The Indian laburnum is a spectacular sight when in bloom around April in Pakistan. The blossoms range in colour from yellow to orange and sepia, and are more prolific than those of its cousin the British laburnum which destroys the vegetation under it. This tree is the producer of the national flower of Thailand which is the symbol of Thai royalty. It is also the state flower of Kerala, India, where it is one of the central elements of Vishu the Malayalees New Year festival celebrated in March - April. It is part of the Kani Kannal preparations (meaning lucky sight or gift). Before morning prayers are sung or said the women of the household prepare the lucky sight, which is a large pot (uruli) made of bell-iron, in which is placed the flowers of the Indian laburnum tree, a palm-leaf manuscript (grantha) a gold ornament, coins in a silver cup, new cloth, two halves of a coconut, a cucumber, mangoes and a jackfruit. The pot is placed in front of a mirror and a statue of Krishna, decorated with garlands, with two burning oil lamps on either side with a chair facing it. Members of the family are then led blindfolded into the room so that the first thing they see is the lucky sight of the pot. This sight will bring good fortune for the rest of the year it is believed. The elders present bless the younger members of the family and give them money.
  The tree was much loved by the Mughuls who used to wear the flowers on their wrists as bracelets and it is still a much-loved tree. Its other English name is the Golden Shower tree, but I think I’ll stick to calling it the Indian Laburnum!
   It is one of the most widespread trees on the Indian subcontinent and a member of the Leguminoseae family. This makes it a member of the bean family and a relative of green beans and other trees which have long seed pods, such as the carob and kachnar, or Mountain Orchid tree. The Indian Laburnum is used for many ailments, and all parts are used. Monkeys are particularly fond of the sweet pulp around the seeds and are responsible for spreading the trees. In Hindi it’s called the Monkey Stick tree, Bandarlathi, a reference to the size of the pods which can grow to 90 centimetres long. In Urdu it is called Amlatas, and this tree figures in many romances and was one of the trees planted in the Mughals’ gardens, so there are some of them in the Shalimar gardens in Lahore. It has been planted along the roadsides, making them look wonderful in spring.
 The seeds are poisonous but the flesh isn’t and the blossoms have a delightful pungent smell. The pods start soft and green and then turn brown and black and hard. The pulp from the pods was used to flavour tobacco and is a potent laxative which should not be consumed in large doses. Interestingly, cattle and goats seem to avoid the flowers and leaves of this tree, which is god for the hakims (traditional healers) who harvest all parts for traditional medicinal preparations.  The wood makes good firewood and charcoal and the trunk wood is strong and durable so fence posts and agricultural implements are made from it.
  Traditionally the roots are used to cure skin diseases such as psoriasis and eczema, and the root bark extracts have been tested in clinical trials and this use is borne out. Modern research has also shown that an extract from the tree can protect the liver and trials are underway to see how effective it can be against HIV/AIDS. The pulp around the seeds has one of the highest calcium contents in any fruits, 827milligrams in every 100 grams of dry matter. It is also a good source of other minerals, namely manganese and iron. The pulp also contains amino acids such as lysine and glutamine. The fruit could be an important source of nutrients and energy for us which at present are underused. It has more nutrients than apples, apricots, peaches, pears and oranges.
  The stem bark has potent antioxidant properties as do the leaves and the flowers and pulp to a lesser extent. Extracts of the bark have been used in creams for piles in the West as it seems it is good for the veins and blood flow.
  In traditional medicine in the subcontinent the roots are used for skin diseases, to alleviate burning sensations, and to cure syphilis. The bark is rich in tannins, and so is used for boils, leprosy, ringworm, and colic, to relieve constipation and diarrhea, as well as dyspepsia and heart problems. The leaves are also used for the skin dry coughs, bronchitis and burning sensations; the fruits are used for flatulence, dyspepsia, colic, inflammation and intermittent fevers. The flowers are said to be good for skin diseases, purging the body of toxins, and also as coolants and skin complaints.
  Generally the parts of the tree are used for heart diseases, tumours in the stomach, glands, liver and throat. It is also believed that the tree can cure delirium, convulsions and gravel in the body’s organs.
  Science has found that parts of the tree possess potent antioxidant properties, are antibacterial, antiviral and cholesterol lowering. It also has pain-relieving properties as well as being useful to treat fevers and to reduce blood pressure. However no part can be taken in large doses as they provoke vomiting, nausea and stomach pains and cramps.
  I think I am just content to look at this tree; others such as the neem are as beneficial.


 Ruscus hypophyllum is indigenous to Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa Province (formerly the North West Frontier Province) as well as to the Canary Isles, Turkey, Sicily, Malta and Gozo, south west Spain, and parts of North Africa. It is closely related to Butcher’s Broom which grows in Britain, and also to asparagus. There are two other Ruscus species which grow in Europe, these being Ruscus hypoglossum (big tongue) and Ruscus aculeata. These plants are used for their green foliage and the novelty value of their berries which appear to grow on their leaves. The truth is that the leaves are not true ones, but are cladodes, which are flattened leaf-like shoots. They have white through to blue flowers which also look as though they are growing on leaves. It is an unusual plant.
  In Pakistan they are not used for their medicinal properties, but are wasted, and this at a time when the West has woken up to the benefits of the ruscogenins found in the rhizomes of the Ruscus genus of plants. They are used for animal fodder and duel, but the rhizomes of the European species of Ruscus are used in herbal medicines because they have anti-inflammatory properties and are vein constrictors. They are useful in the treatment of varicose veins and piles and research is ongoing to discover what other properties they may have.
  So far seven steroidal saponins have been isolated from Ruscus hypophyllum (which means broad or big leaved) rhizomes, plus one known glycoside. It seems that this plant along with the others in this Ruscus group can be of great benefit to us. The cultivation of this plant could help Pakistan’s rural economy if the plants were cultivated for the health market.


