The Garden Guide

Book: History of Garden Design and Gardening
Chapter: Chapter 1: Gardening in the Ancient World

Historic culinary plants

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40.The culture of fruits and culinary plants must have been preceded by a considerable degree of civilisation. Moses gave some useful directions to his people on the culture of the vine and the olive. For the first three years, they are not to be allowed to ripen any fruit; the produce of the fourth year is for the Lord or his priests; and it is not till the fifth year that it may be eaten by the planter. This must have contributed materially to the strength of the plants, and their establishment in the soil. The fruit trees in the gardens of Alcinous were planted in quincunx; there were hedges for shelter and security, and the pot-herbs and flowers were planted in beds; and the whole was so contrived as to be irrigated. Melons in Persia were manured with pigeons' dung, as they are to this day in that country. After being sown, the melon tribe produce a bulk of food sooner than any other plant; hence the value of this plant in seasons of scarcity. The bulbs of the Ornithogalum umbellatum, the common name of which in Persia is doves' dung, appear to have been cultivated for food; as we read in holy writ, that during the famine in Samaria (2 Kings, vi. 25.), a cab, not quite three pints of corn measure, cost five pieces of silver.