This section is from the book "Meals Medicinal", by W. T. Fernie. Also available from Amazon: Meals Medicinal: With "Herbal Simples" Curative Foods From the Cook in Place of Drugs From the Chemist.
The Black Currant, by its viscid, sweet, aromatic juice (thickened over the fire), makes a "robb" of capital use for relieving a sore throat, or quinsy. This old-fashioned "robb," or "rob," is an inspissated fruit juice (of ripe fruit) mixed with honey, or sugar, to the consistence of a conserve, and is to be preferred before the berries themselves. White Currants are the most simple in kind, and the Red are a step in advance. In northern Counties the Red Currant is known as Wineberry, or Garnetberry, from its rich ruddy colour, and transparency. When made into a jelly with sugar (aided by the chemical "pectin" of the fruit) the juice of Red Currants acts as an anti-putrescent, being therefore taken at table with venison, or hare, and other "high" meats. The sweetened juice is a favourite drink in Paris, being preferred there to Orgeat (a syrup of almonds). Both the Red and the Black Currants afford a useful home-made wine. "Ex eo optimum vinum fieri potest, non deterius vinis vetioribus viteis," wrote Haller in 1750. The White Currants yield a wine which is still superior, and which becomes improved by keeping, even for twenty years.
Dr. Thornton says: "I have used old wine of White Currants for calculous affections, and it has surpassed all expectation." The Black Currant is often named by our peasantry "Quinsyberry "; its jelly (for a sore throat) should not be made with too much sugar, else the medicinal virtues will be impaired.
From the Blackthorn of our hedgerows is gathered in the autumn an oval blue-black fruit,, the Sloe, harsh, and sour of taste, but presently mellowed, and covered with a fine purple bloom. The juice of this fruit whilst unripe is highly astringent, and is a popular remedy for stopping a flow of blood from the nose. The ripe fruit yields a dark ruby juice which, when bottled with sugar, and kept for some time, is an excellent astringent cordial. Our cultivated Plums are descendants of the Sloe, being most varied in form, and character. When ripe they are cooling, and slightly laxative, especially the French fruit, which is dried, and bottled for dessert. The garden fruit contains less sugar than cherries, but a large quantity of gelatinizing pectose. Unripe Plums will provoke severe diarrhoea.
From France has come the Green Gage, having been brought to England from the Monastery of La Grande Chartreuse about the middle of the eighteenth century by the Reverend John Gage, of Hengrave Hall, Suffolk, and hence was derived its name. Culpeper said: "All Plumbs are under Venus, and are like women - some better, some worse." Mr. Walter Shandy, the father of Tristram (Sterne), "when having to take his wife to London for her lying-in, was sadly vexed, more by the provoking time of the year than by everything else, this being towards the end of September, when his wall-fruit, and Green Gages especially, (in which he was very curious), were just ready for pulling! Had he been whistled up to London in any other month of the whole year, he should not have said three words about it." There are also the Golden Gage, and the Transparent Gage, each of these being sweet, luscious, and preventive of gout by their fruit acids, which become alkaline presently in the blood. It should have been stated above that Red Currant jelly, being antiseptic, will, if applied externally immediately after a burn, ease the pain, and prevent inflammation, or the formation of blisters.
Again, the Gooseberry (Ribes grossularia) contains citric acid, pectose, sugar, and mineral matters; the pectose under heat making a capital jelly of this fruit. The juice was said of old to "cure all inflammations "; it is sub-acid when the Gooseberries are green, and is corrective of putrescent foods, such as mackerel, or goose. The French name for Gooseberry sauce is "a l'Anglaise; aux groseilles a Maquereux." From the Red Gooseberry may be prepared an excellent light jelly, which is of service to sedentary, plethoric, and bilious subjects. The Yellow Gooseberry is richer, and more vinous of taste, suiting admirably for Gooseberry wine. "Gooseberry fool" consists of the unripe green fruit foule (crushed, or beaten up), with cream, or milk. In Devon the rustics call Gooseberries "Deberries," and in Sussex they are familiarly known as "Goosegogs." The Scotch name this fruit when ripe "Honey-blobs." In Ramsay's Scottish Life and Character, we read:
"He saw out of the coach window a woman selling the sweet Yellow Gooseberries, and he cried, 'Gie me a haporth o' Honey-blobs.' "
Wild Sloes yield, if made into Sloe-gin, certain soluble phosphates which are of specific benefit for bloodlessness, and brainfag. This is a celebrated Devonshire liqueur prepared from the Blackthorn, and Juniper fruits, and of Value for its restorative, sustaining principles.
Mulberries (Morus Nigra) are grown commonly in the orchard, or paddock, or gardens, where this well-known, rich, syrupy fruit ripens in September. The juice, boiled with sugar, is admirable for curing sore throats, especially of the putrid sort, when used in gargles; also for thrush in the mouth; and the ripe fruit is gently laxative. Mulberries are particularly wholesome for gouty, or rheumatic persons, because their sweet juice does not undergo acetous fermentation in the stomach. This juice contains malic, and citric acids, with glucose, pectin, and gum. In France Mulberries are served at the beginning of a meal. The fruit, with its abundant luscious juice, of regal hue, is used in Devonshire for mixing with cider during fermentation, giving to the drink a pleasant taste, and a deep red colour. Mulberries are remarkable for their large quantity of fruit sugar, being excelled in this respect only by the fig, the grape, and the cherry. In the City of Naples, during the summer, fruit-sellers come in betimes in the morning from the suburbs. The red Mulberries are brought first, very early, with a layer of snow upon them to keep them fresh, and cool; they are carried in by women, and are eaten at the beginning of breakfast (snow and fruit together). Later in the day white Mulberries are brought in by boys.