Blackcurrants are members of the rose family as are plums, apricots and peaches, and are native to Central and Northern Europe and Asia. In Russia they are used to flavour vodka and in the UK they proved to be especially valuable during the Second World War when citrus fruits were unobtainable. Blackcurrant juice was given free to children to prevent an outbreak of scurvy, and Ribena the popular blackcurrant cordial first went on to the market there in 1936. Blackcurrants have always been popular in Britain and many families grew them in their gardens and allotments. In the US they were banned from most states in the early 1900s as they were host to a disease, “white pine blister rust” which was a threat to the lucrative timber industry. New York State only lifted the ban in 2003, other states did not all follow suit.
  The 16th century English herbalist, John Gerard, was rather scathing about blackcurrants as he was about coriander, writing that they were “of a stinking and somewhat loathing savour”. They can be steeped in brandy to make a liqueur similar to cherry brandy, and have been used in folk medicine in Britain since the Middle Ages. They have been used to treat urinary problems, and are diuretic, and promote sweating during fevers or hot weather. They are good for sore throats in a gargle which can be made from the fruit or the leaves or a mixture of both. A decoction of the stem bark has been used to stop the build up of calculus around the joints, so the plant is useful to treat arthritis. The juice from the fruit is useful for sore throats and one remedy is to mix blackcurrant juice, a little honey and the juice of a lemon to cure sore throats and help to get rid of the common cold.
  Blackcurrants have very potent antioxidant properties which are known to help prevent heart disease and some cancers as well as other diseases. They contain anthocyanins which are responsible for the dark colour of these berries. These also help to reduce swelling and inflammation and are a natural substitute for such pain relievers as Ibuprofen and aspirin. It is believed that anthocyanins can help ward off Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes, as well as heart disease and cancer. Compared with raspberries, strawberries and blueberries they are the most nutritious and have most potent antioxidant activities, so they really are “superfruits”. They contain 4 times more vitamin C (comparing weight) than an orange, and twice as much potassium as a banana. They contain Gamma Linoleic Acid (GLA) and Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MOI) which are believed to fight depression. Blackcurrants contain some B-complex vitamins and apart from vitamin C also contain vitamins A and E, so like whinberries and carrots, they are good for the eyesight and help to prevent night blindness and macular degeneration. As for minerals they are rich in potassium, iron, and calcium as well as containing phosphorous, manganese, zinc, copper and manganese. They also contain bioflavonoids and so do the leaves in particular myristicin, kaempferol and quercetin. Cassis polysaccharide is also present in the fruit (CAPS) and this is believed to be toxic to cancerous tumour cells. Studies are still underway on their efficacy against cancer. CAPS also reduce the effects of arthritis. 
   The oil from blackcurrant seeds is used for skin disorders when taken internally, and it boosts the immune system. Blackcurrants are good for menopausal symptoms and also for painful menstruation and to reduce PMS / PMT.
  Blackcurrant leaves are useful dried, you should harvest them as the fruit starts to appear, and used in tisanes with the dried fruit or alone. The tisane is rather like green tea and has potent antioxidant properties. It is a useful diuretic and can promote sweating as well as lowering blood pressure. You can also use the tisane on cuts which have been slow to heal or make a poultice with the leaves by bruising them and placing in a pan with a little water, then putting them in a muslin cloth and onto wounds to cleanse them. The tisane can also be used a s a gargle for sore throats or for sore mouths, as it can stop bleeding gums and is useful for oral hygiene. It is believed that and infusion of the leaves and dried berries increases the secretion of cortisol in the adrenal glands, which is useful in stress-related illnesses. You can use the leaves either dried or fresh, and need 2 tsps of fresh or 1 tsp dried leaves chopped, and let them steep for 20 minutes in 250 mls boiling water. You can sweeten with honey to taste if you wish, or add fruit to the infusion. If you use dried fruit and leaves you should put 1 tsp of dried blackcurrants and 2 tsps dried chopped leaves into a pan with 250 mls water and slowly bring this to the boil. When it boils, leave it to steep for ½ an hour before straining and drinking.
  For a healthy, refreshing summer drink, blend 20 gr each of blackberries, blueberries, raspberries and cherries together with 100 mls red grape juice.
  You can make jam or blackcurrant jelly with blackcurrants, but this is a good recipe for a cooling summer dessert. It takes time, as it needs to freeze, so start it the day before you want to serve it.

