- Major entries:
- Crambe maritima Linn. Sea Kale. Scurvy Grass.
- Crambe tatarica Jacq. Tartar Bread-Plant.
Crambe cordifolia Stev. Cruciferae. Colewort.
Persia and the Caucasus to Thibet and the Himalayas. The root and foliage afford an esculent.
This plant is found growing upon the sandy shores of the North Sea, the Atlantic Ocean and of the Mediterranean Sea. It appears to have been known to the Romans, who gathered it in a wild state and preserved it in barrels for use during long voyages. Although Crambe is recorded by Pena and Lobel, Dalechamp, Gerarde, and Ray as wild on the coast of Britain and as fit for food, yet it was brought into English culture from Italy, a few years preceding 1765, and the seed sold at a high price as a rarity. In 1778, it is said to "be now cultivated in many gardens as a choice esculent;" in 1795, it was advertised in the London market. According to Heuze, it was first cultivated in France by Quintyne, gardener to Louis XIV, but it is not mentioned in Quintyne of 1693; it, however, is mentioned by the French works on gardening of 1824 and onward. Parkinson notices it in England in 1629 and Bryant does also, about 1783, but Philip Miller first wrote upon it as an esculent in 1731, saying the people of Sussex gather the wild plants in the spring. It is recorded that bundles of it were exposed for sale in the Chichester markets in 1753 but it was not known about London until 1767. In 1789, Lightfoot speaks of "the young leaves covered up with sand and blanched while growing," constituting when boiled a great delicacy. Sea kale is now very popular in English markets and is largely used in France, the blanched stems and leaf-stalks being the parts used. It is mentioned by McMahon, 1609, in his list of American esculents. In 1809, John Lowell, Roxbury, Massachusetts, cultivated it and in 1814 introduced it to the notice of the public. In 1828, Thorbum, in his seed catalog of that year, says it "is very little known in the United States, though a most excellent garden vegetable and highly deserving of cultivation." The same might be said now, although its seeds are advertised for sale in all leading seed lists.
Crambe orientalis Linn.
Asia Minor and Persia. Pallas says the Russians use it. Its roots resemble those of horseradish, but they are often thicker than the human arm. The root is dug for the use of the table as a substitute for horseradish, and the younger stalks may be dressed in the same manner as broccoli.
Eastern Europe and northern Asia. This is a plant of the steppes region along the Lower Danube, Dneiper and the Don. The root is fleshy, sweet and the thickness of a man's arm. It is eaten raw as a salad in Hungary, as well as cooked, as is the case with the young shoots of the stem. In times of famine, it has been used as bread in Hungary and, says Unger, it is probable that it was the chara caesaris which the soldiers of Julius Caesar used as bread.