Thursday, January 25, 2018

La Maison Rustique - The Potherbs - Saffron

From: L'agriculture et maison rustique, Charles Estienne (Rouen, 1658).

The Potherbs

(Chapter 31)



As to saffron, as will be said below, it loves moderate soil, not strong, nor dunged, and at the same time well aerated, exposed to the sun, and well turned, and grows well where onions will have been planted. It loves water, fears the mouse and mole, and grows better planted from bulbs than seed. It is not sown, but its bulblets and remains similar to leeks or sea-onions, are planted in furrows in April or May, and let it be first planted, to kill the onions heaped up in the area in eight days in the shade of the Sun, in some place which is not damp, and plant them with the root in well-fired earth, and about half a hand from each other, and three fingers deep, and it grows better in an open walkway. It blooms every year in the Autumn for a continuous month, and then wildly lets the blossom fall: bu tit keeps its leaves throughout winter all green until Spring when it begins to wither, and does not appear in any way in Spring; it can endure being planted for up to nine years, and if it is transplanted elsewhere it will still be able to benefit. True, it wears several spices and kernels, which should be culled from three in three years, otherwise the herb would be suffocated. No one plants it, and for the better, after mid-August until mid-September, and put at their root a quantity of grapes pulled from under the press, and leave them in the ground for two or three years, and each year, in April and May, bind the herb for drying, and tamp them down by foot around two fingers deep, without hurting the bulb. After thoroughly cleaning the herbs when the flower is dead, as in August and through Autumn, harvest them in the morning as the Sun rises, and keep them in a closed room, and dry. In addition, the good saffron can be known if it is very fat, if held in the hand it makes a crackling sound; if put into some liquor it dissolves; if held in the hand and carried to the face, it gives some bite to the eyes; if it is of a golden color; if it dyes the hands with this color, and if it has a scent that is somewhat acrid and poignant that is not very fragile. Saffron taken in very small quantities is good for weakness of the stomach, and failing of the heart, preserves the drinker, and protects from the bite of snakes and spiders. In large quantities, either by mouth or applied to the outside, stirs up torments and pains in the head, and brings a clouding to the eye.

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