9 ozs fresh blackcurrants, trimmed
4 ozs sugar ½ pint water plus 2 tbsps extra
2 tsps lemon juice
½ tsp gelatine
1 egg white, whisked to stiff peaks

Put the sugar in a pan with ½ pint of water and heat slowly until the sugar has dissolved. Then boil for 10 minutes to make a sugar syrup. Remove the pan from the heat and leave to cool.
Put the blackcurrants into a pan with the lemon juice and heat gently for 10 minutes until the fruit has softened.
Cool a little then purée. Strain through a sieve.
Sprinkle the gelatine over 2 tbsps of water in a heatproof bowl and leave for about 5 minutes until it gets spongy. Then place the bowl in a pan of gently simmering water and heat for 1-2 mins stirring occasionally until the gelatine dissolves.
Blackcurrant Plant
Stir the gelatine into the cooled sugar syrup. Then stir this into the blackcurrant purée and mix well.
Turn the mixture into a rigid container and put into the freezer, uncovered for 3 hours until the mixture around the sides has started to set.
Remove from the freezer and break up with a fork. Whisk the egg white to stiff peaks and fold into the blackcurrant mixture with a metal spoon.
Cover the container and leave to freeze overnight.
Remove it from the freezer about 30 minutes before you want to serve the sorbet so that it is easy to scoop out and put into individual glasses or bowls.
This has Taste and is a Treat.


Raspberries are a member of the rose family along with plums, apricots, etc. They are composed of little seed-bearing fruits which make up the whole raspberry which has a hollow centre. The Latin name Rubus means bramble and Idaea is Mount Ida, so presumably these grew wild on Mount Ida on the Greek island of Crete. Mount Ida is said in Greek mythology to have been the birthplace of Zeus. Raspberries are mentioned by Dioscorides in 1 AD in his “Materia Medica”. There are native species of the red raspberry in Europe although it is not actually clear how the wild raspberry got to Britain. It seems that animals in prehistoric times took the seeds, unwittingly of course, from Eastern Asia where it is thought that they originated, across the land bridge on the Bering Straits. Wild raspberries differ in size from the cultivated ones as they are smaller and a little more tart. Raspberries contain vitamins C, and B2 and 3, as well as Omega-3 fatty acid, bioflavonoids quercetin and kaempferol and minerals magnesium, potassium and manganese among others. They also contain ellagic acid which is a common dietary supplement often obtained from the red raspberry because this fruit has potent antioxidant properties. Red Raspberries also contain the anthocyanins cyanidin-3-glucodylrutinoside and cyaniding-3 rutinoside which give the raspberry the rich red colour. These substances have antioxidant properties as well as anti-microbial ones. Raspberries can help with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and help to prevent Candida albucans infections. In lab animal experiments it has been shown that raspberries’ constituents can help to prevent cancer, notably cancer of the colon. They have 50 % higher antioxidant properties than strawberries, three times those of kiwi fruit and 10 times that of tomatoes according to Dutch research. Their vitamin C content is halved when they are frozen, however so to get the best out of raspberries eat them fresh.
  The first written documents we have of raspberries being cultivated in Europe dates back to 1548 and they only began to be cultivated more extensively in the 19th century when loganberries and boysenberries were developed as hybrids from the raspberry and the blackberry. The English herbalist writing in the 16th century, John Gerard, calls them Hindberry (from the Saxon Hindbeer) and Raspis. In the 1700s people were making vinegar, wines, sauces and desserts from these fruit, and the red raspberry was taken to North America by British immigrants. The black raspberry is indigenous to North America, as the yellow Himalayan raspberry is indigenous to Asia.
  Raspberry syrup can dissolve tartar on the teeth and raspberries were once used for their dye. They have astringent qualities and are useful in cases of mild diarrhoea. You can make raspberry wine with them and this is a very light, tasty fruit wine. Raspberry vinegar used to be given for chest complaints, and it is easy to make. You need 2 pounds of raspberries to 1 pint of white wine vinegar, and leave for a few weeks, then simply strain out the fruit, or you can leave in some fruit so that the flavour intensifies. It is delicious on green salads.
  Raspberry leaves make a wonderful tisane which strengthens the uterus and is useful to prevent miscarriages. It has also been used to ease labour pains and to help with contractions. In fact raspberry leaf tea is useful for women in general as it helps reduce excessive blood flow during menstruation as well as easing cramps. The leaves contain vitamins A, C, D, E and some B-complex ones, as well as minerals and other compounds which are beneficial for our overall health. The tisane can be made with 1 ounce of dried leaves from the red raspberry canes to 1 pint of boiling water. Let the leaves steep for 15 minutes, then strain and drink a cup of the tea. You can do this 3 times a day. This tisane can also be used as a douche for vaginal infections and is considered a general tonic and antiseptic for wounds. It will also reduce the body temperature. You may need to put honey into this tisane to taste. It can help with cystitis, menopausal symptoms, mild diarrhoea, colds and fevers and an infusion of the leaves and the flowers of red clover is said to promote both male and female fertility.
  To “blow a raspberry” is to make a farting noise with your mouth and this was commonly done at music halls when people didn’t appreciate an act. That is this fruit’s contribution to the English language.

