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Gerard's Herbal Vol. 1

Gerard's Herbal V1 - CHAP. 61. Of Turkey Corn.

CHAP. 61. Of Turkey Corn.

Fig. 134. Corn of Asia (1)

Fig. 135 Turkey Corn (2)

Fig. 136. The form of the ears of Turkey Wheat (3)

The Kinds.

            Of Turkey Corn there be divers sorts, notwithstanding of one stock or kindred, consisting of sundry coloured grains, wherein the difference is easy to be discerned, and for the better explanation of the same, I have set forth to your view certain ears of different colours, in their full and perfect ripeness, and such as they show themselves to be when their skin or film doth open itself in the time of gathering.

Fig. 137. Yellow and Red Turkey Wheat (4, 5)

Fig. 138. Blue Turkey Wheat (6)


The Description.

            1. Corn of Asia beareth a long great stem or stalk, covered with great leaves like the great Cane Reed, but much broader, and of a dark brownish colour towards the bottom: at the top of the stalks grow idle or barren tufts like the common Reed, sometimes of one colour, and sometimes of another. Those ears which are fruitful do grow upon the sides of the stalks, among the leaves, which are thick and great, so covered with skins or films, that a man cannot see them until ripeness have discovered them. The grain is of sundry colours, sometimes red, and sometimes white, and yellow, as myself have seen in mine own garden, where it hath come to ripeness.

            2. The stalk of Turkey Wheat is like that of the Reed, full of spongy pith, set with many joints, five or six foot high, big beneath, and now and then of a purple colour, and by little and little small above: the leaves are broad, long, set with veins like those of the Reed. The ears on the top of the stalk be a span long, like unto the feather top of the common Reed, divided into many plumes hanging downward, empty and barren without seed, yet blooming as Rye doth. The flower is either white, yellow, or purple, that is to say, even as the fruit will be. The fruit is contained in very big ears, which grow out of the joints of the stalk, three or four from one stalk, orderly placed one above another, covered with coats or films like husks and leaves, as if it were a certain sheath; out of which do stand long and slender beards, soft and tender, like those laces that grow upon Savory, but greater and longer, every one fastened upon his own seed. The seeds are great, of the bigness of common peason, cornered in that part whereby they are fastened to the ear, and in the outward part round: being of colour sometimes white, now and then yellow, purple, or red; of taste sweet and pleasant, very closely joined together in eight or ten orders or ranks. This grain hath many roots, strong, and full of strings.

The Place.

            These kinds of grain were first brought into Spain, and then into other provinces of Europe: not (as some suppose) out of Asia Minor, which is the Turk's dominions, but out of America and the islands adjoining, as out of Florida and Virginia, or Norembega, where they use to sow or set it, and to make bread of it, where it groweth much higher than in other countries. It is planted in the gardens of these Northern regions, where it cometh to ripeness when the summer falleth out to be fair and hot, as myself have seen by proof in mine own garden.

The Time.

            It is sown in these countries in March and April, and the fruit is ripe in September.

The Names.

            Turkey wheat is called of some Frumentum Turcicum, and Milium Indicum, as also Maizum, and Maiz, or Mays. It in all probability was unknown to the ancient both Greek and Latin authors. In English it is called Turkey Corn, and Turkey Wheat. The Inhabitants of America and the Islands adjoining, as also of the East and West Indies, do call it Mais: the Virginians, Pagatowr.

The Temperature and Virtues.

            Turkey wheat doth nourish far less than either wheat, rye, barley, or oats. The bread which is made thereof is meanly white, without bran: it is hard and dry as biscuit is, and hath in it no clamminess at all; for which cause it is of hard digestion, and yieldeth to the body little or no nourishment; it slowly descendeth, and bindeth the belly, as that doth which is made of Mill or Panic. We have as yet no certain proof or experience concerning the virtues of this kind of corn; although the barbarous Indians, which know no better, are constrained to make a virtue of necessity, and think it a good food: whereas we may easily judge, that it nourisheth but little, and is of hard and evil digestion, a more convenient food for swine than for men.

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