Sisymbrium-Smyrnium (Sturtevant, 1919)

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Sturtevant, Notes on edible plants, 1919
Sisymbrium-Smyrnium (Sturtevant, 1919)

Sisymbrium alliaria Scop.


This plant, of Europe and adjoining Asia, is the sauce-alone of Gerarde, who says "divers eat the stamped leaves hereof with salt fish, for a sauce, as they do those of ransons." It is the garlicwort of Turner and is gathered as it approaches the flowering state, if boiled separately and then eaten with boiled mutton, it forms a desirable potherb. In Wales, it is often fried with bacon or herrings and is sometimes eaten as a salad. The Germans call it sasskraut and use it much as a salad in the spring. In England, it is used with lettuce.

Sisymbrium canescens Nutt.


North and South America. The seeds are collected by the Indians of California.

Sisymbrium officinale Scop.


Europe and north Africa. This European, herb, now naturalized in the United States, is used as greens or spinach in many parts of Britain. Don says the plant smells strongly of garlic and was formerly used in Europe by country people in sauces and salads. Bridgeman, 1832, in his work on American gardening says it is used as an early potherb and has a warm and acrid flavor. Johnson says it is occasionally cultivated as a potherb but is not very palatable.

Sium decumbens Thunb.

Umbelliferae. JELLICO.

Japan. The leaves are eaten in Cochin China.

Sium helenianum Hook. f.


St. Helena Islands. This species is called jellico at St. Helena, where the green stems are sold in the markets for eating raw.

Sium latifolium Linn.


North America and Europe. The leaves are cooked and eaten in Italy.

Sium sisarum Linn.


Eastern Asia. This plant is a hardy perennial, usually grown as an annual, a native of China; introduced into Britain before 1548. It is mentioned by Gerarde. The Emperor Tiberius is said to have demanded this sweet and somewhat aromatic root as a tribute from the Germans living on the Rhine. In America, it was seen by Romans at Mobile, Alabama, in 1775. In 1806, it is mentioned among garden products by McMahon. The root is composed of fleshy tubers about the size of the little finger and, formerly more than now, was esteemed when boiled as among the sweetest, whitest and most pleasant of roots. Mclntosh says skirret is much used in French cookery. Skirret seed appears for sale in American catalogs.

This plant seems to have been unknown to the ancients; certainly no mention can be found of an umbellifer with grouped and divergent roots, the peculiarity of skirret alone among European cultivated plants of this order. In the sixteenth century, the name siser was applied to the carrot as well as to skirret: as, by Camerarius, who describes siser, the sisaron of the Greeks, as a skirret; and siser alterum, Italian carota bLanca, German gierlin, Spanish chirivia, French chervy or girolle or carotte blanche, as a carrot; other illustrations of this period and earlier might be given. Fuchsius, 1542, figures skirret, as does also Ruellius, 1550, Tragus, 1552, and many others after this time. Skirret was well known in Europe as a plant of culture at this period. It perhaps came, says De Candolle, from Siberia to Russia and thence into Germany. Skirret is not named by Turner, 1538, but is in 1551. In 1570, the Adversaria gives the English name as scyrret.

Sloanea dentata Linn.


Brazil and Guiana. The species yields an edible fruit.

Smilacina racemosa Desf.


Siberia and northeast North America. The berries are pale red, speckled with purple and are aromatic. Wood mentions this among edible wild fruits. Josselyn says it is called "treacle-berries, having the perfect taste of treacle when they are ripe — and will keep good for a long while. Certainly a very wholesome berry and medicinal."

Smilax china Linn.

Liliaceae. CHINA-ROOT.

China, Cochin China and Japan. The rootstocks are eaten by the Chinese on account of the abundance of the starch.

Smilax glyciphylla Sm.


Australia. The leaves are used as tea.

Smilax laurifolia Linn.

Southeastern United States. The young shoots are eaten as asparagus in the southern states. The roots were used by the Indians to obtain a fecula for food.

Smilax pseudo-china Linn.

New Jersey to Kentucky and southward. The Indians of Carolina boiled and ate the root. The Seminoles of Florida obtained their red meal from the root. The young shoots are used as an asparagus in the southern states and the roots were used by the Confederate soldiers in the manufacture of an extemporaneous beer.

Smilax rotundifolia Linn.


Pennsylvania to Kentucky and southward. Griffith says the fecula obtained from the root was employed by the Indians as a meal.

