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Salix-Sambucus (Sturtevant, 1919)

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Sturtevant, Notes on edible plants, 1919
Salix-Sambucus (Sturtevant, 1919)

Salix alba Linn.

Salicaceae. WHITE WILLOW.

Europe, Asia and north Africa. The inner bark, though extremely bitter in the fresh state, when dried and powdered, Johnson says, is used in northern countries in times of scarcity for making bread. Dall says the half-digested willow-tips in the stomach of the adult deer are regarded as a delicacy by the Eskimos of the Yukon River, and the mess is eaten as a salad. The bark of a species of willow is mixed with tobacco and smoked by the Indians of Maine. In China, the leaves of this and other willows are often eaten by poor people in times of want. Willow leaves have long been used to make "sweet-tea," and about Shanghai the leaves of S. alba are used to adulterate tea.

Salix fragilis Linn.


Europe and Asia. In Persia, this willow yields a saccharine exudation, as stated by Haussknecht.

Salvadora persica Linn.


Orient, East Indies and north Africa. The fruit is sweet and is eaten largely in the Punjab; when dried it forms an article of trade and tastes somewhat like currants. The fruit is globose, two and one-half lines in diameter, yellow when ripe, dark brown or red when dry. The shoot and leaves are pungent, says Brandis, and are eaten as salad and are celebrated as antidotes against poison. This shrub or small tree has been identified as the mustard tree of Scripture. The small, red, edible berries, says Ainslie, have an aromatic smell and taste not unlike the garden cress. According to Stewart, these berries are much eaten, and Royle says the seeds, having an aromatic pungency, are substituted for mustard.

Salvia columbariae Benth.

Labiatae. CHIA.

Southern and central California. The seeds are collected, roasted, ground by the Indians and used as a food by mixing with water and enough sugar to suit the taste. This mixture soon develops into a copious, mucilaginous mass several times the original bulk. The taste for it is soon acquired, and it is then found very palatable and nutritious.

Salvia horminum Linn.


South Europe; introduced into Britain in 1596. The leaves are used as a sage. Gerarde says of it, that the leaves are good to be put into pottage or broths among other potherbs. It is included in Thorbum's seed catalog of 1881.

Salvia indica Linn.

East Indies. This species, according to Ainslie,6 is much cultivated in India for its leaves, which are put into country beer because of their fresh and pleasant smell.

Salvia lanata Roxb.

Himalayan region. The stems are peeled and eaten.

Salvia officinalis Linn.


Mediterranean region. This plant is one of the most important occupants of the herb garden, being commonly used for seasoning and also in domestic medicine. It has been under cultivation from a remote period and is considered to be the elelisphakos of Theophrastus, the elelisphakon of Dioscorides, the salvia of Pliny. Its medicinal virtues are noted by Oribasius and others of the early writers on medicine. In the Middle Ages, sage found frequent mention, as by Albertus Magnus in the thirteenth century, and the plant and its uses are noticed in nearly all of the early botanies. Although but one variety is now grown in our gardens, yet formerly a number of sorts were noted, the red, green, small and variegated being named by Worlidge in 1683. Sage was in American gardens in 1806 and doubtless long before. Six varieties are described by Burr, 1863, all of which can perhaps be included among the four mentioned in 1683 and all by Mawe in 1778. The French make an excellent pickle of the young leaves. The Chinese value the leaves for making a tea, and at one time the Dutch carried on a profitable trade in exchanging sage for tea, pound for pound. In Zante, the apples or tumors on the sage, the effect of a puncture of a species of Cynips, are made into a conserve with honey, according to Sibthorp.

Salvia plebeia R. Br.

Eastern Asia and Australia. The seeds are used as a mustard by the Hindus.

Salvia sclarea Linn.


Mediterranean region and the Orient; introduced into Britain in 1562. In Europe, the leaves are said to be put into wine to impart to it a muscatel taste. Clary was formerly much more cultivated in gardens than at present. Townsend, 1726, says, "the leaves of it are used in Omlets, made with Eggs and so must be in a garden." In 1778, Mawe gives three varieties; the broad-leaved, the long-leaved and the wrinkled-leaved. Clary is mentioned as cultivated in England by Ray, 1686; Gerarde, 1597; and it is the Orminum of Turner, 1538. It was in American gardens preceding 1806 and now occurs wild in Pennsylvania, naturalized as an escape. The leaves are used for seasoning, but their use in America has been largely superceded by sage; although the seed is yet sold by some of the seedsmen, it is now but little grown.

Sambucus caerulea Rafin.


Western North America. In California, the Indians eat the berries. In Utah, its clusters of fruit often weigh several pounds, and the berries are more agreeable than those of S. canadensis.

Sambucus canadensis Linn.


North America. The unopened flower-buds form, when pickled, an excellent substitute-for capers. The berries are often used to make a domestic wine.

Sambucus ebulus Linn.


Europe and adjoining Asia. The plant has a nauseous smell and drastic properties. Buckman says the berries are used as are those of S. nigra.

Sambucus mexicana Presl.

Western North America. The berries are deep purple when ripe, agreeable to the taste and almost equal to the blackberry. The plant bears flowers, green and ripe fruit on the same branches.

Sambucus nigra Linn.


Europe and northern Asia. The elderberry is cultivated for its fruits, which are generally purplish-black, but a variety occurs of a greenish-white hue. In Europe, a wine is made from the berries and they are even marketed in London for this purpose. The berries are largely consumed in Portugal for coloring port wine. The flowers are fried in a batter and eaten. There are many superstitions which cluster about the elderberry.

Sambucus xanthocarpa F. Muell.


Australia. This species furnishes one of the edible wild fruits of Australia.