Archive for the ‘Bulbous’ Category

Onion – Allium cepa

Onion

Onion

“What mean you, sir,

To give them this discomfort? Look, they weep;

And I, an ass, am onion-eyed: for shame,

Transform us not to women.”

 

William Shakespeare’s tragedy Antony and Cleopatra

 

This member of the Lily family is not found in a truly wild situation, but is related to wild species found in Central Asia. Under cultivation they make good companions with winter savory, dill, strawberries, cucumbers, chamomile, lettuce, carrots, beets, and chicory. They don’t do as well with beans, peas, and cabbage.

 

Onions have been under cultivation for a very long time. Traces of onion, dating back 5,000 years, were found in Bronze Age settlements in Canaan. Onions have even been found in ancient mummies from Egypt, and the Egyptians were known to pay workers with onions. A reference in the Ebers Papyrus mentions onions for medical use.

 

In modern herbal medicine onions can be made into syrup for treatment of cough; baked onions can be used as a poultice to draw infection from a wound; and fresh onion juice is useful in treating bee stings, insect bites, grazes and fungal infection of the skin.

 

The fresh juice has also been used in cosmetics to help remove freckles, and as an insect repellent. At one time it was believed that onion juice could restore hair to a bald head. The juice can also be used as a preventative against rust, and as a polish for copper and glass.

 

For edibility it can be consumed raw or cooked. Raw it can be sliced and added to salad, on top of sandwiches, etc. Cooked they can be chopped, sliced, or diced for use in stews, soups, chili’s, almost any recipe you would like. They are good as a pickle also. The flowers are often used as a garnish on salads, although the flavor of the bulb is much nicer.

 

The onion has even found its way into spiritual use, being considered sacred in ancient Egypt where it was worshipped in several cities. Onions are protective, used to encourage prophetic dreams and lust, and used in exorcism and to attract money. They are used to purify the blades of knives and athames.

Saffron – Crocus sativus

Saffron from Koehler's Medicinal-Plants 1887
Saffron from Koehler’s Medicinal-Plants 1887

The saffron of virtue and contentment
Is dissolved in the water-gun of love and affection.
Pink and red clouds of emotion are flying about,
Limitless colours raining down.

 By Mirabai, (1498-1546)

This crocus’s origin is obscure, but some believe it originated in Asia Minor. The history of cultivation dates back 3000 years; with the first documentation in the 7th century BC, in an Assyrian botanical. It is believed that cultivation of and hybridizing of the wild crocus Crocus cartwrightianus resulted in the sterile flowering plant we now know. Saffron is even mentioned in the Bible.

 

In herbal medicine it has been used to treat coughs, whooping cough, stomach gas, colic, and insomnia. In salve form it has been used to treat gout.

 

The flower styles are commonly used as a flavoring and yellow coloring for various foods such as bread, soups, sauces, rice and puddings. They are an essential ingredient of many traditional dishes such as paella, bouillabaisse, risotto milanese and various other Italian dishes.

 

The yellow dye obtained from the stigmas has been used for many centuries to color cloth. It is the favored coloring for the cloth of Indian swamis. A blue or green dye is extracted from the petals.

The above pic is from Koehler’s Medicinal-Plants 1887 [Image in Public Domain]

Turmeric – Curcuma longa

Turmeric from Koehler's Medicinal-Plants 1887
Turmeric from Koehler’s Medicinal-Plants 1887

Curry in a Hurry

For an intimate meal – exotic, dreamy –
Chicken Tikka Masala is rich and creamy.
Add marinade to each diced breast
In a bowl to give it zest.
Fry it with fresh cream (not too thick!)
And don’t forget the turmeric.
Sniff the aroma, taste the spice
Then serve it up with naan and rice.

 

By John Mole, Food Laureate

This cousin of Ginger (     ) is native to tropical South America where it prefers warm climes, rich soil that is well drained, but moist. The rhizomes have been used in cooking and medicine for over 4000 years.

 

In Ayurvedic medicine it has been used to treat cuts, burns, and bruises. Some believe it has fluorides, which makes it good for tooth health. Taken as a tea it is useful for the treatment of stomach ailments. It has anti-inflammatory properties which make it useful in the treatment of IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). Its anti-inflammatory properties also make it useful for arthritis flare-ups, muscle pulls, etc.

 

In Asian cooking it is one of the prime ingredients of the Curry spice blend; and in American cooking it colors yellow mustard, and flavors and colors bread & butter pickles. It is often used as a safe food coloring, sometimes combined with annatto for the yellow tint. In Africa it is added to rice to give it a yellow color, and in Nepal it is added to the traditional meat dumplings (Momos).

 

As a fabric dye it has been used for centuries, but it is not lightfast, fading quickly. Nevertheless it has been used to dye silk, wool and the robes of Buddhist monks. It is used commonly in Indian clothing, such as saris, and is used to dye wedding clothing. It was believed that clothing dyed with turmeric afforded protection against diseases that carry fever.

