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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

DAME'S ROCKET OR SWEET ROCKET - SYMBOL OF DECEIT: HEALTH BENEFITS AND USES OF DAME'S ROCKET


DAME’S ROCKET, SWEET ROCKET, HESPERIS MATRONALIS
Dame’s rocket has an interesting history in terms of its names. It was called the Vesper-flower, because it emits its perfume in the evening, and this is how the genus got its name “Hesperis” means evening; “matronalis” means of the mother and the mother in question is probably Eve, who was a symbol of deceit, having tempted Adam to eat the apple which lead to the Fall from grace and the Garden of Eden. Writing in the 17th century, the English herbalist, Nicholas Culpeper calls this plant Eveweed, and says rather disparagingly that gardeners of his time called it double rocket.
  Dame’s rocket can grow to heights of more than 3 feet and is a native of Europe and Asia. It has naturalized in North America and is invasive in several states. In Britain it has been cultivated for centuries, and so has become naturalized in some places being a garden escapee.

   This plant is also called night-scented/dame’s/queen’s/rogues’ gillyflower and hardly surprisingly is a symbol of deceit in the Language of Flowers. It is also called damask violet, dame’s violet, summer lilac and the evening/ winter gillyflower.
  The young leaves are edible and best used raw in salads although you shouldn’t eat too many of them as they can cause vomiting. The flowers which may be lilac, pink, white or blue are also edible. The seeds of this plant contain 50 per cent essential oil which is used in the perfume industry. The flowers may be cut and will give the room in which they are placed a clove-like smell.
  The seeds were also once steeped in vinegar and then used to get rid of freckles. In Mediaeval times they were considered good antidotes for insect stings and snake bites.
   The plant is a member of the Brassicaceae or Cruciferae family making it a relative of mustard, savoy cabbage, red cabbage, broccoli, kale, kohlrabi, brussel sprouts, flixweed or fluxweed, collard or spring greens, swede, cauliflower, turnips, garden cress, watercress, lady's smocks, Shepherd's purse, and a whole host of others.
  Its leaves are rich in vitamin C so like scurvy-grass it was a useful antiscorbutic and cultivated partly for this purpose. It grows well as a companion plant to foxgloves and clary sage, and would have grown with them in Mediaeval monastery gardens.   
  This is what Culpeper has to say about the uses of this herb:-
“Government and virtues. It is a plant of Mars, yet it is accounted a good wound-herb. Some eat it with bread and butter on account of its taste, which resembles garlic: Its juice, taken a spoonful at a time, is excellent against obstructions of the viscera: it works by urine. In some places it is a constant ingredient in clysters.” (enemas)

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