Page images
[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]
[blocks in formation]

Cucurbita citrullus.

(Arab. Bateekh.)


The flowers used for dyeing: the seeds giving an
oil. Sown middle of November; seeds ripen in
5 months.

Cultivated for oil. Sown in middle of November;
seeds ripen in 5 months.

Sown middle of November; plucked in 110 days.

Yields an oil. Sown middle of November; cut in 110 days.

Sown middle of December; cut in 4 months.

Sown end of November; seeds ripen in April. The
Arabic name signifies father (of) sleep.
Sown middle of December; cut in 90 days.

Cucumis sativus. (Kheár) &c. Cut in 60 days.

Holcus Sorghum.

(Arab. Doora Sayfee.)

Independent of the crop raised by the Shadoof, and that during the inundation; sown middle of November; ripens in 5 months.

All these, the ordinary productions of modern Egypt, appear to have been known and cultivated in old times: and according to Dioscorides, from the Helbel, or Trigonella, was made the ointment, called by Athenæus 'Telinon.' The Carthamus tinctorius and the pea are now proved, by the discovery of their seeds in a tomb at Thebes, to have been ancient Egyptian plants; the coleseed appears also to have been an indigenous production; and hemp is supposed to have been used of old for its intoxicating qualities.

The Carthamus was not only cultivated for the dye its flower produced, but for the oil extracted from its seeds. The ancient, as well as the modern Egyptians, also obtained oil from other plants, as the olive, simsim or sesamum, the cici or castor-berry tree, lettuce, flax, and selgam or coleseed. This last, the Brassica oleifera of Linnæus, appears to be the Egyptian raphanus mentioned by Pliny, as "celebrated for the abundance of its oil," unless he alludes to the seemga, or Raphanus oleifer of Linnæus, which is now only grown in Nubia and the vicinity of the first cataract. The seeds of the simsim also afforded an excellent oil, and they were probably used, as at the present day, in making a peculiar kind of cake, called by the Arabs Koosbeh, which is the name it bears when the oil has been previously extracted. When only bruised in the mill, and still containing the oil, it is called Taheéneh; and the unbruised seeds are strewed upon cakes, or give their name and flavour to a coarse conserve called Haloweh simsemeéh. The oil of simsim (called seerig) is considered the best lamp oil of the country; it is also used for cooking, but is reckoned inferior in flavour to that of the lettuce.

The castor-berry tree is called by Herodotus Sillicyprion, and the oil kiki (cici), which he says is not inferior to that of the olive for lamps, though it has the disadvantage of a strong unpleasant smell. Pliny calls the tree cici, which, he adds, “grows abundantly in Egypt, and has also the names of croton, trixis, tree sesamum, and ricinus ;" and he records his very natural dislike of castor-oil. The mode he mentions of extracting the oil by putting the seeds into water over a fire, and skimming the

surface, is the manner now adopted in Egypt; though he says the ancient Egyptians merely pressed them after sprinkling them with salt. The press, indeed, is employed for this purpose at the present day, when the oil is only wanted for lamps; but by the other method it is more pure, and the coarser qualities not being extracted, it is better suited for medicinal purposes. Strabo says, "Almost all the natives of Egypt used its oil for lamps, and workmen, as well as all the poorer classes, both men and women, anointed themselves with it," giving it the same name, kiki, as Pliny, which he does not confine, like Herodotus, to the ol: and of all those by which it was formerly known in Egypt or Greece, no one is retained by the modern Egyptians. It grows in every part of Upper and Lower Egypt; but the oil is now little used, in consequence of the extensive culture of the lettuce, the coleseed, the olive, the carthamus, and the simsim, which afford a better quality for burning: it is, therefore, seldom employed except for the purpose of adulterating the lettuce and other oils; and the Ricinus, though a common plant, is rarely cultivated in any part of the country.

