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CHAP. 34. (13.)—THE RAPE.

The Latin writers have only treated of this plant in a cursory manner, while those of Greece have considered it a little more attentively; though even they have ranked it among the garden plants. If, however, a methodical arrangement is to be strictly observed, it should be spoken of immediately after corn, or the bean, at all events; for next to these two produc- tions, there is no plant that is of more extensive use. For, in the first place, all animals will feed upon it as it grows; and it is far from being the least nutritious plant in the fields for various kinds of birds, when boiled in water more particularly. Cattle, too, are remarkably fond of the leaves of rape; and the stalks and leaves, when in season, are no less esteemed as a food for man than the sprouts of the cabbage;1 these, too, when turned yellow and left to die in the barn, are even more highly esteemed than2 when green. As to the rape itself, it will keep all the better if left in its mould, aftær which it should be dried in the open air till the next crop is nearly ripe, as a resource in case of scarcity. Next to those of the grape and corn, this is the most profitable harvest of all for the countries that lie beyond the Padus. The rape is by no means difficult to please in soil, for it will grow almost anywhere, indeed where nothing else can be sown. It readily derives nutriment from fogs and hoar-frosts, and grows to a marvellous size; I have seen them weighing upwards of forty pounds.3 It is prepared for table among us in several ways, and is made to keep till the next crop, its Fermentation4 being prevented by preserving it in mustard. It is also tinted with no less than six colours in addition to its own, and with purple even; in- deed, that which is used by us as food ought to bæ of no other colour.5

The Greeks have distinguished two principal species of rape, the male and the female,6 and have discovered a method of obtaining them both from the same seed; for when it is sown thick, or in a hard, cloggy soil, the produce will be male. The smaller the seed the better it is in quality. There are three kinds of rape in all; the first is broad and flat, the second of a spherical shape, and tile third, to which the name of "wild" rape7 has been given, throws out a long root, similar in appearance to a radish, with an angular, rough leaf, and an acrid juice, which, if extracted about harvest, and mixed with a woman's milk, is good for cleansing the eves and improving defective sight. The colder the weather the sweeter they are, and the larger, it is generally thought; heat makes them run to leaf. The finest rape of all is that grown in the district of Nurslia: it is valued at as much as one sesterce8 per pound, and, in times of scarcity, two even. That of the next best quality is produced on Mount Algidus.

1 The Napo-brassica of Linnæus. Thæ turnip cabbage, or rapecolewort.

2 This taste, it is most probable, is nowhere in existence at the present day.

3 This is not by any means an exaggeration.

4 Acrimonia.

5 These coloured varieties, Fée says, belong rather to the Brassica oleraeca, than to the Brassica rapa. It is not improbable, from the struc- ture of this passage, that Pliny means to say that the colours are artifici- ally produced.

6 In reality, belonging to the Crucifera, the rape is hermaphroditical.

7 Wild horse-radish, which is divided into two varieties, the Rapha- nus raphanistrum of Linnæus, and the Cochleara Armoracia, may possibly be meant, but their roots bear no resemblance to the radish.

8 An enormous price, apparently.

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