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Herbs & Plants (Spices)

Zanthoxylum bungeanum

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Botanical Name : Zanthoxylum bungeanum
Family: Rutaceae
Subfamily: Rutoideae
Genus: Zanthoxylum
Species: Zanthoxylum bungeanum

Common Names: Szechuan Peppercorn

Habitat:Zanthoxylum bungeanum is native to E. Asia – China. It grows on waysides and thickets to 2000 metres in W. China.

Description:
Zanthoxylum bungeanum is a deciduous Shrub growing to 6 m (19ft 8in). The flowers are dioecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but only one sex is to be found on any one plant so both male and female plants must be grown if seed is required)The plant is not self-fertile.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.

CLICK & SEE THE PICTURES

It is not a true peppercorn, but rather the dried berry/seed of a deciduous prickly ash tree. The 3-4 mm berry has a rough reddish brown shell that is split open and a black seed inside. The black seed is bitter and can be discarded. The red shell can be added whole to stewed dishes or ground to a powder and used a seasoning. The spice has a unique aroma and flavor that is not as pungent as black pepper and has slight lemony overtones.
Szechuan peppercorns are one of the five spices in Chinese five-spice powder. Called sansho in Japan, they are used in the spice mixture shichimi togarashi, or Japanese seven-spice seasoning.
Cultivation:
It is said to be often cultivated for its edible fruit, especially in hot dry river valleys in China. There is some doubt over the correct name for this species, it might be no more than a synonym of Z. simulans. The following notes are based on the general needs of the genus. Prefers a good deep well-drained moisture retentive soil in full sun or semi-shade. Dioecious. Male and female plants must be grown if seed is required. Flowers are formed on the old wood.

Propagation:
Seed – best sown in a greenhouse as soon as it is ripe in the autumn. Stored seed may requires up to 3 months cold stratification, though scarification may also help. Sow stored seed in a cold frame as early in the year as possible. Germination should take place in late spring, though it might take another 12 months. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in a cold frame for their first winter. Plant them out in early summer. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, July/August in a frame. Root cuttings, 3cm long, planted horizontally in pots in a greenhouse. Good percentage. Suckers, removed in late winter and planted into their permanent positions.
Edible Uses:
Seed – used as a condiment, a pepper substitute. Highly prized. The fruit is rather small but is produced in clusters which makes harvesting easy. Each fruit contains a single seed.
Medicinal Uses:

Anaesthetic; Anthelmintic; Aromatic; Astringent; Carminative; Diaphoretic; Diuretic; Emmenagogue; Stimulant; Vasodilator; Vermifuge.

The fruit is anaesthetic, anthelmintic, aromatic, astringent, carminative, diuretic, emmenagogue, stimulant, sudorific, vasodilator and vermifuge. It is pulverised then mixed with water for internal application in the treatment of chills and pains in the abdomen, vomiting, cold-damp diarrhoea and dysentery, ascariasis-caused abdominal pain and moist sores on the skin. The pericarp is anaesthetic, anthelmintic, antibacterial and antifungal. It is effective against the pork tapeworm, Taenia solium, and is also used in the treatment of gastralgia, dyspepsia, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, ascariasis and dermal diseases. The pericarp contains geraniol. This lowers the blood pressure, is mildly diuretic in small doses but in large doses inhibits the excretion of urine, and also increases peristalsis of the abdomen at low doses though inhibits it at large doses

Known Hazards : The plant is toxic. No more details.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
https://species.wikimedia.org/wiki/Zanthoxylum_bungeanum
http://florawww.eeb.uconn.edu/198501352.html
http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Zanthoxylum+bungeanum

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Herbs & Plants

Sichuan pepper

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Botanical Name ; Sichuan pepper
Family  :  Rutaceae
Subfamily: Rutoideae
Gender : Zanthoxylum
Species : Z. piperitum
Kingdom :Plantae
Subkingdom :Tracheobionta, Vascular plants
Superdivision :Spermatophyta, Seed plants
Division : Magnoliophyta,Flower plants
Class :Magnoliopsida, Dicotyledons
Subclass: Rosidae
Order: Sapindales