"The cnicon, a plant unknown in Italy, according to Pliny, was sown in Egypt for the sake of the oil its seeds afforded;" the chorticon, urtica, and amaracus were cultivated for the same purpose, and the cypros, "a tree resembling the ziziphus in its foliage, with seeds like the coriander, was noted in Egypt, particularly on the Canopic branch of the Nile, for the excellence of its oil." Egypt was also famed for its "oil of bitter almonds ;" and many other vegetable productions were encouraged for the sake of their oil, for making ointments, or for medicinal purposes.

In the length of time each crop took to come to maturity, and the exact period when the seed was put into the ground, much depended on the duration of the inundation, the state of the soil, and other circumstances; and in the two accompanying tables I have been guided by observations made on the crops of modern Egypt, which, as may be supposed, differ in few or no particulars from those of former days; the causes that influence them being permanent and unvarying.

[ocr errors][merged small]
[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]
[blocks in formation]

Sown in beginning or end of April; cut at rise of Nile
in 100 days. Its seed sown as Byoód.

Sown middle of August; cut in 4 months; but its seed,
no longer prolific, is all used for bread.

Sown when the Nile is at its height, in middle of
August, and banked up from the inundation: ripens
in 120 days.

Only in Nubia and the Oases: sown at same time as the

Planted in March and summer. In good soil some is
gathered the 5th month.

Gives an oil. Ripens in about 100 days. Sown 10
days after the Doora Byoód. See above, p. 23.
Sown in April: the first crop in 70 days; second in 40;
third in 30; fourth in 25, in the first year: it is then
left without water all the winter, and watered again
in March. Then the first crop is cut after 40 days;
second in 30; third in 30; and the same in the third
year. After three years it is renewed from seed.
The first year's crop is the best.

Used for the dye of its leaves.

During the rise of the Nile, and in March, on the sandbanks of the river.

Sown in August.

Mostly in gardens. Gathered in 50 or 60 days, in
September and October. Many other vegetables raised
at different seasons, by artificial irrigation.

In the foregoing table are enumerated the chief productions sown the half year before, or during the inundation. They may be called the plants of the summer season; which succeeding the other crops, either immediately or after a short interval, are produced solely by artificial irrigation. But the use of the shadoof is not confined to the productions of summer; it is required for some in spring, and frequently throughout the winter, as well as in autumn, if the inundation be deficient; and the same system was, of course, adopted by the ancient Egyptians.

Having, in the preceding tables, shown the seasons when the principal productions of Egypt were raised, I proceed to mention those which appear from good authority to have been grown by the ancient Egyptians. Wheat, barley, doora, peas, beans, lentils, hommos, gilbán? (Lathyrus sativus), carthamus, lupins, bamia (Hibiscus esculentus), figl (Raphanus sativus, var. edulis), simsim, indigo, sinapis or mustard, origanum, succory, flax, cotton, cassia senna, colocinth, cummin, coriander, several Cucurbitæ, "cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, garlic," lotus, nelumbium, cyperus esculentus, papyrus, and other Cyperi, are proved to have been cultivated by them: and the learned Kircher mentions many productions of the country, principally on the authority of Apuleius, and early Arab writers. But the greater part of these last are wild plants: and, indeed, if all the indigenous productions of Egypt (which unquestionably grew there in ancient as well as modern times) were enumerated, a large catalogue might be collected, those of the desert alone amounting to nearly 250 species. For though the Egyptian Herbarium is limited to about 1300, the indigenous plants constitute a large proportion of that number, and few countries have a smaller quantity introduced from abroad than Egypt, which, except in a few instances, has remained contented with the herbs and trees of its own soil; and the plants of the desert may be considered altogether indigenous, without, I believe, one single exception.

The following is a brief enumeration of those mentioned by Pliny, together with the most striking characteristics or properties he ascribes to them. I have arranged them in the order in which they are given by the naturalist, not according to their botanical classification, some being unknown.

« PreviousContinue »