Sunday 10 September 2017

mediterranean diet

Marginal Revolution correspondent Alex Tabarrok clues us in to the mysterious and probably lost herb favoured by the ancient Greeks and Romans called silphium, which was so renowned as a flavour-multiplier and for its pharmacological merits was worth its weight in gold—or salt.
Despite their best efforts to cultivate the plant in their own lands, however (and there are surprisingly many familiar staples that still defy cultivation), silphium, fantastically also known as laserwort, would only thrive in a narrow band of terrain in Libya and was the essential export item of the city of Cyrene—critical to its trade and economy—and while remembered in coinage and heraldry, no one seems quite sure of its actual appearance and properties or whether the valued herb went extinct or survives in undisclosed pockets in northern Africa. The plant’s reputation as a means to allay the maladies of those struck with love and as a mediator for one’s germinative functions may also have given rise to the ♥ symbol (as well as having been accorded its own special glyph for the flowering plant) and its connection to romance and shared affections on the speculation that supposedly related species have heart-shaped fruits. Maybe this spice being extolled as a super-food is a bit of an embellishment but the world may never know what culinary and medicinal treasures might be absent from our dining experience.  I wonder what other secret ingredients out there that have remained unknown, lost to history, over-consumption or lost of habitat.