Synonyms:  Zanthoxylum piperitum,  Zanthoxylum acanthophyllum, Zanthoxylum argyi, Zanthoxylum podocarpum

Common Names:
English: Sichuan pepper, Szechwan pepper or Szechuan pepper, Japanese pepper
Spanish: pimienta de Sichuán, pimienta de Sechuán, Fagara, pimienta anís, pimienta marrón, pimienta china, pimienta de Japón, Sansho, pimentero japonés (arbusto, bonsai).
Catalan: pebre japonès, pebre de Japó, pebre de Szechuan.
French: Poivrier du Japon, poivre chinois.
Italian: Pepe di Sichuan.
German: Japanischer Pfeffer, Anispfeffer, Chinesischer Pfeffer, Szechuanpfeffer.
Japanese: san-shô, shichimi.

Habitat:Sichuan pepper is native to Asia (mainly Caina)It grows in sun or partial shade. It prefers moist soils or heavy clay soils, well drained. Frost resistant up to -15 ° C.

Description:
Sichuan pepper is a deciduous shrub that grows 2 feet high by about 1 meter wide.Stem with rough colored bark, branched and covered with spines.
The leaves are pinnate, with an odd number of leaflets oval opposite (5 to 19), alternate and dark green. In fall, the leaves becom yellow stained.
CLICK & SEE THE PICTURES
It flowers from April to June in the northern hemisphere. The Japanese pepper tree is a dioecious species, that’s to say, it has male plants and female plants. The variety to provide fruits must have both sexes.

The flowers are yellowish green, small and aromatic, fruity . They are formed on old wood, in the axils of the new branches.

The fruit is a capsule-sized sessile like peppercorns (3 to 5 mm in diameter), which grow in groups of 4 in the stem end, but only 1 or 2 fruits fail to develop.
CLICK & SEE
The capsules or fruit are reddish-brown.they have many bumps in the bark. They contain a liquid inside responsible for the characteristic pungent spiciness of this plant.

The interior has a black seed, shiny. It is customary that some fruits are empty inside.
Cultivation:
Easily grown in loamy soils in most positions, but prefers a good deep well-drained moisture retentive soil in full sun or semi-shade. A plant has been growing well for many years in deep woodland shade at Cambridge Botanical gardens, it was fruiting heavily in autumn 1996. Cultivated for its seed, which is used as a condiment in China. Flowers are formed on the old wood. The bruised leaves are strongly aromatic. Dioecious. Male and female plants must be grown if seed is required. Special Features:Inconspicuous flowers or blooms, Blooms appear periodically throughout the year.
Propagation:
Seed – best sown in a greenhouse as soon as it is ripe in the autumn. Stored seed may requires up to 3 months cold stratification, though scarification may also help. Sow stored seed in a cold frame as early in the year as possible. Germination should take place in late spring, though it might take another 12 months. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in a cold frame for their first winter. Plant them out in early summer. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, July/August in a frame. Root cuttings, 3cm long, planted horizontally in pots in a greenhouse. Good percentage. Suckers, removed in late winter and planted into their permanent positions.

Edible Uses:
The plant (fruit) is used as a spice . Its leaves are also edible.

Sichuan pepper’s unique aroma and flavour is not hot or pungent like black, white, or chili peppers. Instead, it has slight lemony overtones and creates a tingly numbness in the mouth (caused by its 3% of hydroxy alpha sanshool) that sets the stage for hot spices. According to Harold McGee in On Food and Cooking, they are not simply pungent; “they produce a strange, tingling, buzzing, numbing sensation that is something like the effect of carbonated drinks or of a mild electrical current (touching the terminals of a nine-volt battery to the tongue). Sanshools appear to act on several different kinds of nerve endings at once, induce sensitivity to touch and cold in nerves that are ordinarily nonsensitive, and so perhaps cause a kind of general neurological confusion.”

