- Major entries:
- Arum maculatum Linn. Adam-And-Eve. Bobbins. Cuckoo Pint. Lords-And-Ladies. Starch-Root. Wake Robin.
The several species of arum possess a combination of extremely acrid properties, with the presence of a large quantity of farina, which can be separated from the poisonous ingredient by heat or water and in some instances by merely drying. The arums form the most important plants of the tropics. In a single Polynesian Island, Tahiti, the natives have names for 33 arums. Taro, the general name, is grown in vast quantities in the Fiji group on the margins of streams under a system of irrigation. When the root is ripe, the greater part is cut off from the leaves and the portion which is left attached to them is at once replanted. These roots are prepared for use by boiling and are then pounded into a kind of flour, which is preserved until wanted for use. Large quantities of taro are also stored in pits where it becomes solid and is afterwards used by the natives as mandrai. In former times, the common spotted arum furnished food to the English during the periods of scarcity. It seems impossible to determine in all cases to which species of arum travelers refer in recording the use of this genera of plants. The information given under the heading of the species will show the generality of their use and their importance.
Arum dioscoridis Sibth. & Sm.
East Mediterranean countries. Theophrastus mentions that the roots and leaves of this plant, steeped in vinegar, were eaten in ancient Greece. The roots, as Pickering remarks, are cooked and eaten in the Levant.
Arum italicum Mill. Italian Arum.
Mediterranean countries. This arum is described by Dioscorides, who says its root is eaten either raw or cooked. Westward, the cooked root is further mentioned by Dioscorides as mixed with honey by the Balearic islanders and made into cakes. This plant was in cultivation for seven years in Guernsey for the purpose of making arrow-root from its corms.
Europe. The thick and tuberous root, while fresh, is extremely acrid, but by heat its injurious qualities are destroyed, and in the isle of Portland the plant was extensively used in the preparation of an arrow-root. According to Sprengel, its roots are cooked and eaten in Albania, and in Slavonia it is made into a kind of bread. The leaves, even of this acrid plant, are said by Pallas to be eaten by the Greeks of Crimea. "Dioscorides showeth that the leaves also are prescribed to be eaten and that they must be eaten after they be dried and boy led."