8 oz wheat biscuits such as digestives, crushed
50 gr melted butter
175 gr of vanilla sugar (see rhubarb) or the same weight of sugar and a few drops of vanilla extract or a vanilla pod
600 gr cream cheese
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
145 ml soured cream, or single cream with a few drops of lemon juice mixed into it
300 gr fresh raspberries, hulled and washed
1 tbsp icing sugar

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4 or 180°C and grease a loose bottom cake tin or a quiche dish.
Mix the biscuit crumbs with the melted butter and press this mixture into the base and sides of the tin.
Beat the cream cheese with the flour, sugar, vanilla extract if using, eggs, yolk and soured cream until the mixture is light and fluffy. Stir in half the raspberries and pour the mixture into the biscuit base and bake for 40 minutes or until the filling is set but a little wobbly in the centre.
Leave to cool.
Put the rest of the fruit into a pan with the icing sugar and the vanilla pod if using. Heat until juicy and mash with a fork. Then sieve the raspberries onto the top of the cheesecake and decorate with fresh raspberries if you wish to. Alternatively just serve with fresh raspberries. If any of the raspberry sauce is left add this to the individual dishes.
This has Taste and is a Treat.


Rhubarb has been around for centuries but not to eat. It has been used as medicine in Asia and Europe but was not used for culinary purposes until the 1800s when it gained in popularity to become one of the US and Britain’s favourite pie fillings.
  There are several varieties of rhubarb and the ones used for medicinal purposes were Rheum palmatum from China, and Rheum rhaponticum which grew along the river Volga in Russia. Rha is the ancient name of the Volga and barbarum, barbarian; it is believed that rhabarbarum was the Latin name from which rhubarb came.
  In 1777 in the UK one apothecary in Banbury, Oxfordshire, Mr. Hayward, began to cultivate rhubarb for its medicinal properties - it is a mild purgative and laxative which can remove obstructions in the bowels with no side effects such as constipation later. The seeds he sowed were from Russia, and later his rhubarb plantation became the home of the Rheum officinale, the rhubarb officially recognized for medicinal purposes.
  Rheum rhaponticum probably originated in Siberia or Mongolia, and it is from this variety that we have garden rhubarb in Britain. It was introduced into Europe by Prosper Alpinus in 1608 to be used medicinally as a substitute for the Chinese rhubarb which had bee imported from China into the Mediterranean along the Silk Road. The Romans imported rhubarb for medicinal purposes, so it has a long European history and an even older one in Asia, where both Indian and Chinese rhubarbs have been used in traditional medicine. Rheum webbianum grows in India, Pakistan and Nepal.
  Benjamin Franklin introduced rhubarb seeds to the East coast of the US in 1772 and it had become a popular fruit (although botanically speaking it is a vegetable) in the 1830s both in the US and Britain. In the late 1800s Russians took rhubarb to Alaska for protection against scurvy.
  Rhubarb leaves are toxic, containing oxalic acid. In 1901 one death was reported in Britain with the cause of death being cited as “Accidental death, caused by eating rhubarb-leaves.”
  Culpeper, the 17th century English herbalist, advocated slicing rhubarb finely and letting it steep overnight in white wine, then straining it and drinking the wine in the morning for a purgative effect.
  A decoction of rhubarb seeds is used for stomach pain and to increase the appetite. The leaves were used as a pot herb instead of sorrel (it is a close relative of garden sorrel) for a time, but this was not advisable, and so discontinued.  However the flowers can be cooked in a cheese sauce, instead of broccoli without any ill effects.
    Rhubarb contains vitamins A, C, E, K and some of the B-complex vitamins, folate and the minerals calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, phosphorous, zinc manganese and selenium, plus Omega-6 fatty acids and fibre. It is believed that rhubarb might help lower cholesterol levels, and it is known to have potent antioxidant properties, thus helping to lower blood pressure and reduce the risks of cancer. In vitro it has been shown to have anti-microbial properties, and its anti-inflammatory effects have been recorded. The chemical lindleyin found in rhubarb may have oestrogenic properties and emodin also present in it may help in liver regeneration.
  Traditionally the Chinese have used rhubarb for kidney complaints but this has not been verified in clinical trials as yet. It has also been used to reduce fevers and against plague. Other uses for it have been as a hair dye, and to clean pots. Apparently it is also a useful insecticide. When you cook it you should be sure to use a pan that is non-corrosive.
  Rhubarb is to be avoided if you suffer from gout or cystitis or other urinary problems. It is, however good with strawberries in jams and preserves as well as in fools, crumbles and pies. You can also substitute orange juice for a little of the water necessary to poach rhubarb. You can use vanilla sugar to poach rhubarb with and you make this by immersing a vanilla pod in a jar of sugar, and leaving it for a few weeks. You can use vanilla pods, then wash and dry them and put them in sugar.
  Rhubarb is eaten with custard in Britain and there was a children’s cartoon featuring a cat called Rhubarb and a dog called Custard, so it is firmly entrenched in British culture. Actors on stage were directed to say “rhubarb, rhubarb” in crowd scenes and this has come to mean “empty talk” or “rubbish”: also it can mean a quarrel or heated discussion as actors repeated the word “rhubarb” to indicate a general feeling of discontent.

1 lb rhubarb, trimmed and cut into medium-sized chunks
150 gr sugar
3 tbsps cointreau or freshly squeezed orange juice
250 ml double (thick) cream
1 vanilla pod

Put the rhubarb chunks into a non-corrosive pan with 2 tbsps of water, 4 tbsps sugar and the vanilla pod. (You can simply use vanilla sugar if you have any instead of the sugar plus the pod.)Cook over a low heat for 15 minutes.
Add the rest of the sugar if necessary to taste and leave until cold.
Add the cointreau to the cream and whisk into soft peaks. Strain the juice from the rhubarb into the cream, fold in with a metal spoon and whisk to thicken.
Finally fold in the rhubarb and pour into glasses. Chill and serve when you want to.
This has Taste and is a Treat.


