Medicago-Melissa (Sturtevant, 1919)

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Sturtevant, Notes on edible plants, 1919
Medicago-Melissa (Sturtevant, 1919)

Medicago denticulata Willd.


North temperate region of the Old World. A fine, broad-leaved variety of this plant was found by Fortune to be much used by the Chinese as a winter vegetable.

Medicago lupulina Linn.


North temperate region of the Old World; naturalized in places in America. In southern California, its seeds are much relished by the Indians.

Medicago platycarpa Trautv.

Siberia. The plant furnishes a food.

Medicago sativa Linn.


Europe and the Orient. The leaves are eaten by the Chinese as a vegetable.

Medicago scutellata Mill.


Mediterranean region. This plant is not edible but, like the caterpillarplant, is grown on account of the singular shape of its seed-vessels. It was in Belgian and German gardens preceding 1616 and in American gardens in 1863 or before.

Melia azadirachta Linn.


East Indies. A kind of toddy is obtained by tapping the tree, and from the fruit a medicinal oil, known as bitter oil or taipoo oil, is made.

Melia azedarach Linn.


A tree of Syria, the north of India and subtropical Japan and China. It is cultivated for ornament in different parts of the world. In southern France and Spain, it is planted in avenues. In our southern states, it adorns the streets of cities and has even become naturalized. The fruit is a round drupe, about as large as a cherry and yellowish when ripe, is sweetish, and, though said by some to be poisonous, is eaten by children. In India, from incisions in the trunk near the base made in spring, a sap issues which is used as a cooling drink. From the fruit, a bitter oil is extracted, called kohombe oil, and is used medicinally. The bitter leaves are used as a potherb in India, being made into soup, or curry, with other vegetables.

Melianthus major Linn.

Sapindaceae. HONEYFLOWER.

Cape of Good Hope. The flowers are of a dark brown color, in long, erect racemes a foot or more in length, containing a large quantity of honey, which is collected by the natives. It is grown in French flower gardens.

Melicocca bijuga Linn.


Tropical America. The pulp of the fruit, says Mueller, tastes like grapes, and the seeds can be used like sweet chestnuts. Lunan says the tree was introduced into Jamaica from Surinam. The seed — rarely more than one — is covered with a deliciously sweet-acid, gelatinous substance like the yolk of an egg, mixed with very fine fibers adhering tenaciously to the seed; the fleshy part is very agreeable to the taste. Titford1 calls this pulp pleasant and cooling.

Melicytus ramiflorus Forst.

Violaceae. MAHOE.

New Zealand. This is the mahoe of New Zealand, not the mahoe of the West Indies, says A. Smith. The fruit of this tree is eaten by the natives.

Melilotus officinalis Lam.


Europe and adjoining Asia. The flowers and seeds are the chief ingredient in flavoring the Gruyere cheese of Switzerland.

Melissa officinalis Linn.

Labiatae. BALM.

Mediterranean region and the Orient. This aromatic perennial has long been an inmate of gardens for the sake of its herbage, which finds use in seasonings and in the compounding of liquors and perfumes as well as the domestic remedy known as balm tea. The plant in a green state has an agreeable odor of lemons and an austere and slightly aromatic taste, and hence is employed to flavor certain dishes in the absence of lemon thyme. The culture was common with the ancients, as Pliny directs it to be planted, and, as a bee-plant or otherwise, it finds mention by Greek and Latin poets and prose writers. In the Ionian Islands, it is cultivated for bees. In Britain, it is said to have been introduced in 1573. It is mentioned in France by Ruellius, 1536; in England, by Gerarde, 1597, who gives a most excellent figure; and also by Lyte, 1586, and Ray, 1686. Mawe, 1758, says great quantities of balm are cultivated about London for supplying the markets. In the United States, it is included among garden vegetables by McMahon, 1806. As an escape, the plant is found in England and sparingly in the eastern United States. Bertero found it wild on the island of Juan Fernandez.

But one variety is known in our gardens, although the plant is described as being quite variable in nature. This would indicate that cultivation had not produced great changes. The only difference noted in the cultivated plant has been in regard to vigor. A variegated variety is recorded by Mawe, 1778, for the ornamental garden. This variation is noted by Vilmorin.