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 bargains are struck by gestures, in that wonderfully expressive language of signs which can replace speech altogether, and which invariably accompanies it, in rapid pantomime, hands, head, eyes, and every part of the body emphasizing the spoken words; thus has it been from early Roman days. When perfectly ripe, Mulberries somewhat relax the belly, but when unripe (particularly if dried) they will "bind exceedingly, and are therefore given to such as have lasks, and fluxes." A pleasant home-made wine can be brewed from ripe Mulberries. "Alice" (in Through the Looking Glass) "found herself singing the old catch of children as they dance round, hand-in-hand, in a circle, ' Here we go round the Mulberry bush,' which certainly was funny".
The Bilberry, Whortleberry, Trackleberry, Blackheart, Or Whinberry, grows abundantly in our heathy, and mountainous districts, as a small, branched shrub bearing globular wax-like flowers, and black berries, which are covered when quite fresh with a grey bloom. The Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) is a capital astringent, and from it can be made a useful domestic cordial as such. If some good brandy be poured over two handfuls of the bruised fruit in a bottle, this will form an extract which will continually improve by being kept. Obstinate diarrhoea may be remedied by giving doses of a tablespoonful of such extract, with a wineglassful of warm water, every two hours whilst needed, even for severe dysenteric diarrhoea. The berries contain chemically much tannin. An extract of Bilberries, when brushed on skin surfaces affected by eczema, and other such diseased conditions, being afterwards covered over with cotton-wool, will signally relieve. Bilberry pudding is one of the things to be commended for consumptive, or scrofulous patients. Together with the Bilberries, some of the moorland air from whence they come seems to be also swallowed; and perhaps reminiscences arise of the sweet fresh breeze, and the short, pleasant grass of the Bilberry hills, and then it's "Oh, who would o'er the downs so free?" Why, the consumptive, and delicate people, to be sure! "Make a crust as light as you can; grease a basin, and line it with the crust; half fill it with well-picked Bilberries; strew two tablespoonfuls of sugar over them, and continue to fill in fruit until the basin is well filled up, and heaped; next put on the crust, flour a cloth, tie it over, and boil for two hours." The Irish call them "Frawms." Lowell, in Fireside Travels, tells that the greater part of what is now Cambridge Port, U.S.A., was at one time a "Huckleberry pasture." As already notified, against the intestinal bacilli of typhoid fever the fruit of the Bilberry shrub affords a specific remedy, because the small, sweet, blackish, purple berries are highly antifermentative, freeing the stools from putridity, and the bowels from flatulence.
It has been shown experimentally that the typhoid bacillus becomes destroyed by Bilberry juice, and prevented from recurrent growth, of which there is otherwise a risk, leading to a relapse. This juice gives relief against intestinal colic, besides being admirable when applied to a sore tongue, as well as for burns. It contains fruit sugar, malic acid, limonic acid, a pigment, tannin, and pectins. The typhoid bacillus becomes killed within twelve hours.
Certain fruits are largely imported from countries where they abound more plentifully than with ourselves, as canned, or tinned fruits, excellent in quality when preserved air-tight. However, if a can of apricots, cherries, peaches, or other fruit be opened, seeing that each of these several fruits is acidulous, then, unless the contents are immediately turned out upon an earthenware plate, or into a dish made of earthenware, or glass, the action of the acid combining with the surrounding air will begin to engender a deadly metallic poison. If the fruit is allowed to stand for some time in the opened tin, or metal can, then the work of poison goes on. Fresh fruits in hermetically-sealed cans, if properly prepared, and kept air-tight, do not generate any poison. For a similar reason lemonade, or other extemporized sustaining drinks which are acidulous, should never be made in a tin bucket, nor allowed to stand in a vessel of tin.
Jams, And Preserves, consist of fruits conserved in a strong solution of sugar. The fruit acids, aided by the high temperature employed in the course of preparation, bring about the conversion of a considerable part of the cane sugar into what is termed the "invert" form, i.e., a mixture of dextrin, and laevulose, such as may be made by boiling cane sugar with acids. "Almost half the weight of any jam is made up of sugar in one form or another." Few persons realize now-a-days how many of the good old-fashioned preserves were had recourse to formerly in times of sickness. Black Currant jam, for instance, was almost a specific, and in those days every housewife kept by her a store thereof for needs of illness. Elder flowers, again, were used for making a drink invaluable for colds, and bronchial troubles. In short, with the well-stocked herb garden the variety of dainty remedies which could be produced was almost infinite. Said the White Queen to Alice (in Through the Looking Glass), "I'll take you with pleasure as my lady's-maid: twopence a week, and jam every other day." Alice replied, "I don't care for jam: I don't want any to-day, at any rate." "You couldn't have it if you did want it," said the Queen; "the rule is jam to-morrow, and jam yesterday, but never jam to-day." "It must come to jam to-day," Alice objected. "No, it can't," said the Queen; "it's jam every other day; to-day isn't any other day, you know".