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Monday, June 29, 2015


Sisymbrium officinale

(Hedge Mustard)- 2 - foliage

Photo from Box Osborn

erísimohierba de los cantores
L. Sisymbrium officinale, Erysimum officinaleAr. carmc (all good), F. herbeauxchantres, Eng. common hedge mustard, Singer's Plant, St. Barbara's Hedge Mustard. English watercress. The Spanish name for this herb is derived from Arabic, while the French meaning comes the plant’s fame in being the infallible cure for loss of voice until the time of Louis XIV. Strong infusions of hedge mustard were taken for all throat problems.The plant is used as an expectorant, stomachic and diuretic. It cannot be said that the Arabs brought this plant for it grows wild everywhere in a Europe, on wasteland and along roads. It is a most troublesome weed, growing four to six feet high and a dust collector.
Hedge Mustard Sisymbrium officinale
flower 06-03-2005
Photo from: Friends of Mount Majura

In Spain hedge mustard is so abundant that there are rivers and towns named for it: the Jarama and Jaramilla Rivers, and the towns Jaramillo de la Fuente and Jaramillo Quemado in Burgos. Poets, over the centuries, however, praise its purple-hue, the toothed segments of its hairy pinnate leaves with toothed segments and its tiny yellow flower clusters blooming from April to November, under these are seed pods bearing yellow seeds resembling mustard. The stem looks like and cuts like broccoli, its relative as both belong to the Brassicaceae or Mustard family.

It has been stated that in 15th C. cookery, Andalusia is noted for the most numerous recipes containing hedge mustard, which ranged from salads to pottages and broths. None are available in the MSS reviewed. Today,

Gele Mostard “Accent” van “Top Seeds”
Bil de Regt 2-10-2014 (Zaaidatum 4 aug)
Photo from Jan Relpma Dronten
Andalusia still has some recipes using it but the Canary Islands seem too have taken over the tradition where Hedge Mustard Pottage is renown. Vilanova recommended it for seasoning meats in the winter.

Hedge mustard should not be confused with wild radishes (rabanillo), which have singular flowers while mustards have a clump of flowers. The petals of the radish flowers are veined, mustard flowers are not. The seed pods of the radish are segmented, the mustard pods are not. Also wild radishes tend to grow to one or two feet high, maybe three. Usually just with a glance you can tell if it is a field of radish or mustards.

[ES: Shamsuddín Sep 21, 01; Font. 1999:52:167:277-278; and Gázquez. 2002:143]

Friday, June 26, 2015


Lemon Syrup
Photo by: Lord-Williams
almíbarOCast xarafe, xaraue, xarope, xarpoAr. qater, šarâb (drink, potion, syrup)Eng. syrup. 1. The Arab meaning is literally salted, horrible tasting water, indicating the concept of medicine being disagreeable. Too it could mean an overly sweet drink. In Cordova between the 10-13 C, it was syrup made with flowers, fruits, plants, sugar and wine or simply quince juice boiled with sugar or honey. This was made in September, when the fruit is in season. Avenzoar lists over 30 different types of syrups used as medicine in Al-Andalus while Anón Al-Andalus gives 17 recipes for syrups.

2. Sweet drink or desert sauce having the consistency of syrup or a medicine as per the ingredients. Syrup is made by boiling sugar in water until it thickens. Then fruit juices, infusions, essence and/or alcohols are added. See almíbar, arrope and sirope.

[Anón/Huici.1966:502:274:503:275:503:275 etc; Corominas. Cast.1980:III:G:493-494; ES:Benavides-Barajas. “Cocina.” Sep 29. 01; ES: Glos. May 23 03; Delegado. 1994:130; Ibn Zuhr/García Sánchez. 1992:105-107; and Nola/Iranzo. 1982:172<]

Lemon and Sugar
Imported to Europe from Arabia
Photo by: Lord-Williams


about 12 lemons or 2 ½ lbs
1 lb sugar


Squeeze enough lemons to make 1 qt juice. Pour this into a pot with 1 qt sugar. Heat. Stir occasionally until it reaches 220ºF/100ºC.

Imbibing this syrup reduces  jaundice fever. It quenches the thirst and relieves the stomach, see blog titled ictericia published Jun 12, 15.

#512 JARABE DE LIMÓN, p 279
Se toma limón, después de descortezarlo de su corteza superior, se exprime y se toma una libra de zumo, al que se le añade otra tanto de azúcar; se cuece todo hasta que tome la forma de jarabe. Sus ventaja son para el ardor de la ictericia; corta la sed y ata el vientre.  

Wednesday, June 24, 2015


Feliz día a las "madres" "abuelas" a tod@s
Photo from: jacinta lluch valero
jara ládano, L. Cistaceae, Eng. sweet rockrose. These are shrubs bearing five-petal solitary nectar flowers that are very similar to roses. They bloom in Spain in July. As natives to the Mediterranean, they grow withstanding poor soil and resisting heat and drought. Two species contain laudanum or labdanum, which are Cistes creticus (eastern Mediterranean) and landaniferus (western Mediterranean) (Sp. ládano, Ar. arlādan, Pers ladan), a sweet smelling, sticky, aromatic oil used in perfumery, fumigation or incense and thought good for colds. It was used for medicinal purposes, a a pain-killer or sedative. 

By running a cloth or hair over the tops of the plants, labdanum is collected. There were some who mistook the flails depicted on the hands of gods and pharaohs of ancient Egypt for a
labdanum collecting device and thought they gathered it. Actually, for this job billy goats come in handy. While they munch on the plant, the oil sticks to their beards. When they finished grazing the beards were combed with a rake-like leather instrument. This ancient traditional method is only practiced in Crete today.

Spain, the largest producer, boils the twigs and leaves and then skim off the resin. In Crete the beards are cut annually and the oil extracted, i.e. those that the pharaohs did not keep for themselves. They glued the goatees to their chins in order to smell good and that is how the word for this type of beard came into being. The other goatees were heated, which released the oils. Labdanum came to substitute ambergris, a waxy substance found in the intestine of sperm whales, and is used in the perfume trade.

The application of labdanum instead of ambergris was so successful that Crete and Cypress were exporting 10,000 lbs. per year by 1870. In Al-Andalus rockrose seed bread became popular after Abderraman III of Cordova discovered it in the mountains of north Africa when invading the region. He must have brought it back to Spain or introduced its use in southern Spain.

According to Avenzoar, this bread is harmful to health and not recommended in any way but it is still prepared by inhabitants of the Ketama Mountains in northern Morocco. The seeds contain feculent or starchy material. In July, bees gather nectar there to make rockrose honey.

See ámbar gris and pan de semilla de jara. [Benavides-Barajas. Nueva Clásica. 1995:37; ES: Ladanum. Jan 9, 08. Font. 1999:170:280-283; Ibn Zuhr/García Sánchez. 1992:49; and Silva. 1994:174]