534. Stinging-Nettle. Urtica dioica.—The young shoots in the spring are eaten boiled with fat meat, and are esteemed both wholesome and nutritive.
535. Shrubby strawberry. Rubus arcticus.—The fruit of this plant is very similar in appearance to a strawberry: its odour is of the most grateful kind; and its flavour has that delicate mixture of acid and sweet, which is not to be equalled by our best varieties of that fruit.
536. Sweet Cicely. Scandix odorata.—The leaves used to be employed in the kitchen as those of cervil. The green seeds ground small, and used with lettuce or other cold salads, give them an agreeable taste. It also grows in abundance in some parts of Italy, where it is considered as a very useful vegetable.
537. Water-cress. Sisymbrium Nasturtium.—A well known herb in common use, but is not in cultivation, although it is one of our best salads.
538. Willow-herb. Epilobium angustifolium.—The young shoots of these are eaten as asparagus.
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There is no department of the oeconomy of vegetables in which we are more at a loss than in the knowledge of their colouring principles; and as this subject presents to the student an opportunity of making many interesting and useful experiments, I trust I shall stand excused, if I enter more fully into the nature of it than I have found it necessary to do in some of the former sections.
The following list of plants, which is given as containing colours of different kinds, are the same as have been so considered for many years past: for, latterly, little has been added to our stock of knowledge on this head. It may however be proper to observe, that a great number of vegetables still contain this principle in a superior degree, and only want the proper attention paid to the abstracting it.
Most of our dyeing drugs are from abroad; and even the culture of madder, which was once so much grown by our farmers, is now lost to us, to the great advantage of the Dutch, who supply our markets. But there is no reason why the agriculturist, or the artisan, should be so much beholden to a neighbouring nation, as to pay them enormous prices for articles which can be so readily raised at home; and, according to the general report of the consumers, managed in a way far superior to what it generally is when imported.
Let the botanical student therefore pay attention to this particular; for it is a wide field, in which great advantages may be reaped, either in this country or in any other part of the world where he may hereafter become an inhabitant.
The art of dyeing, generally considered, is kept so great a secret, that few persons have had the opportunity of making experiments. The extracting colours from their primitive basis is a chemical operation, and cannot be expected in this place; but as some persons may be inclined to ascertain these properties of vegetables, I shall go just so far into the subject as to give an idea of the modes generally used; and to state the principles on which the colouring property is fixed when applied to the purposes of dyeing cloth.