Recipes often suggest lightly toasting the tiny seed pods, then crushing them before adding them to food. Only the husks are used; the shiny black seeds are discarded or ignored as they have a very gritty sand-like texture. The spice is generally added at the last moment. Star anise and ginger are often used with it in spicy Sichuan cuisine. It has an alkaline pH and a numbing effect on the lips when eaten in larger doses. Ma la (Chinese: ??; pinyin: málà; literally “numbing and spicy”), common in Sichuan cooking, is a combination of Sichuan pepper and chili pepper, and it is a key ingredient in má là hot pot, the Sichuan version of the traditional Chinese dish. It is also a common flavouring in Sichuan baked goods such as sweetened cakes and biscuits.

Sichuan pepper is also available as an oil. In this form, it is best used in stir-fry noodle dishes without hot spices. The recipe may include ginger oil and brown sugar cooked with a base of noodles and vegetables, then rice vinegar and Sichuan pepper oil are added after cooking.

Hua jiao yan is a mixture of salt and Sichuan pepper, toasted and browned in a wok and served as a condiment to accompany chicken, duck, and pork dishes. The peppercorns can also be lightly fried to make a spicy oil with various uses.

In Indonesian Batak cuisine, andaliman (a relative of Sichuan pepper) is ground and mixed with chilies and seasonings into a green sambal tinombur or chili paste, to accompany grilled pork, carp, and other regional specialties. Arsik, a Batak dish from the Tapanuli region, uses andaliman as spice.

Sichuan pepper is one of the few spices important for Nepali (Gurkha), Tibetan and Bhutanese cookery of the Himalayas, because few spices can be grown there. One Himalayan specialty is the momo, a dumpling stuffed with vegetables, cottage cheese or minced yak meat, water buffalo meat, or pork and flavoured with Sichuan pepper, garlic, ginger, and onion, served with tomato and Sichuan pepper-based gravy. Nepalese-style noodles are steamed and served dry, together with a fiery Sichuan pepper sauce.

In Korean cuisine, two species are used: Z. piperitum and Z. schinifolium.

Medicinal uses:
Native North Americans use the ground bark of Szechuan plant as a remedy for toothache.
Like in anise, these peppercorns too found application in traditional medicines as stomachic, anti-septic, anti-spasmodic, carminative, digestive, expectorant, stimulant and tonic. It is used in the treatment of gastralgia and dyspepsia due to cold with vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, ascariasis and dermal diseases. It has a local anaesthetic action and is parasiticide against the pork tapeworm (Taenia solium). The pericarp contains geraniol. In small doses this has a mild diuretic action, though large doses will inhibit the excretion of urine. There is a persistent increase in peristalsis at low concentration, but inhibition at high concentration. The leaves are carminative, stimulant and sudorific. The fruit is carminative, diuretic, stimulant, stomachic and tonic. The seed is antiphlogistic and diuretic. A decoction of the root is digestive and also used in the treatment of snakebites. The resin contained in the bark, and especially in that of the roots, is powerfully stimulant and tonic.

Other Uses: Landscape Uses:Border, Massing

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sichuan_pepper
http://www.botanical-online.com/english/pepper_zanthoxylum_piperitum.htm
http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/sichuan-peppercorns.htm

http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Zanthoxylum+simulans

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Herbs & Plants

Illicuim verum

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Botanical Name : Illicuim verum
Family: Schisandraceae
Genus: Illicium
Species: I. verum
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Austrobaileyales

Synonyms: Chinese Anise. Aniseed Stars. Badiana.

Common Name :Star anise, Star aniseed, or Chinese star anise

Habitat : Illicuim verum is  native evergreen tree of northeast Vietnam and southwest China.It grows on light woodland and thickets. Forests at elevations of 200 – 1600 metres in S and W Guangxi Province, China.

