Of their Roots, Plants, Herbs, Flowers.
Some of these are for Food, and some for Medicine. I begin with their Roots, which with the Jacks before mentioned, being many, and generally bearing well, are a great help towards the sustenance of this People. These by the Chingulays by a general name are called Alloes, by the Portugals and us Inyames. They are of divers and sundry sorts, some they plant, and some grow wild; those that grow wild in the Woods are as good, onely they are more scarce and grow deeper, and so more difficult to be plucked up. It would be to no purpose to mention their particular names; I shall onely speak a little in general of them. They serve both for Food, and for Carrees, that is, sauce, or for a relish to their Rice. But they make many a meal of them alone to lengthen out their Rice, or for want of it: and of these there is no want to those that will take pains but to set them, and cheap enough to those that will, buy.
There are two sorts of these Alloes; some require Trees or Sticks to run up on; others require neither. Of the former sort, some will run up to the tops of very large Trees, and spread out very full of branches, and bear great bunches of blossoms, but no use made of them; The Leaves dy every year, but the Roots grow still, which some of them will do to a prodigious bigness within a Year or two’s time, becoming as big as a mans wast. The fashion of them somewhat roundish, rugged and uneven, and in divers odd shapes, like a log of cleft wood: they have a very good, savoury mellow tast.
Of those that do not run up on Trees, there are likewise sundry sorts; they bear a long stalk and a broad leaf; the fashion of these Roots are somewhat roundish, some grow out like a mans fingers, which they call Angul-alloes, as much as to say Finger-Roots; some are of a white colour, some of a red.
Those that grow in the Woods run deeper into the Earth, they run up Trees also. Some bear blossoms somewhat like Hopps, and they may be as big as a mans Arm.
For Herbs to boyl and eat with Butter they have excellent good ones, and several sorts: some of them are six months growing to maturity, the stalk as high as a man can reach, and being boyled almost as good as Asparagus. There are of this sort, some having leaves and stalks as red as blood, some green: some the leaves green, and the stalk very white.
They have several other sorts of Fruits which they dress and eat with their Rice, and tast very savoury, called Carowela, Wattacul, Morongo, Cacorebouns, &c. the which I cannot compare to any things that grow here in England.
They have of our English Herbs and Plants, Colworts, Carrots, Radishes, Fennel, Balsam, Spearmint, Mustard. These, excepting the two last, are not the natural product of the Land, but they are transplanted hither: By which I perceive all other European Plants would grow there: They have also Fern, Indian Corn. Several sorts of Beans as good as these in England: right Cucumhers, Calabasses, and several sorts of Pumkins, &c. The Dutch on that Island in their Gardens have Lettice, Rosemary, Sage, and all other Herbs and Sallettings that we have in these Countreys.
Nor are they worse supplyed with Medicinal Herbs. The Woods are their Apothecaries Shops, where with Herbs, Leaves, and the Rinds of Trees they make all their Physic and Plaisters, with which sometimes they will do notable Cures. I will not here enter into a larger discourse of the Medicinal Vertues of their Plants, &c. of which there are hundreds: onely as a Specimen thereof, and likewise of their Skill to use them; I will relate a Passage or two. A Neighbour of mine a Chingulay, would undertake to cure a broken Leg or Arm by application of some Herbs that grow in the Woods, and that with that speed, that the broken Bone after it was set should knit by the time one might boyl a pot of Rice and three carrees, that is about an hour and an half or two hours; and I knew a man who told me he was thus cured. They will cure an Imposthume in the Throat with the Rind of a Tree called Amaranga, (whereof I my self had the experience;) by chawing it for a day or two after it is prepared, and swallowing the spittle. I was well in a day and a Night, tho before I was exceedingly ill, and could not swallow my Victuals.
Of Flowers they have great varieties, growing wild, for they plant them not. There are Roses red and white, scented like ours: several sorts of sweet smelling Flowers, which the young Men and Women gather and tie in their hairs to perfume them; they tie up their hair in a bunch behind, and enclose the Flowers therein.
There is one Flower deserves to be mentioned for the rarity and use of it, they call it a Sindric-mal, there are of them some of a Murry colour, and some white. Its Nature is, to open about four a clock in the Evening, and so continueth open all Night until the morning, when it closeth up it self till four a clock again. Some will transplant them out of the Woods into their Gardens to serve them instead of a Clock, when it is cloudy that they cannot see the Sun.
There is another white Flower like our Jasmine, well scented, they call them Picha-mauls, which the King hath a parcel of brought to him every morning, wrapt in a white cloth, hanging upon a staff, and carried by people, whose peculiar office this is. All people that meet these flowers, out of respect to the King, for whose use they are, must turn out of the Way; and so they must for all other things that go to the King being wrapt up in white cloth. These Officers hold Land of the King for this service: their Office is, also to plant these Flowers, which they usually do near the Rivers where they most delight to grow: Nay, they have power to plant them in any mans Ground, and enclose that ground when they have done it for the sole use of their Flowers to grow in: which Inclosures they will keep up for several years, until the Ground becomes so worn, that the Flowers will thrive there no longer, and then the Owners resume their own Lands again.
Hop-Mauls, are Flowers growing upon great Trees, which bear nothing else, they are rarely sweet scented; this is the chief Flower the young people use; and is of greatest value among them.