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.
For Nettle-beer any adequate amount of young, green Stinging Nettles are to be boiled up in a gallon of water, with the juice of two lemons for giving a sharp flavour, and a teaspoonful of crushed ginger, whilst for sweetening purposes a pound of brown sugar is mixed in. Then some fresh yeast from the brewer is to be floated on toast in the liquor when cold, so as to ferment it; and it may be afterwards bottled as a specially wholesome sort of ginger-beer. Young Nettles of the stinging species, when mashed, and finely pulped, being then mixed with an equal bulk of thick cream, pepper, and salt added to taste, make a, valuable food for a consumptive patient. Pepys records it thus (February 25th, 1660): "To Mrs. Symons, and there we did eat some Nettle porridge, which was made on purpose to-day, and was very good".
For stuffing ducks, and geese, to be roasted, the conventional blend is of Sage, and onions; as regards the former of which this garden herb Sage contains an active principle which resists animal putrescence. Furthermore, the said principle, "salviol," together with the bitterness, and condimentary pungency of the Sage leaves, enables the stomach to better digest rich, luscious meats, and gravies. Our well-known Sage, which is plentiful in every kitchen garden, is aromatic, and fragrant, by reason of its volatile, camphoraceous essential oil. The botanical name Salvia is derived from a Latin verb solvere, to be sound in health. "Cur moriatur homo cui Salvia crescit in horto?" saith an old monkish line - "Why should a man die as long as Sage grows in his garden?" There is no better way of taking Sage as a stomachic wholesome herb, than by eating it with bread and butter. "This herb," says Gerarde, "is singular good for the head, and brain: it quickeneth the senses, and memory; strengthened the sinews, restoreth health to those that hath the palsy, and takes away shaky trembling of the members".
John Swan, in Speculum Mundi (1643), writes: "Sage also take, for it hath many virtues, and a great desire to make a man immortall".
"Sage makes the sinews strong, the palsie cures; And by its help no ague long endures".
"A little vinegar sprinkled upon its leaves lying upon coals, and so wrapped in a linnen, and holden very hot unto the side of those that are troubled with a grievous pain, taketh away the pain presently, and also greatly helpeth the extremitie of a pleurisie." In pulmonary consumption, and for hectic feverish wasting diseases, "an infusion of the garden herb Sage is much to be commended, as well as for excessive perspiration of the feet, with fetid odours from the sodden skin." Steep a teaspoonful of dried Sage leaves in half a pint of water for twenty-four hours and strain: then let the patient take a teacupful in the morning, one during the day, and another at night: or a spirit of the fresh bruised leaves may be given, a teaspoonful with water two or three times a day. A strong infusion of the herb has been used with success to dry up the breast-milk for weaning an infant: and as a gargle, sage-leaf tea with some honey, answers admirably. Rue should be planted with the Sage:
"Salvia cum Ruta faciunt tibi pocula tuta".
The Chinese are as fond of Sage as we are of their fragrant teas; and the Dutch once carried on a profitable trade with them by exchanging a pound of Sage leaves for each three-pound parcel of tea. Dr. Hart (1633), exclaiming against the use of tobacco by weakly persons, and invalids, has said: "Why may not garden Sage as safely, and without any seeming show of danger, be used instead? It is by all our physicians accorded, and agreed-upon that this doth apparently corroborate, and strengthen the nerves, and by consequent all the animal powers, beside the excellent virtues thereof recorded, the like whereof were never ascribed to tobacco." Sage bread is dough mixed with a strong infusion of the Sage plant (first bruised) in milk. Boyle has reported (1668): "I have known Sage bread to do much good in drying up humours." For making "Sage tea," "take of fresh leaves of green Sage, plucked from the stalks, and washed clean in cold water, half an ounce; of sugar, one ounce; of the outer rind of lemon-peel finely pared from the white, a quarter of an ounce. Put these into two pints of boiling water, and let them stand near the fire for half an hour, then strain." When dried Sage leaves are used, rather less in quantity than directed for the fresh leaves should be employed.
Such a tea (as likewise of Rosemary, Balm, or Southern-wood) will serve to prevent a thirsty, fevered patient from desiring to drink too much tea, or coffee when not good for him; it also acts as an antiseptic. Moreover, Gerarde declares: "A conserve of floures of Clove Gillofloure (Carnation), and Sage, is exceeding cordial, and doth wonderfully above measure comfort the heart, being eaten now and then with the meate".
Closely allied to the garden Rhubarb (a dock), from the brilliant red leaf-stems of which we make favourite puddings, and pies, is the garden Sorrel (Rumex acetosus), also a dock, and the chief constituent of Soupe aux herbes, such as a French lady will order for herself after a long, and tiring journey. But the Sorrel preferred in France is Rumex scutatus, because more succulent, and less sour than our garden herb. For the said soup, "put into a saucepan a piece of butter (egg size), three leaves of lettuce (finely cut up), a pint of Sorrel leaves (minced), an onion, and three sprigs of parsley (likewise minced). Cover the saucepan, and let all these stew gently for ten minutes; then sift in two tablespoonfuls of flour, mixing well; pour in gradually, whilst stirring all the time, three quarts of boiling water. Put a cupful of mashed potato into three-quarters of a cupful of rich milk, and add to the soup; season with pepper, salt, and a pinch of nutmeg. Mix the beaten yolks of four eggs with a little milk (using a cupful altogether) in the tureen, and pour in some of the boiling soup; put in some dice of toast, and pour the rest of the soup over: cover, and stand it in a warm place for five minutes; serve hot.
If preferred, this soup may be passed through a sieve before pouring it over the eggs. In such soups the Latins use a tiny clove of garlic, either rubbing it on the croutons (toasted crust dice), or inside the kettle".