I could refer to a case in which a woman, newly removed from such a locality as that indicated, to a populous mining district, act-ually, from the force of habit, divided her garden into four equal parts: two of which were planted with leeks, and one with onions; the remaining portion, being occupied by potatoes, surrounded by a border of chives; while chives shared with thrift and "gilliflowers," a layer of earth placed on the top of the low wall! It will be deemed unneces-sary, I imagine, to add anything further on the sub-ject, when we state that seifys, one of the Welsh names for the leek, and which is usually applied to the young plant, is also used to designate the straw-berry! so complimentary is thought the name of the "leek"
In almost all ages the onion tribe have been re-garded as restoratives, on account of their stimu-lating qualities, thus Virgil says:-
"And for the mowers, all faint with summer airs, "Wild thyme, and garlic, Thestylis prepares."*
Innumerable, too, are the virtues which have at all times been attributed to them. This is especially the case in the East; though it ill accords with the oriental superstition that when Satan stepped out from the garden of Eden after the fall of man, garlic sprang up from the spot where he placed his left foot, and onions from that which his right foot touched; on which account, perhaps, Mohammed habitually fainted at the smell of either! yet verily, adds a certain good old Effendi,in relating the legend, "verily both are very good food." We must, however, suppose that in the fabulous, as in the moral, world evil frequently proves its own most efficient remedy; for in Bokhara, where the ordinary remedy for cholera is a compound of garlic, oil of almonds, and water in which wheaten bran has been steeped, we are especially assured that the office of the garlic is exorcisial rather than medicinal; that, it is given to drive out the evil spirit which causes the disease! while the Polish miners are said to murmur, "garlic! garlic!" in order to drive away evil spirits.
The Afghans, as Elphinston informs us, rub their lips and noses with garlic when they go out in the heat of summer, affirming that it secures them from the evil effects of the simoom; and, indeed, both there, and in other Eastern countries, large quantities of it are eaten at the periods when these winds prevail. In fact the whole tribe possesses medicinal qualities, which probably reside in the acid juices and the essential oil, which may be obtained by distillation, and which, like the oils of several of the Siliquosce, sinks in water.* This oil acts on the skin as a blister, and the whole plant is irritant, stimulant, diuretic, and diaphoretic, containing free phosphoric acid, which, with the sulphuretted oil, is almost dissipated by boiling or roasting.† On account of these properties, the garlic (A. savitum) (which is also esteemed anti-scorbutic), is still, I believe, me-dicinally recognised, though not exactly for the powers attributed to it in the "Stockholm Manu-script' according to which, it will, when mixed with honey "hole [heal] ye bytying of a wod hond [mad hound] and all maner of strokys yt [that] arn venymus.
And it schall fere nedderys [frighten adders] and alle manere of venymus bestys yat yei [they] schall noyt come nyth ye for to do ye non harme qhwil [while] it is vp on ye," In which par-ticular we must allow that the "nedderys" exhibit particularly good taste! "also," continues the writer, "also stamp it, and tempere it wt hony et it will drawt out venym of bytyng or styngynge of any maner best yt is venymus".
*Wrangham's Virgil - " Eclogues".
* See Rhind's "Hist, of the Vegt. King." † Balfour, " Man. of Bot".
In a strange old broad-sheet printed in the year 1665, entitled "London's Lord have mercy on us," in which penitential deprecation, and remedial pre-scription are intermingled in a familiar style, which even its evident earnestness barely rescues from the charge of offensiveness, if not of profanity; a drink of garlic and warm milk, to be taken fasting, is recommended as a "cheap medicine to keep from in-fection" of the plague. Blanchard, in his "Physical Dictionary,"prescribes garlic beaten up with lard,and applied, as an irritant, to the soles of the feet in "stoppages of the lungs," and says that leeks cure cough, shortness of breath, and loss of the voice, &c; and in fact onion porridge (i.e. onions boiled in milk or water to a smooth pulp), taken at bed-time, is still a favourite country remedy for coughs and colds; and it certainly is most efficacious to those whose digestive organs are capable of assimilating so trying a potion: for though the onion tribe are possessed of most considerable nutritive powers, they are singularly indigestible.
The digestive functions were, however, but very secondary considera-tions in the days when scorbutic affections - the natural result of the diet of our ancestors - were the scourge of the land; and the country people oracularly sang; -
"Eate leekes in Lide [March] and ramsins in May, And all the yeare after physitians may play".
Without a thought of the share which the unduly taxed digestion might have in the evils they de-plored.
In Kamschatka the ramson (A. ursinum) which forms so beautiful an object, with its snowy flower, silvery spathe, and broad dark leaf, in our fields and waste places, is eagerly sought both by the Rus-sians, and the natives, as a food and medicine; when this plant appears above the snow they have a hope of curing even the worst case of scurvy, and other scorbutic affections.
In our own country the "old wives" believe that garlic will prevent eggs from being spoiled by thunder; while the Italians employ it in a very dif-ferent way, namely, in the "language of flowers," in which it signifies, rejection; this is referred to in the popular triplet; -
"Il mio tesoro m'ha mandate- un foglio Sigillato con uno spicchio d'aglio, E dentro stan scritto; ' non ti voglio!' "
I have already alluded to the pretty, but most troublesome broad-leaved garlic, or ramsons, from the abundance of which Ray considers the Island of Ramsay to have taken its name; and which, from its frequency, is the species most complained of by the dairy farmer, because, though cows are particularly fond of all the onion family, they impart so unpleasant a flavour to the milk as to render it quite useless.
Our remaining species are, the great round-headed garlic (A. ampeloprasum) which only occurs on the Holmes Island, in the Severn, where it would appear, as pointed out by Sir W. J. Hooker, to be the re-mains of ancient cultivation. The pretty sand-gar-lic (A. arencirium) whose bulbs grow amongst its purple blossoms, and falling to the ground in the autumn, rapidly increase and spread over the locali-ties in which it occurs. These are, mountainous woods and fields, in Scotland, the north of England, and at Portmarnock in Ireland. The mountain-garlic (A. carinatum) is an elegant plant; which, as is observed by Sir J. E. Smith, has less of the garlic scent than either of the other soecies.
These three garlics have flat stem-leaves, while the three following have them round.
The streaked-field, or wild-garlic (A. oleraceum) is frequently used as a potherb; and is by no means uncommon, says Sir J. E. Smith, in the borders of corn-fields, and in various waste places. The crow-garlic (A. vineale) occurs abundantly in calcareous soils in England and Southern Scotland, and as Hooker observes, about Dublin; its leaves are frequently used in salads, and it is distinguished, when in bloom, by the protrusion of its stamens to some distance beyond the perianth. The small round-headed garlic (A. sphcerocephalum) has, I believe, been met with by Mr. Babbington and Mr. Christy on the sands of St. Aubin's Bay, in Jersey.
The remaining plant is distinguished, like the first named, the allium ursinum, by its leaves being-all radical: it is the chive, or sive (A, schceno-prasum), a plant well known in cultivation, and occurring sparingly in a wild state in Berwickshire, Westmoreland, Argyleshire, and Cornwall. Its specific name, which is derived from two Greek words signifying a rush and a leek, admirably de-scribes the appearance of its bright and pretty little tufted and emerald-hued leaves; while its purple blossom gives it an additional ornament in the month of June.
The word allium is said to be derived from the Celtic, all, signifying hot, or pungent While the trivial name of the leek, porrum, is traced to the word pori, to eat, in the same languages, or as it more especially signifies in the Welsh, to graze - i.e. eat green, or vegetable, food.