Description:
Illicium verum is an evergreen Tree growing to 5 m (16ft) by 3 m (9ft).
It is hardy to zone (UK) 8 and is frost tender. It is in leaf 12-Jan It is in flower from Mar to May, and the seeds ripen in October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs.  CLICK & SEE THE PICTURES:

Cultivation:
Prefers a light, moist well-drained loam and a sheltered position Prefers a humus-rich lime-free soil. Succeeds in sun or semi-shade[200]. This species is not very cold-hardy, it tolerates temperatures down to between -5 and -10°c and requires a very sheltered position or the protection of a wall when grown in Britain. Chinese anise is extensively cultivated in China for its fruit and medicinal essential oil. It is planted in the grounds of temples in Japan, and also on tombs. Plants seldom grow larger than about 3 metres in Britain, but eventually reach about 18 metres tall in their native habitat.

Propagation:
Seed – it does not require pre-treatment and can be sown in early spring in a greenhouse. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant out in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts, and give some protection from the cold over the winter for the first year or two. Layering in early spring. Takes 18 months. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, August in a frame. Pot up the cuttings when they start to root and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter, planting out after the last expected frosts.

Edible Uses:
The fruit is used as a flavouring in curries, teas and pickles. It is an ingredient of ‘five spice powder’, used in Chinese and Vietnamese cuisine. The fruit is also chewed after meals in order to sweeten the breath. Caution is advised because it is said to be poisonous in quantity. The essential oil is used to flavour liqueurs, soft drinks and bakery products.Star anise is an ingredient of the traditional five-spice powder of Chinese cooking. It is also a major ingredient in the making of ph?, a Vietnamese noodle soup. It is widely used in Chinese cuisine, and in Indian cuisine where it is a major component of garam masala, and in Malay and Indonesian cuisines. It is widely grown for commercial use in China, India, and most other countries in Asia.

Star anise contains anethole, the same ingredient that gives the unrelated anise its flavor. Recently, star anise has come into use in the West as a less expensive substitute for anise in baking as well as in liquor production, most distinctively in the production of the liquor Galliano. It is also used in the production of sambuca, pastis, and many types of absinthe. Star anise enhances the flavour of meat. It is used as a spice in preparation of biryani and masala chai all over the Indian subcontinent.

Medicinal uses:
Star anise has been used in a tea as a traditional remedy for rheumatism, and the seeds are sometimes chewed after meals to aid digestion.[citation needed] As a warm and moving herb, star anise is used to assist in relieving cold-stagnation in the middle jiao, according to traditional Chinese medicine.

Star anise is the major source of the chemical compound shikimic acid, a primary precursor in the pharmaceutical synthesis of anti-influenza drug oseltamivir (Tamiflu). Shikimic acid is produced by most autotrophic organisms, and whilst it can be obtained in commercial quantities from elsewhere, star anise remains the usual industrial source. In 2005, a temporary shortage of star anise was causedby its use in the production of Tamiflu. Later that year, a method for the production of shikimic acid using bacteria was discovered. Roche now derives some of the raw material it needs from the fermentation of E. coli bacteria. The 2009 swine flu outbreak led to another series of shortages as stocks of Tamiflu were built up around the world, sending prices soaring.

Star anise is grown in four provinces in China and harvested between March and May. It is also found in the south of New South Wales. The shikimic acid is extracted from the seeds in a 10-stage manufacturing process which takes a year.

Other Uses:
Essential;  Incense.

The pounded bark is used as an incense.

Known Hazards: Japanese star anise (Illicium anisatum), a similar tree, is highly toxic and inedible; in Japan, it has instead been burned as incense. Cases of illness, including “serious neurological effects, such as seizures”, reported after using star anise tea, may be a result of using this species. Japanese star anise contains anisatin, which causes severe inflammation of the kidneys, urinary tract, and digestive organs. The toxicity of I. anisatum, also known as shikimi, is caused by its containing potent neurotoxins (anisatin, neoanisatin, and pseudoanisatin), due to their activity as noncompetitive antagonists of GABA receptors.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider

Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illicium_verum
http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Illicium+verum
http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/a/anise041.html

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Herbs & Plants

Cowslip

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Botanical Name : Primula veris
Family: Primulaceae
Genus: Primula
Species: P. veris
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Ericales

Synonyms: Primula officinalis Hill, Paigle. Peggle. Key Flower.  Petty Mulleins.  Buckles. Palsywort. Mayflower. Password. Artetyke. Drelip. Our Lady’s Keys. Arthritica.

