[Sca-cooks] Herbs

Galefridus Peregrinus galefridus at optimum.net
Sat Jan 12 20:47:20 PST 2013

> Message: 2
> Date: Fri, 11 Jan 2013 15:32:04 -0500 (EST)
> From: JIMCHEVAL at aol.com
> To: sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org
> Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] herbs
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> You're using actual spikenard then, as opposed to valerian?
> Have you compared them?
> Jim  Chevallier
> www.chezjim.com

I haven't compared them in cooking, only in aroma. The smells are similar, but spikenard seems more intense to my nose.

-- Galefridua

> Message: 3
> Date: Fri, 11 Jan 2013 16:46:25 -0800 (GMT-08:00)
> From: lilinah at earthlink.net
> To: SCA-Cooks <sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org>
> Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] herbs
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> I think the level of fear of rue in the SCA is excessive.
> Back in the 1970s I had an acquaintance who used tincture of rue as an abortifacient - she was drinking quite a bit - and that would have been at a much higher concentration than fresh leaves used in a feast - and it didn't work.
> I'm not saying send rue out helter skelter, willy nilly. There may be some woman who is very sensitive to it. But i think serving it with a warning ought to be sufficient. Someone on another cooking list sent me a packet of homegrown rue and i enjoyed it - it has a flavor that is both green and bitter and i can see how it would work in Roman food to counter the sweetness of the honey and the salty umami of the fish sauce, both used in the majority of savory dishes.
> I'd be more concerned, as a cook, about the possibility of contact dermatitis from handling the fresh leaves - a lot of people are sensitive - although once cooked it does not cause that reaction, and one can avoid contact by using latex (if one does not have a latex allergy) or vinyl gloves.

I think that what makes rue problematic is that some folks react to it in manner similar to poison ivy. The abortifacient properties may be based more on humoural theory than reality.

> As for spikenard, which is botanically nardostachys jatamansi, and which i have read is endangered, i understand one substitute is valeriana jatamansi. This is a different plant from the sometimes soporific valerian, which is valeriana officinalis, and so will not have the smell of dirty sweat socks i sometimes perceive with the officinalis variety.
> I have on several occasions made spice blends for hypocras using "spikenard" which i purchased at Lhasa Karnak (which opened on Earth Day 1970). It turns out that they are not selling nardostachys jatamansi, but i can't recall exactly what they are selling, some American plant, IIRC. I've written to them (i forgot my cell phone or i'd have phoned) and hope to get an answer soon. What they sell may not be identical to what other herb & spice vendors sell, but i will post their answer to this list.

I have obtained Nardostachys jatamansi from a couple of sources. There has been a merchant at Pennsic selling the stuff whole dried for the past two years, and there's an herbal supplier that sells 1 lb. packets of the powder for about $25

> As far as things having a "soapy" taste, i think that may depend on several issues: how recently one has actually eaten soap, what sorts of soap one uses, and how much of the ingredient perceived as tasting "soapy" was used in food.

The only herb that I have found with a slightly soapy taste is cilantro. Rose water can be intense, but I've found it soapy.

-- Galefridus

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