Smilax tamnoides Linn.

New Jersey, Virginia and southward. The fecula of the root is used as a meal by the Indians.

Smyrnium olus-atrum Linn.


Europe and the adjoining portion of Asia; formerly much cultivated. Alexanders was mentioned by Dioscorides, and, in the time of Gerarde, the root was sent to the table raw as a salad herb. In the United States, it is mentioned by McMahon, 1806, as used for culinary purposes as cardoon and blanched in like manner, but it does not appear in his general list of kitchen-garden esculents. The young shoots and leafstalks are the part eaten; they have, when raw, a rather agreeable taste, not very unlike that of celery, though more pungent; they are likewise used to flavor soups and stews and are still so employed in England by the country people. The stalks are blanched in the manner of celery. This vegetable was formerly much esteemed in Italy.

The name alexanders is said to be a corruption of Olusatrum, but Ray says it is called so either because it came from the Egyptian city of that name or it was so believed. The Italian name macerone is believed by Ray to have been corruptly derived from Macedonia but a more probable origin is from maceria, the Italian for wall, as Columella says, "Pastinato loco semine debet conseri maxime juxta maceriam."

In this umbellifer, as De Candolle remarks, we can follow the plant from the beginning to the end of its culture. Theophrastus, who flourished about 322 B. C., speaks of alexanders as an officinal plant, under the name of hipposelinon. Dioscorides, who lived in the first century after Christ, speaks of the edible properties of the roots and leaves, while Colurnella and Pliny, authors of the same century, speak of its cultivation. Galen, in the second century, classes it among edibles, and Apicius, in the third century, gives a recipe for its preparation for the table. Charlemagne, who died A. D. 814, included this vegetable among those ordered to be planted on his estates. Ruellius's edition of Dioscorides, 1529, does not speak of its culture, nor does Leonicenus, 1529; but Fuchsius, 1542, says it is planted in gardens. Tragus, 1552, received seed from a friend, so it was apparently not generally grown in his part of Germany at this date. Matthiolus, in his Commentaries, 1558, refers to its edible qualities. Pena and Lobel, 1570, say in England it occurs abundantly in gardens and that the cultivated form is far better than the wild plant. Camerarius, 1586, says, "in hortis seritur." Gerarde, 1597, does not speak of its culture but says, "groweth in most places of England," but in his edition of 1630 says, "The root hereof is also in our age served to the table raw for a sallade herbe." Dodonaeus, 1616, refers to its culture in the gardens of Belgium, and Bodaeus a Stapel, in his edition of Theophrastus, 1644, says it is much approved in salads and is cultivated as a vegetable. Le Jardinier Solitaire, 1612, mentions the culture of celery, but not that of alexanders, in French gardens. Quintyne, in the English edition of his Complete Gard'ner, 1704, says "it is one of the furnitures of our wintersallads, which must be whitened like our wild Endive or Succory." In 1726, Townsend, in his Complete Seedsman, refers to the manner of use, but adds, " 'tis but in few gardens." Mawe's Gardener, 1778, refers to this vegetable, but it is apparently in minor use at this time; yet Varlo, in his Husbandry, 1785, gives directions for continuous sowing of the seed in order to secure a more continuous supply. McMahon, in his American Gardeners' Kalendar, 1806, includes this vegetable in his descriptions but not in his general list of kitchen garden esculents; it is likewise enumerated by later American writers and is included by Burr, 1863, among garden vegetables, a survival of mention apparently not indicating use; and Vilmorin, in his Les Plantes Potageres, 1883, gives a heading and a few lines to maceron. Its seed is not now advertised in our catalogs.

Smyrnium perfoliatum Linn.


Southern Europe. This form of alexanders is thought by some to be superior to S. olus-atrum. This species is perhaps confounded with S. olus-atrum in some of the references already given. London says it was formerly cultivated, and McIntosh says it is thought by many superior to S. olus-atrum, a remark which Burr includes in his description. Although the species is separated by a number of the older botanists, yet Ruellius, 1529, is the only one who refers to its edible qualities. This plant, which De Candolle says has been under common culture for fifteen centuries, has shown no change of type during that time. The figures, which occur in so many of the herbals, all show the same type of plant, irrespective of the source from which the illustration may have been taken, unless perhaps the root is drawn rather more enlarged in some cases than in others.