Common Names: cowslip, common cowslip,(Anglo-Saxon) Cuy lippe, (Greek) Paralysio

(The common name cowslip may derive from the old English for cow dung, probably because the plant was often found growing amongst the manure in cow pastures. An alternative derivation simply refers to slippery or boggy ground; again, a typical habitat for this plant.

The species name v?ris means “of spring”. However, this is not the first primula to flower, being preceded by the primrose P. vulgaris.

Other folk names include: cuy lippe, herb peter, paigle, peggle, key flower, key of heaven, fairy cups, petty mulleins, crewel, buckles, palsywort, plumrocks, tittypines.)

Habitat : Primula veris is native throughout most of temperate Europe and Asia, and although absent from more northerly areas including much of northwest Scotland, it reappears in northernmost Sutherland and Orkney. It grows on Grassy places, fields and woods with calcareous soils.

Description:
Primula veris is a variable evergreen or semi-evergreen perennial flowering plant  growing to 25 cm (10 in) tall and broad, with a rosette of leaves 5–15 cm long and 2–6 cm broad. The deep yellow flowers are produced in spring, in clusters of 10-30 blooms together on a single stem. Each flower is 9–15 mm broad. Red-flowered plants occur rarely.

click to see…>……(01)...(1).…(2)..…...(3)..…...(4).….(5).…..(6)...
Quite early in the spring, the Primula veris begins to produce its leaves. At first, each is just two tight coils, rolled backwards and lying side by side; these slowly unroll and a leaf similar to that of a Primrose, but shorter and rounder, appears. All the leaves lie nearly flat on the ground in a rosette, from the centre of which rises a long stalk, crowned by the flowers, which spring all from one point, in separate little stalks, and thus form an ‘umbel.’ The number of the flowers in an umbel varies very much in different specimens.

This species frequently hybridizes with other Primulas such as Primula vulgaris to form False Oxslip (Primula x polyantha) which is often confused with true Oxslip (Primula elatior) which is a much rarer plant. Botanists have found no less than twenty-five of these hybrid-forms in the Austrian Alps.

Cultivation :
Prefers a medium to heavy moisture retentive humus rich loam in a cool position with light to medium shade. Grows well in heavy clay soils and on chalk. Prefers full sun and a well-drained alkaline soil if it is to survive well. Plants are hardy to about -20°c. A very ornamental plant, it grows well in the spring meadow. The flowers diffuse a sweet fragrance quite unlike all other flower scents. It has been likened by some to the breath of a cow (cuslippe is the Saxon word for this and thus the origin of the common name), by others to the sweet milky breath of a tiny child.

Propagation :
Seed – best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. Sow stored seed in early spring in a cold frame. Germination is inhibited by temperatures above 20°c. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out in the summer. Division in autumn. This is best done every other year.

Edible Uses:
Edible Parts: Flowers; Leaves.
Edible Uses: Tea.

Young leaves – raw or cooked in soups etc. They are not that tasty, but are available in late winter which adds somewhat to their value[K]. The fresh or dried leaves are used as a tea substitute. Flowers – raw, cooked or used in conserves, as a garnish etc. They make an ornamental addition to the salad bowl. This species has become much less common in the past 100 years due to habitat destruction, over-collecting from the wild and farming practices. When it was more abundant, the flowers were harvested in quantity in the spring and used to make a tasty wine with sedative and nervine properties. A related species Primula elatior is listed by the Council of Europe as a natural food flavouring.

Medicinal Uses:
Part Used Medicinally: The yellow corolla is alone needed, no stalk or green part whatever is required, only the yellow part, plucked out of the green calyx.

