According to the most experienced cultivators of flax, the excellence of the seed depends upon its weight, and the brightness of its colour. But, though such marks of distinguishing old from fresh, or heavy from light linseed, may be sufficiently accurate for the purpose of expressing the oil, yet they do not afford a satisfactory criterion, in selecting the most proper seed for the culture of this valuable plant. Hence, a handful of linseed should be thrown into a glass of water; and, if the whole or greater part of the grains in a few minutes sink to the bottom, such seed will be fit for sowing : or, by putting a small quantity of them in a silver spoon, and holding it over a moderate fire, all the grains that contain the germinating principle, will speedily escape. But the most certain method of determining their vegetating property is the following :— Mix three parts of earth with one part of slacked lime; scatter a certain number of grains over this compost, moisten it with a little water, and attentively observe whether, in the course of 16 or 18 hours, all the grains have commenced to germinate. As lime uncommonly promotes the process of sprouting, it may be fairly concluded, that such of the seeds as evince no disposition to swell, within the time above stated, are unfit for being committed to the ground. —See farther, Flax.
Linseed may be advantageously employed for the feeding of cattle, both when the oil is expressed, and also by boiling it into a jelly, as directed p. 463, of our first volume.
These seeds are esteemed for their emollient and anodyne virtues ; they are used externally in cataplasms, to mitigate the pain of inflamed tumors. Internally, a weak infusion of them, by way of tea, is recommended in coughs, as an excellent pectoral, and as being very serviceable in pleurisies, nephritic complaints, and suppressions of urine.—Linseed has likewise been employed in Asia, and, during times of scarcity, in Europe, as food; but it furnishes neither an agreeable nor wholesome aliment.