The marrow is grown mainly in Britain where there are competitions for the world’s biggest one. In 2005 the record-breaking marrow was 62 kilograms, but this was overtaken in 2008 by a record-breaking 63 kilogram marrow, grown by Ken Dade and entered in the annual National Amateur Gardening Show in Somerset. His was a knobbly-skinned marrow, but the more usual marrows are dark green with paler stripes on their skin. They are a bit like a watermelon to look at and are related to these melons as they are to other melons, cucumbers, pumpkins and squashes and gourds.
  The seeds from the marrow can be used like pumpkin seeds and eaten raw, or dried and dry-fried as a snack, mixed with other seeds for variety. The seeds can be ground into a paste or dried and made into flour for making bread. They share the same history as the courgette or zucchini, originating in Central and South America where they were cultivating their ancestors, giant pumpkins as early as approximately between 7000 to 5500 BC. Columbus took seeds with him to Europe and Africa, and while the Italians are credited with breeding the courgette, the Britons preferred the larger fruit, the marrow.
  Like the courgette they contain vitamins A, C and K as well as some B-complex vitamins and are potassium and magnesium rich; for further details go to our courgette post.
  They can be baked, boiled or steamed, but can be mushy when boiled. Stuffed marrow are good as they can be stuffed with bolognaise sauce or sausagemeat, whichever you prefer. You can also cut them into rounds and top with grated cheese and bake the slices until they are tender (Gas Mark 5 or 190° C). Older larger marrows tend to be bitter, so try to find smaller ones to bake. Cut into chunks they can be steamed for 10 to 15 minutes until they are tender. You should cut a marrow in half lengthways and scoop out the seeds before filling it. Chilli, cumin seeds thyme and sage all go well with marrow and pep up its taste. Try the recipe below.

1 marrow (about 2 lbs or 1 kilo), halved and seeds removed
500 gr minced beef
2 medium onions chopped
2-3 cloves garlic finely chopped
3 tomatoes peeled and chopped
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 dessertspoon chilli powder
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp dried oregano
oil for frying
a little water

Heat the oil and fry the onions and garlic until the onions are translucent.
Add the meat and stir, cooking until brown, then add the other ingredients and stir well to mix, cooking them for 3 minutes before stuffing this mixture into the marrow halves.
The oven should be heated to Gas Mark 5 or 190° C and you should cover the marrow with aluminium foil or place the two halves on top pf each other and secure in place with string, and cook for about an hour. The marrow should be tender when pierced with a fork.
This has Taste and is a Treat.


These green vegetables are actually a fruit as they are the swollen ovaries of the courgette plant’s flowers. In the UK and France they are called courgettes, while in the States they are zucchini from the Italian zucchino, or Italian squash. In Urdu they are hari tori while the Greeks call them kolokithakia. They are related to the melons and cucumbers and also the other squashes and gourds such as petha or ash gourd and the pumpkin. They were developed by the Italians from the marrow or winter squash which can grow to enormous sizes.
  The flowers are edible and can be stuffed with cream cheese, coated in breadcrumbs and deep-fried, or cooked with the leaves and eaten as a green vegetable.
  The courgette is bland and so was not greatly admired by the French until chefs began to realize that the small fresh young courgettes were actually very tasty. In Britain they were popularized by Elizabeth David who was a keen Mediterranean cookery writer in the 1950s and 60s. She helped to promote the aubergine and courgette in Britain at a time when the middle-classes were beginning to take foreign, and mostly Mediterranean, holidays. While marrows were a popular winter vegetable in Britain, courgettes were not eaten on the whole. Elizabeth David brought moussaka and ratatouille to the attention of British cooks and these soon grew in popularity although the Brits still adhere to their root vegetables, parsnips, carrots and swedes, and turnips to a lesser extent and the brassicas, cabbage and broccoli for example.
  The courgette originated from the giant pumpkin grown in Central and South America which has its origins between 7000 and 5500 BC. Christopher Columbus took the seeds with him to Spain and Africa in the 15th century and since then they have been cultivated in those regions.
  Courgettes contain the precursors of vitamin A as well as vitamins C and K, some of the B-complex vitamins and folate. They are rich in minerals, notably potassium and manganese, but they also contain calcium, copper, magnesium, phosphorous, and iron. They also have amino acids and Omega-3 fatty acid in them. The yellow and orange varieties of courgette are rich in beta-carotene, which is useful in combating cholesterol and reducing the advancement of atherosclerosis.
  Folate is useful for breaking down a dangerous metabolic by-product, homocysteine which is thought to contribute to the risk of heart attacks and strokes when the levels of it are too high in the body.
   Vitamin C and beta-carotene have powerful antioxidant properties and anti-inflammatory action, so are good for sufferers of asthma, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. 
  The juices from courgettes are similar to those found in leeks, pumpkins and radishes such as mooli or daikon radish, which have the ability to prevent cell mutations which may cause the growth of cancerous cells. Courgettes eaten with other phytonutrient rich vegetables may help in the treatment and reduction of Benign Prostate Hypertrophy (BPH) or an enlarged prostate gland which causes both urinary problems and sexual dysfunction according to modern medical research.
  Courgettes continue to evolve today with new varieties being bred, such as the golden and orange as well as round varieties. They can be eaten raw in salads, especially the small tender ones, and are good to include in tuna sandwiches, grated. They are particularly good with pine nuts which have been lightly fried in olive oil, or toasted. You can use them in moussaka instead of aubergines, and there is a recipe for vegetarian moussaka which uses courgettes, aubergines, tomatoes and potatoes. They are good with pasta and fennel too with lots of garlic an olive oil. In Greece and Turkey they are thinly sliced lengthways and fried in olive oil along with aubergine slices treated in the same way, then drained and served with natural yoghurt and topped with fresh coriander leaves or flat-leaved parsley, served as an appetizer. Try the recipe below to give them a different taste.