Chemical constituents: The roots and the flowers have somewhat of the odour of Anise, due to their containing some volatile oil identical with Mannite. Their acrid principle is Saponin.

The medicinal roots of Primula veris contain different glycosides of 5-methoxysalicylic methyl ester, such as primeverin and primulaverin. In the dried, crude root drug, their phenolic aglycones are responsible for the typical odor reminiscent of methyl salicylate or anethole, depending on the exact species. The dried roots contain significant amounts of triterpene saponins, such as primula acid I/II, while in the flower drug these constituents are located in the sepals, and the dominating constituents are flavonoids. Rare side effects of the saponins can be nausea or diarrhea while some of the phenolic constituents are possibly responsible for allergic reactions.

The subspecies macrocalyx, growing in Siberia, contains the phenolic compound riccardin C.
Cowslips are an underused but valuable medicinal herb. They have a very long history of medicinal use and have been particularly employed in treating conditions involving spasms, cramps, paralysis and rheumatic pains. The plant contains saponins, which have an expectorant effect, and salicylates which are the main ingredient of aspirin and have anodyne, anti-inflammatory and febrifuge effects. This remedy should not be prescribed for pregnant women, patients who are sensitive to aspirin, or those taking anti-coagulant drugs such as warfarin. The flowers and the leaves are anodyne, diaphoretic, diuretic and expectorant. They are harvested in the spring and can be used fresh or dried. The yellow corolla of the flower is antispasmodic and sedative. They are recommended for treating over-activity and sleeplessness, especially in children. They are potentially valuable in the treatment of asthma and other allergic conditions. At one time an oil was produced by maceration of the flowers, this has an antiecchymotic effect (treats bruising). The root contains 5 – 10% triterpenoid saponins which are strongly expectorant, stimulating a more liquid mucous and so easing the clearance of phlegm . It has been dried and made into a powder then used as a sternutatory. The root is also mildly diuretic, antirheumatic and slows the clotting of blood. It is used in the treatment of chronic coughs (especially those associated with chronic bronchitis and catarrhal congestion), flu and other febrile conditions. The root can be harvested in the spring or autumn and is dried for later use. The leaves have similar medicinal properties to the roots but are weaker in action. A homeopathic remedy is made from the plant. It is used in the treatment of kidney complaints and catarrh. The German Commission E Monographs, a therapeutic guide to herbal medicine, approve Primula veris for cough/bronchitis.

In folk medicine, it was used as a sedative, anti-rheumatic and for gout. In modern phytotherapy, it is mostly employed in form of tinctures or dry extracts for its evidence-based expectorant effects. It was later discovered through pharmacognostic examinations that the active principles (saponins) are mostly occurring in the rhizomes and flowers.

In the Middle-Ages it was also known as St. Peter’s herb or Petrella and was very sought after by Florentine apothecaries. Hildegard von Bingen recommended the medicinal parts only for topical use but the leaves were also consumed as food. Other common names at the time were Herba paralysis, Verbascum, Primrose or Mullein leaves. It was frequently misidentified or confused with similar species from the genus Primula.

Known Hazards : Some people are allergic to the stamens of this plant, though such cases are easily treated. Saponins may cause hypotension. Excessive/prolonged use may interfere with high blood pressure treatments. Possible Gastrointestinal irritation .

Disclaimer:
The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider

Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Primula_veris
http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/c/cowsl112.html

http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Primula+veris

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Herbs & Plants

Water chestnut

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Botanical Name :Water caltrop
Family: Lythraceae
Subfamily: Trapoideae
Genus: Trapa
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Myrtales

Common Names: water chestnut, buffalo nut, bat nut, devil pod, Singhara , Pani-fol

Habitat :Water chestnut is native to warm temperate parts of Eurasia and Africa

Description:
water chestnut is a floating annual aquatic plants, growing in slow-moving water up to 5 meters deep.The plant has three species of the genus Trapa: Trapa natans, T. bicornis and the endangered Trapa rossica.

