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While upon this subject, it will be as well, too, to speak of the leek,1 on account of the affinity which it bears to the plants just mentioned, and more particularly because cut-leek has recently acquired considerable celebrity from the use made of it by the Emperor Nero. That prince, to improve his voice,2 used to eat leeks and oil every month, upon stated days, abstaining from every other kind of food, and not touching so much as a morsel of bread even. Leeks are reproduced from seed, sown just after the autumnal equinox; if they are intended for cutting,3 the seed is sown thicker than otherwise. The leeks in the same bed are cut repeatedly, till it is quite exhausted, and they are always kept well manured. If they are wanted to bulb before being cut, when they have grown to some size they are transplanted to another bed, the extremities of the leaves being snipped off without touching the white part, and the heads stripped of the outer coats. The ancients were in the habit of placing a stone or potsherd upon the leek, to make the head grow all the larger, and the same with the bulbs as well; but at the present day it is the usual practice to move the fibrous roots gently with the weeding-hook, so that by being bent they may nourish the plant, and not withdraw the juices from it.

It is a remarkable fact, that, though the leek stands in need of manure and a rich soil, it has a particular aversion to water; and yet its nature depends very much upon the natural properties of the soil. The most esteemed leeks are those grown in Egypt, and next to them those of Ostia and Aricia.4 Of the leek for cutting, there are two varieties: that with grass-green5 leaves and incisions distinctly traced on them, and the leek with paler and rounder leaves, the incisions being more lightly marked. There is a story told, that Mela6, a member of the Equestrian order, being accused of mal-administration by order of the Emperor Tiberius, swallowed in his despair leek-juice to the amount of three denarii in weight of silver, and expired upon the spot without the slightest symptom of pain. It is said, however, that a larger dose than this is productive of no injurious effects whatever7.

1 The Allium porrum of Linnæus.

2 This prejudice in favour of the leek, as Fée remarks, still exists. It is doubtful, however, whether its mucilage has any beneficial effect upon the voice. See B. xx. c. 21.

3 Fée says, that it is a practice with many gardeners, more harmful than beneficial, to cut the leaves of the leek as it grows, their object being to increase the size of the stalk.

4 Martial, B. xiii. Epig. 19, mentions the leeks of Aricia.

5 Fée thinks that this may be the wild leek, which is commonly found as a weed in Spain.

6 M. Annæus Mela, the brother of L. Seneca the philosopher, and the father of the poet Lucan.

7 Though Pliny would seem inclined, as Fée says, to credit this story, the juice of the leek is in reality quite harmless.

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