2 medium-sized courgettes, sliced
¼ pint brown (dark) beer (You can use Guinness if necessary)
200 gr flour
parsley, finely chopped
oil for frying

Mix the flour with a little water and whisk. Add the beer and whisk until the mixture is foaming. Leave to settle and chill for an hour.
Dip the courgette slices in the batter and then fry in hot oil for a few seconds on either side until the batter is crisp and brown.
Drain on absorbent kitchen paper and serve as an appetizer, with drinks or as a side dish. 
Sprinkle with parsley or add the parsley to the batter with the beer.
There have Taste and are a Treat.


These flowers look as though they are faces, clowns faces and their name in Punjabi, buda oulu, means old owl as it is thought that it looks like an owl’s face. In English, it goes by a variety of names, such as Heart’s Ease, Love-in-Idleness and Love-Lies-Bleeding. Viola was a character in Shakespeare’s plays and he refers to the viola in Act 1 Sc.1 of “The Taming of the Shrew” when Lucento says to Tranio,
    “O Tranio, till I found it to be true,
      I never thought it possible or likely;
      But now, while idly I stood looking on,
      I found the effect of love in idleness;”
The wild pansy or viola is native to Europe, North America and temperate zones in Asia. There are more than 500 species of pansies, of which viola is the original. Most garden varieties of pansy have been crossed with Viola tricolor and these are Viola x wittrockiana, notably. The English word pansy comes from the French penser meaning to think, or pensie, a thought or remembrance. The violet is also a member of the pansy family. Its name “Heart’s Ease” seems to come from the idea that loving thoughts bring comfort, or thinking of one’s loved ones is comforting, like this little viola with its clown’s face.
  The viola has been used in traditional medicine on the three continents for centuries, and was used by the ancient Greeks, according to Homer to moderate anger. Pliny wrote that the viola was used by Romans to prevent headaches and dizziness as well as being added to love potions. In Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” it is used in the love potion given to Titania which inspired her somewhat inappropriate love for Bottom the weaver who at the time had an asses head. Oberon asks Puck or Robin Goodfellow, the mischievous imp, to get him the wild pansy and describes it in this way in Act II scec1:
  “Yet mark’d I where the bolt of Cupid fell;
    It fell upon a little western flower,
    Before milk-white, now purple with love’s wound,
    And maidens call it love-in-idleness.
    Fetch me that flower, the herb I shew’d thee once;
    The juice of it on sleeping eye-lids laid
    Will make man or woman madly dote
    Upon the next live creature that it sees.”
  Writing in his Herball in 1597 John Gerard said that the flower could cure infantile convulsions as well as chest and lung problems caused by inflammation and that it was also good for problem skin conditions. Like honeysuckle, violas contain salicylic acid as well as rutin, saponins, flavonoids, and a volatile oil, violine. The rutin and salicylic acid are thought to strengthen capillaries and blood vessels and rutin helps heal broken capillaries and prevents bruising. The salicylic acid and rutin are believed to be anti-inflammatory and useful in ointment for tender, sensitive skin.  The plant is useful for its diuretic properties, and the whole herb can be dried for later use in tisanes. It is thought that it might help in the treatment of arteriosclerosis as it mildly stimulates blood flow around the body. The later English herbalist, Nicholas Culpeper believed that the viola was a useful agent to cure venereal diseases. It has also been used as a mild sedative and to calm nervous complaints such as hysteria. The tisane below can be used as an expectorant and for bronchial problems, and also as a skin wash for eczema, skin irritations, rashes etc. You can also add a litre of it to bath water to soothe the skin.
   Use 3 grams of the dried herb to one cup of boiling water and allow it to steep for 15 minutes before straining and drinking. You can drink this 3 times a day. For a skin lotion you should steep 5-20 grams of the herb in a cup of boiling water and allow to stand for 15 minutes and then straining. Allow to cool and use on irritated skin.
  The viola is a protected wild flower in Britain but you can buy seeds and sow them in the garden or in flower pots. In Pakistan these flowers grow along the roadsides and in the countryside.
   The petals are edible and the flower heads can be crystallized and used as decoration for cakes or whole for salad garnishes and in refreshing summer drinks. They can be used like violets, nasturtiums, the kachnar tree’s flowers, those of the red silk cotton tree (Bombax ceiba), borage and rose petals. Wild pansy flowers are good with ice cream, chilled fruit desserts and cold soups, as well as with natural yoghurt. They contain precursors of vitamins A and C and may be used in syrup with honey for coughs.


