavor and greatly esteemed by the natives. On the Fiji
Islands, it is found cultivated. The fruit is eaten either roasted or boiled.
Ellis says there are nearly 20 kinds of wild bananas, very large and
serviceable, in the mountains of Tahiti. In India, says Firminger, this
species is called ram kela and, when in good condition, is a remarkably
fine fruit. The fruit is about seven inches long and rather thin, at first of
a very dark red, but ripening to a yellowish-red.
M. sapientum Linn. ADAM'S FIG. BANANA. PLANTAIN.
In general, says Humboldt, the musa, known by every people in the
Torrid Zone, though hitherto never found in a wild state, has as great a
variety of fruit as the apple or pear. The names "plantain" and
banana are very discriminately applied, but the term plantain is
usually restricted to the larger plants whose fruits are eaten cooked,
while the term banana is given to sorts whose fruits are eaten raw. The
plantain, says Forster, varies almost ad infinitum, like our apple. At
Tongatabu, says Captain Cook, they have 15 sorts of plantain. In
Tenasserim, says Simmonds, there are 20 varieties, in Ceylon 10 and in
Burma 30. The Dacca plantain is 9 inches long. In Madagascar, the
plantains are as large as a man's forearm. In the mountains of the
Philippines, a single bunch is said to be a load for a man. The banana is
cultivated in more varieties in India than is the plantain, says
Roxburgh. The plantain is abundant in Africa, according to Burton and
other African travelers. In Peru, according to Herndon and others, it
abounds. One of the dainties of the Mosquito Indians, says Bancroft, is
bis-bire, the name given to plantains kept in leaves till putrid; it is eaten
boiled. The plantain is unquestionably of ancient culture, for one of the
Mohammedan traditions is that the leaves used for girdles by Adam
and Eve were plantain leaves. Plantains with fruit from 10 to 12 inches
long were grown in Louisiana in 1855 and probably earlier. The flesh
was eaten roasted, fried or boiled.
It seems probable that the plantain, or banana, was cultivated in South
America before the discovery by Columbus. It seems indigenous to the
hot regions of the Old World and the New, or at any rate to have been
present in the New World before the discovery by Columbus, as banana
leaves are found in the huacas, or Peruvian tombs, anterior to the
Conquest. Bancroft says the Mexicans offered the "fat banana" at the
shrine of the goddess Centeotl. Roxburgh found bananas growing wild
on the coast of Coromandel. Hooker saw two species wild in the
Himalayas. Rumphius and Blanco saw them in the Philippines.
Finlayson found them in the small island of Pulo-ubi near Siam. Cook
and others saw them in Tahiti, and Humboldt mentions the occasional
occurrence of wild bananas in the forests of South America. Although
the cultivated varieties of banana and plantain are usually seedless, yet
some wild species produce seeds, and varieties of the cultivated form
occasionally bear seeds. Thus, on the coast of Para, near the Gulf of
Triste, and near Cumana, according to Humboldt, there are sorts with
seeds; as there are at Manila, according to Meyen; and in Central Africa,
according to Burton. The fruit of these is usually of poor quality. In
Calcutta, 1503-08, Varthema mentions 3 kinds of bananas. Firminger,
at the present time names 7 varieties, and Carey says the cultivated
varieties in Bengal are infinite. In Tahiti, according to Ellis, not fewer
than 30 varieties of bananas are cultivated by the natives. In the Fiji
Islands, some 9 varieties are in cultivation according to Wilkes. In
Cercado, on the Amazon, Castelanu says there is an enormous number
of varieties of bananas. In Central Africa, Grant names 6 varieties. Ten
varieties are given for Ceylon and 30 for Burma.
The garden of Adam in Seyllan (Ceylon), says Morignolli, about 1350,
contains plantain trees which the natives call figs: "but the plantain has
more the character of a garden plant than of a tree. At first they are not
good to eat, but after they have been kept a while in the house they
ripen of themselves and are then of an excellent odor and still better
taste, and they are about the length of the longest of one's fingers." In
Calicut, 1503-08, Varthema describes three sorts: "The first sort is
called cianckapalon; these are very restorative things to eat. Their color
is somewhat yellow, and the bark is very thin. The second sort is called
cadelapalon, and they are much superior to the others. The third sort
are bitter." The head of the flowers of the variety known as kuntela,
before the sheath in which they are enclosed expands, is often cut off,
being esteemed a most delicate vegetable.