Garlic Chives – Allium tuberosum

Garlic Chives
Garlic Chives

This native of Asia looks like chives, but smells and tastes like mild garlic with sweetish undertones. They bloom in late summer, producing clusters of small white star-shaped flowers. It has been collected in the wild since antiquity, and cultivated since the Middle Ages in Asia. In some areas it has become an invasive plant with Arkansas listing it as a Noxious weed.

 

After its first year growing you may then harvest the leaves by cutting what you need all the way to the ground. They may then be frozen, but it is recommended not to dry them. The leaves are used much like garlic, chives, or green onions. In China they are used in dumplings to compliment eggs, shrimp or pork. In Japan and Korea they are used in a similar fashion!

 

In Chinese Traditional Medicine Garlic Chives have been used to treat fatigue, top control bleeding, and acts as an antidote for poisons. To treat insect bites, cuts, and other wounds the used of the leaves and bulbs applied directly is helpful. While the seeds have been used successfully to treat kidney, liver, and digestive issues.

 

When in full bloom, their scent attracts insects and bees by the droves. The flashy white flowers can be utilized in bouquets either fresh or dried!

Garlic – Allium sativum

Garlic
Garlic

One that makes cheese-laden Texas toast taste twice as nice.
When baking a pizza it brings out the flavor
Providing a mouth watering feast to savor.

I have long enjoyed these meals that transformed my breath
Into something that is reminiscent of death,
But I never tried cooking with the spice myself.
Cloves of garlic never decorated my shelf.

By ‘Mike’

Read more 

One of the oldest known food medicines out there. It was known, used and loved by the ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Jews, Greeks and Romans. Garlic is mentioned in the Bible and the Talmud. Hippocrates, Galen, Pliny the Elder, and Dioscorides all mention the use of garlic for a multitude of complaints.

Garlic has been used topically for the treatment of ringworm, Candida, and vaginitis. Daily use internally has been shown in studies to be beneficial to the heart, blood system, and lowering blood pressure. Studies suggest that in Spain and Italy, where heart disease is significantly lower, that the high consumption of garlic in the diet is responsible.

During the Middle Ages, when the Church was condemning women to burn as witches, and killing their cats as familiars, rats abounded in number, and with them their fleas. The fleas carried with them the Black Plague, which infected a multitude of people. But one group of thieves went house to house ransacking and stealing whatever they found with impunity. They were able to keep the plague at bay by using ‘the vinegar of the four thieves,’ whose main ingredient was garlic!

In magic Garlic is ruled by Mars, its element is Fire, and it is sacred to Hecate. Often used in magic spells, it has been thought to be powerful in protection workings for centuries. Place peeled cloves of garlic around the home and in doorways as protection from illness and evil from entering. This is especially needed in new homes! In both Muslim and Christian legend garlic springs up in the left footprint of the devil (in Christianity they add onions in the right footprint) as he left the Garden of Eden after mans fall from grace!

To read my former post

Allium – Allium giganteum

Allium flowers
Allium flowers

This native of central Asia is nothing more than a large onion. It is grown as an ornamental in early summer gardens. What appears to be a large globe flower at the end of a tall stalk is really up to fifty small star shaped flowers. It grows from a fall planted perennial bulb, and reproduces by developing ‘daughter’ bulbs which can be separated and replanted to increase the number of plants in the garden.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Alliums are used to reduce blood pressure, and blood fat, and is anti atherosclerosis due to the action of the saponins present. The bulb is the part used medicinally and it carries an onion scent when bruises, damaged, or aging.

The bulb can also be eaten; it is an onion, with a mild onion flavor. The flowers are used as a garnish in salads.

In European folklore there are magical properties attributed to the Allium. It was used for good luck and as a protection against demons. In the Victorian Language of Flowers Alliums mean unity, humility, and patience.

Bearded Iris – Iris germanica

Bearded Iris flower
Bearded Iris flower

Shades of purple, hints of yellow,
Lavender and violet hues,
Regal, royal Irises,
Proud, Spring flowers on review.

Flags unfurled at full-mast,
Sword-shaped leaves unsheathed,
Stand tall, and line the path,
Banners blowing in the breeze.

By Virginia Ellis

 

This native of Europe is a popular garden addition. The name “Bearded” refers to the presence of a furry strip on each of three drooping, petal-like sepals, called falls. The plant is named after the rainbow goddess, ‘Iris,’ from the beauty and variety of colors in the flowers of the genus.

Also called Orris Root they are grown in Tuscany and other parts if Italy. The Iris is treated with great care, and the ground is cared for and weeded carefully about each plant by the barefoot women. In the fall the plants are just as carefully dug up, trimmed and dried. It can take several years of drying to fully develop the fragrance of the roots. The roots take on the scent of Violets. An essential oil is extracted from the fresh roots.

The iris has since ancient time, been used for purification. As in Roman times the fresh flowers can be placed in an area to be cleansed. The three petals of the flower symbolize faith, wisdom, and valor.

A black dye can be obtained from the root, while a blue dye can be had from the flowers. Sometimes the seeds are used as rosary beads.