Honeysuckle has been known by many names throughout the ages in Britain and was, in Chaucer’s time called Eglantine, which is now the name of the sweet briar rose. It was, by Shakespeare’s time called woodbine (from the Old English wudebinde which referred to all climbing plants with tendrils), although this is also confusing as this was and is also a name given to the convolvulus. The variety that is native to Britain is the Lonicera periclymenum while the Lonicera caprifolium (goat’s leaf) is native to the Mediterranean and is sometimes referred to as Italian honeysuckle. Chaucer’s prioress in his “Canterbury Tales” was called Madame Eglantine (an unlikely name for a nun) and in Shakespeare woodbine is mentioned both in “Twelfth Night” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
  In “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” the mischievous imp Puck says this:
   “I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
    Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows
    Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine
    With sweet musk-rose and with eglantine
    Where sleeps Titania sometime of the night,
     Lull’d in these flowers with dances and delight.”
Clearly Titania only slept for a little while in her bower as the scents of the violet, musk-rose, eglantine, woodbine and thyme would have combined to make her feel in a party mood, as they have strong heady scents. They weren’t reputed to have aphrodisiac effects but they would have been mood enhancers. In the Bach flower remedies, honeysuckle is for grief and to bring people back to a happier present.
   In “Twelfth Night” Act 3 scene 1 Ursula says that Beatrice “Is couched in the woodbine coverture,” meaning that she was wrapped in sweetness from the blossoms.
  Honeysuckle can be dried and used in pot-pourri along with dried rose petals, lavender and other flowers such as marigolds. It was believed that if you wore honeysuckle or had it under your pillow at night you would dream of your one true love, and it is often an ingredient of herbal sleep pillows today. There are other superstitions regarding the flower, and they are lucky. Having the plant growing around your door means that witches cannot enter your house and its presence in a garden prevents evil from lurking there. If you pick the flowers and take them into the house they will bring money with them. However in Victorian Britain, girls from middle class families were told not to bring the flowers into the house as the perfume might cause dreams which were not thought chaste or appropriate.
  In the Mediterranean area the honeysuckle is often a night-flowering one which is pollinated by the hawk moth, and grows along with jasmine, one blooming during the day and the other at night, or perhaps both being night flowering varieties. Walking past them when they are flowering, one gets an amazingly sensuous smell, certainly a mood enhancing one.
  Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) named the honeysuckles Lonicera after a botanist Adam Loncier (1528-1586). There are many varieties, which grow around the world, including in the Himalayas and south Asia.
  The physician and herbalist, John Gerard had honeysuckle in his garden and says the honeysuckle is “neither cold, nor binding, but hot and attenuating, or making thin” then he goes on to quote Dioscorides who wrote his Materia Medica in the first century AD,
  “The ripe seed gathered and dried in the shadow and drunk for four days together, doth waste and consume the hardness of the spleen and removeth wearisomeness, helpeth the shortness and difficulty of breathing, curing the hicket (hiccups) and so on. A syrup made of the flowers is good to be drunk against diseases of the lungs and spleen.”
 He also says that it is good for sores in the digestive tract. It has been used as an expectorant and a laxative and the flowers in syrup were given for bronchial diseases and asthma. A decoction of the leaves was given for the liver and spleen and they were also thought to be useful in gargles, although Culpeper disagreed. He said that if you chewed the leaves they would cause, not cure a sore mouth or throat. He considered the honeysuckle to have “cleansing, consuming and digesting” qualities and so it was, he thought “in no way fit for inflammation.” He agreed that it was good for the lungs and says
  “It is fitting a conserve made of flowers should be kept in every gentlewoman’s house; I know of no better cure for asthma than this besides it takes away the evil of the spleen: provokes urine, procures speedy delivery of women in travail (child birth), relieves cramps, convulsions and palsies and whatsoever griefs come of cold or obstructed perspiration.”
  He also says that is good in ointment for skin problems including any discolouration, sunburn and freckles.
  Pliny recommended that honeysuckle flowers should be boiled in wine for the spleen, so perhaps they are good for this purpose. If you take a few handfuls of the flowers and pour a pint of boiling water over them, you can use this for coughs and colds and for headaches. The leaves and flowers contain salicylic acid the precursor of aspirin which makes them good for pain relief.
  The red berries of the honeysuckle are toxic and should not be eaten, but the flower heads make a good garnish for desserts and cakes, and can be made into a conserve with sugar. You should eat the petals only, though not the whole flower head.
  Honeysuckle is related to the Viburnums and Sambucus plants which includes the elderberry tree (Sambucus nigra). It is the decoction of the leaves which was considered good for the spleen and liver, made by boiling leaves in water; the seeds have diuretic qualities too, but are not as effective as the flowers and leaves.
  In the language of flowers honeysuckle symbolizes fidelity and affection and the twining qualities of the plant represent the unity of a couple. You can make honeysuckle wine from the flower heads, but I have been unable to track down a reliable recipe as yet.