In the Malay Archipelago, says Wallace, many species occur wild in the
forests and some produce edible fruits. In 1591, at the Nicobar Islands,
near Sumatra, the plantain was seen by May. At Batavia, in 1770,
Captain Cook found innumerable sorts but only three were good
eating, although others were used for cooking. In New Guinea, in 1770,
he found plantains flourishing in a state of the highest perfection. Le
Maire, 1616, says this fruit is called tachouner. In New Holland Captain
Cook found the plantain tree bearing a very small fruit, the pulp welltasted,
but full of seeds, and in another place said to be so full of stones
as scarcely to be edible. Both the banana and plantain are now
cultivated in Australia in many varieties.
In Polynesia, Mendana, in 1595, mentions "very fine plantains" at
Mendana Islands and elsewhere. In 1606, de Quiros saw plantains as
appears from his memorial to the King of Spain. In 1588, Cavendish
had "plantains" brought out in boats to his ships and in 1625 Prince
Maurice of Nassau mentions bananas as brought to his ships. Easter
Island, when discovered in 1722, had "plantains." In 1778, Captain
Cook discovered the Sandwich Islands and found there the banana,
and Wilkes, in 1840, says bananas and plantains are abundant. The
Fiji Islands were discovered by Tasman in 1643, and they were visited
by D'Urville in 1827, although there had been intervening arrivals of
Europeans. In 1840 Wilkes found there five or six varieties of banana
with insipid fruit and three varieties of plantain cultivated to a great
extent, as also the wild species of Tahiti and Samoa. Tahiti was
discovered by Wallis in 1767 and visited by Bougainville in 1768, and
by Cook in 1769. In 1777 Captain Cook speaks of the plantain as
being cultivated there and also of wild plantains in the mountains. Ellis
says the plantain and banana are indigenous and also cultivated in the
native gardens. When Captain Cook discovered Wateroo Island, he
found plantains and he mentions them at Atooi, the Annamooka
The banana is mentioned by Ramusio, 1563-74, as being found in
Africa. At the island of St. Thomas, off the coast of Guinea, he says "they
have also began to plant that herb, which in one year grows to the
height of a tree. It produces fruit like the figs called muse in Alexandria,
and it is called abellana in this island." In 1593, Sir Richard Hawkins
says "the plantain is a tree found inmost parts of Afrique and America,"
and describes the fruit as having many varieties: "some great, some
lesser, some round, some square, some triangle, most ordinarily of a
spanne long " and "no conserve is better, nor of a more pleasing taste."
St. John, in his Adventures in the Libyan Desert, mentions the banana
as growing in some of the valleys and in the osais of Siwah. Grant found
the plantain the staple food of the countries one degree on either side of
the equator. There are half a dozen varieties, he says, the boiling,
baking, drying, fruit and wine-making sorts. The fruit dried, from Ugigi,
is like a Normandy pippin; a variety when green and boiled is an
excellent vegetable, while another yields a wine resembling hock in
flavor. Long says, in Uganda, this fruit grows wild in the greatest
luxuriance. The tree is very large and the watery matter contained in
the stock serves the natives of Uganda for water, when they cannot
procure it elsewhere. The banana is scarcely ever eaten in the ripe state,
save by the females, who extract from it an unfermented and delicious
liquor. Burton says, in certain parts about Lake Tanganyika, the
banana is the staff of life and is apparently an aboriginal of these
latitudes. In the hilly countries, there are said to be about a dozen
varieties, and a single bunch forms a load for a man. It is found on the
islands and on the coast of Zanzibar and rarely in the mountains of
Usagara. The best fruit is that grown by the Arabs at Unyamyembe, but
this is a poor specimen, coarse and insipid, stringy and full of seeds.
