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.
This Rhubarb contains 1 per cent of vegetable albumin, and 2 per cent of sugar (glucose). It may be moulded into a shape by passing it through a sieve, when cooked with sugar, and raspberry jam, of which latter a gill will suffice for a quart mould, colouring it a pretty pink, and using only just enough gelatine to set it. Rhubarb has the accommodating faculty of absorbing the flavour of other fruits, particularly of the raspberry. Ginger was long since held in repute as connected with Rhubarb. By adding two table-spoonfuls of preserved ginger (chopped very fine) with about the same measure of ginger syrup, and a dessertspoonful of brandy, to a quart of Rhubarb pulp for moulding, a revelation will be in store. For "Rhubarb wine," chop some stalks of garden Rhubarb coarsely, and to every quart add three quarts of water, then let it stand for two or three days; next strain through a cloth, and to every quart add one pound of sugar, either brown, or white. Let this remain in jars to ferment, skimming every day until the fermentation ceases; then bottle tightly.
For "Rhubarb preserve," take twelve pounds of nice rich-coloured Rhubarb, skin very sparingly, wash well, and leave it in a little cold water; boil twelve pounds of sugar for quite half an hour, then put in the Rhubarb, skimming all the while; add plenty of lemon-parings, which can be taken out before potting. Two pints of water should be allowed to boil the sugar. This makes a nice nursery preserve. Again, for "Rhubarb as preserved ginger," make a syrup by boiling one and a half pounds of loaf sugar, with half a pint of water, and a good teaspoonful of ground ginger, until it is transparent. Cut two pounds of Rhubarb (for which purpose the green Rhubarb answers best) in pieces about one and a half, or two inches long, and put them into the syrup, which should be boiling, turning the Rhubarb occasionally, with care not to break the skin; when done it should be put into wide-necked bottles, and securely fastened down; it will keep thus for a long time. The root of English Rhubarb, if dried, and powdered, will answer in a milder degree the laxative purposes of Turkey Rhubarb. The fresh green leaves, when removed from the stalks, will come into service as an excellent and wholesome vegetable, if dressed like spinach, either with, or without some butter being added.
The proportion of nutritive matters to the vegetable fibre in this plant is very small. We have no other herbal product of which it can be said the roots are used for physic, and the leaves in pies.
Closely allied to the Water-cress (already noticed, p. 226), is another herb which, if eaten in its fresh state, as a salad, is the most effectual of all our antiscorbutic plants; its leaves, moreover, being admirable for curing swollen and spongy gums. This is the Scurvy Grass, or Spoon-wort (cochleare), the famous Herba Britannica of the ancients. It may be readily cultivated in the garden for medicinal uses by the cook. Naturally it grows by a preference near the sea, but even when found many miles inland, its taste is still salt. Along the banks of the Avon, in Cumberland, in Wales, and on Scotch mountains, the Scurvy Grass grows wild in abundance. The leaves are wholesome, and purifying when eaten in the spring with bread and butter. The whole herb contains tannin, and a bitter principle, which is butyl-mustard oil, whereon the medicinal properties depend. This oil is of great volatility, and penetrating power; one drop of it instilled on sugar, or dissolved in spirit, will communicate to a quart of wine the special taste and smell of the Scurvy Grass. Formerly, the fresh juice of this herb, when mixed with that of Seville oranges, went by the name of "Spring drink." Also the juice was taken in beer, or boiled with milk, being flavoured with pepper, aniseed, etc.
The beneficial uses of the plant in scurvy are mainly due to its plentiful salts of potash. This green herb bruised, if applied as a poultice, will cleanse and heal foul sores. For making a decoction of the herb, put two ounces of the whole plant, bruised, with its roots, into a quart jug, and fill up with boiling water, taking care to keep the infusion closely covered. When it is cold, take a wineglassful three or four times during the day.
Likewise the Southern-wood, (Southern Wormwood,) another aromatic herb of the kitchen garden, though now fallen into culinary disuse, was at one time made into a conserve as to its young tops, with three times their weight of sugar, and was given beneficially against hysterical disorders. This, the Artemisia abrotanum, is popularly known in the garden as "Old Man," or "Lads' Love." A tea infused from it, not too strong, famously promotes perspiration. The branches will dye wool a deep yellow. The plant has a lemon-like odour, and a bitter, fragrant taste; its name abrotanum signifies having delicate fibres - abros, delicate; tonos, a fibre. "Old Man" signalizes its use, advised by Pliny, and as explained by Macer: -
" Haec etiam venerem pulvino subdita tantum Incitat".
Pliny says further that this herb is potent against syphilis. Its lemon-like odour depends on the essential volatile oil "absin-thol." The other appellation of the plant "Lad's love," has been given because of an ointment being made with its ashes for use by youngsters towards promoting their growth of a beard. Cinis abrotani barbam segnius tardiusque enascentem, cum aliquo dictorum oleorum, elicit. The Southern-wood (in Lincolnshire, Mother-wood "), is hostile to moths by its presence, and hence is derived one of its French names, garde robe.
Akin to Spinach (p. 108), is the pot-herb, Good King Henry, another Goosefoot, known also as an English Marquery, or Mercury; furthermore, it bears the name of "allgood," from a rustic conceit that it will cure all hurts. "Wherefore the leaves are now a constant plaster among countryfolk for every green wound".
This plant is grown by cottagers, particularly in Lincolnshire, for a pot herb. Its young shoots, peeled, and boiled, are eaten as asparagus, being gently laxative. The young leaves are often put into broth, being also cooked as a vegetable after the manner of spinach, and without its earthy taste. Each of these affords soda in abundance. The Good King Henry grows plentifully on waste ground near villages, being a dark green plant, about a foot high, with thickish, arrow-shaped, succulent leaves, the taste of which, says Evelyn, is "insipid enough." Because of its excellent remedial qualities against biliary disorders, this herb bears its title English Mercury, carrying into effect the pertinent proverb, "Be thou sick, or whole, put mercury in thy koole." Poultices made from the leaves are applied to cleanse, and heal chronic sores, which, as Gerarde teaches, "they do scour, and mundify".