Salad burnet is not as popular as it used to be, but it can be found growing wild in Europe and western Asia as it originates in the Northern Temperate Zones. It is distinguishable because its flowers don’t have petals. The Greater burnet is the one most commonly used in medicinal treatments, but the smaller, salad burnet is useful as an astringent and coolant. It’s a member of the rose family of plants as is the peach tree and the apricot.
  You can add the tender young leaves to salads or use it in soups and sauces along with dill, oregano and basil. Older leaves are bitter–tasting but the young ones taste of cucumber, which is why they are used to flavour drinks (try the one below). Salad burnet is also one of the French fines herbes along with others such as tarragon and rosemary. It is sweet-smelling and Francis Bacon remarked that it should be grown in pathways along with thyme and water mint “to perfume the air most delightfully, being trodden on and crushed.”
  Gerard writing in his Herball of the 16th century says that “It gives a grace in the drynkynge” which is a reference to the way it was commonly used both in the Renaissance and in Pliny’s time in ancient Rome. It was steeped in wine sometimes with other herbs to make it more refreshing. One of its Latin names Poterium means “drinking cup” reflecting this use. Sanguiscorba means absorbing blood, and warriors would drink this herb in wine before going into battle in the hope that their wounds would be lessened by its effects.
  Gerard also says of salad burnet:-
   It gives “a speciall helpe to defend the hart from noysome vapours and from the infection of the Plague or Pestilence and all other contagious diseases for which purpose it is of great effect, the juice thereof being taken in some drink.”
  He continues “ It is a capital wound herb for all sorts of wounds, both of the head and body, either inward or outward either in juice or decoction of the herb, or by the powder of the herb or root, or water of the distilled herb, or made into an ointment by itself or with other things to be kept.”
  The whole herb is best harvested in July and hung in an airy, sunny room to dry in small bundles so that the air can pass through it. An infusion of the whole herb can help in fevers to promote sweating, and can be used on wounds. It used to be recommended to those suffering from gout and rheumatism. It contains the bioflavonoids, quercetin and kaempferol and vanillic, caffeic and gallic acid along with tannins and saponisides. It also contains vitamins C, A and some of the B-complex ones, along with the minerals iron and potassium.
  You can make a tisane with the whole herb by chopping up a plant and pouring 2 pints of boiling water over it and allowing it to steep for 15 mins. The tisane is good for fevers and for diarrhoea and upset stomachs. It can also be used on the skin to clean wounds.
  Try this cooling drink recipe in summer using salad burnet.

1 bottle sweet white wine
500 ml sherry
6-8 sprigs of salad burnet (young tender shoots and leaves)
1 lemon sliced
1 litre soda water
crushed ice

Mix the white wine and sherry in a jug and add the salad burnet and lemon slices.
Chill for an hour or two and when ready to serve add the soda water and pour into glasses over crushed ice.
This has Taste and is a Treat.


This is a truly spectacular tree seen in spring when the branches are bare of leaves but full of waxy red flowers, the young buds of which, like those of the kachnar tree are edible. There is a tree near our house which has an eagle’s nest perched safely in a fork of the tree and it can be clearly seen as there are, as yet no leaves. It is one of the tallest trees on the Indian subcontinent and is used in traditional medicine for a plethora of purposes, including as an aphrodisiac.
  It is also known as the Indian Kapok tree as it has fine silky kapok like fibres growing around its seeds. These are said to be inferior to kapok, which comes from Ceiba pentandra but nonetheless are used for stuffing and to put on burns to prevent blistering and help prevent scarring. The name Bombax means silk worm and malabarica = from Malabar. The tree is a member of the Bombacaceae family of plants, so is related to the durian and the baobab tree..
  The tree also yields a gum which is sometimes used as a substitute for gum tragacanth and which is used in bookbinding, cosmetics and to thicken ice cream and medicine. It is said to be an aphrodisiac when taken with gur and cow’s milk. The gum is known as Mochras in India. It is said to have astringent properties and be good for diarrhea and dysentery, for female problems including irregular periods, to ease the pain of piles and to purify the blood among other remedies.
  The young one or two year old roots are thought to be useful as a sex tonic and aphrodisiac. They are called Semul (the local name of the tree) Musli and like other Muslis such as Safed Musli, they are used to stimulate the male libido. In some area the local healers or hakims prefer to gather the roots on Mondays, but why this should be so is not apparent. In traditional medicine in Myanmar the roots are given to cure impotency and to increase the sperm count. The bark of the tree is thought (in Myanmar) to help in cases of heart disease and spermatorrhoea. In India the bark is given with gur and milk for the same purposes.
  The flowers are given with honey to stop internal bleeding, and are fried as a vegetable in ghee. Flowers are boiled slowly overnight and given with mustard seeds to reduce the size of enlarged spleens. The juice of the fresh bark is supposed to stop diarrhoea. The fruit, which can be seen under the flower, is also used as an aphrodisiac, and as an expectorant. The bark is also used for wound healing, and can be made into a paste for skin problems, with the leaves also used for these. The flowers are also said to be good for the skin and complexion, and for piles. Young fruit is used for chronic inflammation associated with arthritis and rheumatism, and for bladder and kidney problems as well as to treat gonorrhea and chronic cystitis.
  The wood of the tree is used to make matchsticks, coffins and crates and is useful in water, so well-linings and dugout canoes are made from the tree. The bark is used in rope-making.
  Modern medical research has shown that extracts from the stem of the tree contain lupeol which has antiangiogenic¹ properties in vitro, and it also has potent hypotensive activity, so can be extremely useful. However the research is still in its early stages. It also contains the flavanol shamimicin which is also under investigation.
Antiangogenic agents inhibit the growth of new blood cells. Such growths play crucial roles in many diseases including some that cause blindness arthritis and cancer. They are found naturally in certain plants and can be manufactured in labs.