Upon the Tanganyika lake, there is a variety larger than the horseplantain
of India, of which the skin is brick-reddish, in places inclined
to a rusty brown, the pulp a dull yellow and contains black seeds. The
flavor is harsh, strong and drug-like.
In 1526, Thomas Nicols, writing of the "plantano" of the Canary Islands,
says it "is like a cucumber and when it is ripe it is blacke and in eating
more delicate than any conserve." Oviedo, 1516, says the banana was
transplanted hence to the Island of Hispaniola, but the Dominique
variety, which is supposed to be the one, does not answer to the
description of Nicols. In the Cape Verde Islands, plantains are
Mentioned as seen by Cavendish at S. Jago in 1586 and also at Pogo
The leaves of the banana, according to Prescott, have been frequently
found in the huacas of Peru, and plantains and bananas were brought
to Pizarro on his visit to Tumbez in 1527. Garcilasso de la Vega says
that in the time of the Incas the banana, in the warm and temperate
regions, formed the base of the nourishment of the natives. He describes
the musa of the valley of the Andes; he distinguishes also the small,
sweet and aromatic dominico and the common banana or arton. Oviedo
contends that it is not indigenous to the New World but was introduced
to Hispaniola in 1516 by Father Thomas de Berlanger and that he
transplanted it from the Canary Islands, whither the original slips had
been brought from the East Indies. Acosta says "it is the fruits they use
most at the Indies and in general in all places, although they say the
first beginning comes from Ethiopia." He also says "there is a kinde of
small planes, white and very delicate, which in Hispaniola they call
dominiques. There are others which are stronger and bigger and red of
color. There growes none in the Kingdom of Peru but are brought from
the Indies, as from Mexico, Guernavaca and other vallies. Upon the
firme land and in some islands there are great store of planes like unto
thick groves." There is a tradition current in Mexico, says Humboldt,
that the platans arton and the dominico varieties were cultivated long
before the arrival of the Spaniards. Piso, 1648, says the plant was
imported into Brazil and has no Brazilian name, but Lery, 1578, says it
is called paco. In Columbus' fourth voyage, at Costa Rica, in 1503, Las
Casas says "the country produced bananas, plantains, pineapples,
cocoanuts, and other fruit." According to Irving, bananas were likewise
seen on Guatemala. In 1538, De Soto saw plantains in Cuba. In 1565,
Bensoni, in his History of the New World says, "the plantain is a fruit
much longer than it is broad, and the little ones are much better than
the large ones." In 1593, Hawkins writes that the best he has seen in
Brazil is on an island called Placentia and these are "small and round
and green when they are ripe, whereas the others in ripening become
yellow. Those of the West Indies and Guynne are great, and one of them
sufficient to satisfie a man." In 1595, Captain Preston and Sommers
had plantains brought them from Dominica Island, and the same year
Captain Drake found great stores of them at Nombre de Dios. Herrera,
who wrote a General History of the Indies from 1492 to 1554, says, at
Quito, "the plantans have the relish of dry figs but eaten green their
taste cannot be ascertained." About 1800, Humboldt ate the fruit of the
dominico variety on the banks of the Amazon. At the present time, says
Herndon, plantanos, which is the general name of all kinds of plantains
of which last there are several species, are the most common fruit of the
Montana. The people eat them raw, roasted, boiled, baked and fried. At
Santa Barbara, California, they were growing in the mission gardens in
M. simiamm Kurz.
From Malacca to the Sunda Islands.
About 50 varieties of this species
are under cultivation and are called feesangs. It surpasses M.
sapientum in delicacy of flavor.
Muscari racemosum Mill. Liliaceae. GRAPE-HYACINTH.
Mediterranean and Caucasian region.
The bulbs are eaten in Crete,
Zacynthus and Corcyra, as well as in Italy, according, to Sprengel.
Mussaenda frondosa Linn. Rubiaceae.
A large shrub of tropical eastern Asia and the neighboring islands. This
shrub is common in the Ghauts of India, and its strange-looking, white,
calycine leaves are eaten.