Click to see pictures

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The plant  bears ornately shaped fruits, which in the case of T. bicornis resemble the head of a bull, each fruit containing a single very large starchy seed. T. natans and T. bicornis have been cultivated in China and India for at least 3,000 years for the edible seeds.

The water chestnut’s submerged stem reaches 12 to 15 ft (3.6 to 4.5 m) in length, anchored into the mud by very fine roots. It has two types of leaves, finely divided feather-like submerged leaves borne along the length of the stem, and undivided floating leaves borne in a rosette at the water’s surface. The floating leaves have saw-tooth edges and are ovoid or triangular in shape, 2–3 cm long, on inflated petioles 5–9 cm long, which provide added buoyancy for the leafy portion. Four-petalled white flowers form in early summer and are insect-pollinated. The fruit is a nut with four 0.5 in (1 cm), barbed spines. Seeds can remain viable for up to 12 years, although most will germinate within the first two years.

The plant spreads by the rosettes and fruits detaching from the stem and floating to another area on currents or by fruits clinging to objects, and animals.

The genus has an extensive fossil record, with numerous, distinctive species. Undisputed fossilized seeds have been found in Cenozoic strata starting from the Eocene throughout Europe, China and North America (though, the genus went extinct in North America prior to the Pleistocene). The oldest known fossils attributed to the genus, however, are of leaves from Cretaceous Alaska, referred to the species, T. borealis

Click to see water chestnut seeds  

Edible Uses:

Flour, Salt.

Corm – raw or cooked. A delicious taste, it is sweet and crisp when fully ripe and is starchy before that. Widely used in Chinese cooking, especially in chop suey. A flour or starch can be made from the dried and ground up corm and this is used to thicken sauces and to give a crisp coating to various deep-fried foods. The root is about 4cm in diameter, it contains about 36% starch. A nutritional analysis is available. The plant is used for making salt in Zimbabwe. No more details.The fresh corms can be peeled and eaten like a fresh fruit. The sweet, crisp nutty flavour resembles coconut, apple and some say macadamia nuts. Even if cooked, the chestnuts have the ability to remain crisp, which has been a feature highly favoured, for the texture effect of Chinese dishes. The sweet nutty flavour is popular with children. In fact, the plant is an ideal one to encourage the children to plant and watch grow and produce a treat.Chinese Water Chestnuts are a common ingredient in Chinese and Japanese dishes. They have a delightful appeal added to any stir-fry type dishes.They can also be added to salads.

You may click to see pictures of boiled water chestnut  

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Medicinal Uses:
In Asia people eat Chinese water chestnut for the prevention of stomach problems, including cancer. The corm is also used to relieve fevers, diarrhoea, indigestion, sore throat, jaundice, diabetes, hypertension to promote urination, strengthen the lungs and stomach for haemorrhoids and mouth ulcers. The plant is used to treat abdominal pain, amenorrhoea, hernia and liver problems. The expressed juice of the tuber is bactericidal.

Harvesting:
Chinese water chestnuts are harvested after the stems have turned brown and the corm skins have developed a dark brown colour. If the water can be drained away or pumped out, digging for the crop is simplified. This is where growing in a container will have a definite advantage.

Other Uses:

Weaving.

The leaf stems are used for weaving bags etc.

Cultivation :
A plant of marshes and shallow water, it prefers slightly acid soil conditions and a sunny position. Requires a rich fertile soil. Plants are not very frost hardy, the corms should be harvested at the end of the growing season and stored in a cool damp but frost-free position until the spring. It requires a 7 month frost-free growing season in order to produce a crop. Plants perform best at temperatures between 30 – 35°c during the leafy stage of growth, and about 5°c lower when the tubers are being formed.

Propagation:
Start corms in a tray of moist sawdust,then when about 8 cm high trans plant a 5 cm under and 20-40 cms apart into a half drum full to about 15 cm from the top with a mixture of manure and soil and enough water to cover soil with about 10 cm water.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider

Resources:
http://www.iron-clay.com/herbal_remedies/chinese_water_chestnut.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_caltrop

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