For Vegan and Vegetarians! “Forgotten” Vegetables 18: Balsamite/Balsamita/Costmary

Courtesy of Jean-Luc Muselle

Organic agriculture and biodiversity have in recent years brought about a rediscovery of many “forgotten” vegetables that people especially in Europe and France conscientiously tried to forget as they reminded them of the privations suffered during WWII. The same people had then to make do with untraditional vegetables because potatoes, carrots and so on were confiscated by occupying forces or their own armies.
With sustainibility and bioagriculture made more important by the deficiencies of modern mass agriculture, those “forgotten” vegetables have suddenly come to the fore for the pleasure of all, and that of course of vegetarians and vegans!

This particular series of postings will introduce these vegetables one by one. I hope they will become useful for a long time to come to all my vegan and vegetarian friends!
1) Scorsonere/Oyster Plant
3) Vitelotte
4) Rutabaga
5) Cardon
6) Panais/Parsnips
7) Patisson
8) Topinambour
9) Crosne
10) Cerfeuil Tubereux
11) Poiree
12) Oca
13) Ulluque/Ulluco
14) Tigernuts
15) Capucine tubereuse-Maschua
16) Chataigne de Terre-Great Pignut
17) Yacon

Balsamite (French) or Costmary (English) is an aromatic plant that has been cultivated for a long time as an ornamental and medicinal plant.

Its Latin name is Balsamita major Desf. (synonym : Tanacetum balsamita L. subsp. balsamita).

It is known under many names: Grande balsamite, menthe-coq, menthe de Notre Dame, tanaisie des jardins, baume-coq, Chartreuse, (French), Balsamkraut (German), costmary (English), erba-amara balsamica, erba buona (Italian)

It has been grown for many centuries for its pleasant, slightly medicinal or balsamic smell. It was used in medieval times as a place marker in bibles.
Moreover, the plant is known from ancient herbals and was widely grown in Elizabethan knot gardens.

It is a strong plant, quite tall, 1,2 metres/4 feet giving out a pleasant aroma similar to mint with beautiful yellow flowers.

It originated in Western Asia and the Caucasus. It strives in temperate climates and has been succefully grown in Europe, North Africa and North America.

The leaves, slightly sour, can be used to season salads and liqueurs.
Good Beer and Country Boys will be gld to hear that a long time ago, they were used to contribute aroma to ale beer in England!

Liqueur fans, try this:
Macerate 9 leaves with 9 pieces of sugar in fruit alcohol for 2 or 3 months!

Not-Just-Recipes, Bengal cuisine, Cooking Vegetarian, Frank Fariello, Gluten-free Vegan Family, Meatless MamaFrank Fariello, , Warren Bobrow

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2 thoughts on “For Vegan and Vegetarians! “Forgotten” Vegetables 18: Balsamite/Balsamita/Costmary”

  1. 2nd in our series of articles published today about the World Vegetable Center in Arusha, Tanzania written for the Worldwatch Institute’s blog called Nourishing the Planet [].

    Listening to Farmers
    The World Vegetable Center is focusing on “building a sustainable seed system in sub-Saharan Africa.” What does that mean? According to Dr. Abdou Tenkouano, Director of the Regional Center for Africa, it requires “bringing farmers voices into the choices of materials they are using.”
    The Center does this not only by breeding a variety of vegetables with different traits—including resistance to disease and longer shelf life—but also by bringing farmers from all over eastern, western, and southern Africa to the Regional Center in Arusha, Tanzania, to find out what exactly those farmers need in the field and at market. Mr. Babel Isack, a tomato farmer from Tanzania, was at the Center when I visited, advising staff about which tomato varieties would be best suited for his particular needs—including varieties that depend on fewer chemical sprays and have a longer shelf life.
    The Center works with farmers not only to grow vegetables, but also to process and cook them. Often, vegetables are cooked for so long that they lose most of their nutrients. To solve that problem, Dr. Mel Oluoch, a Liason Officer with the Center’s Vegetable Breeding and Seed System Program (VBSS), works with women to improve the nutritional value of cooked foods by helping them develop shorter cooking times. “Eating is believing,” says Dr. Oluoch, who adds that when people find out how much better the food tastes—and how much less fuel and time it takes to cook—they don’t need much convincing about the alternative methods.
    Dr. Oluoch also trains both urban and rural farmers on seed production. In fact, one of the women farmers we met in Kibera slum in Nairobi had been trained at the Center and is selling seeds to rural farmers, increasing her income. “The sustainability of seed,” says Dr. Oluoch, “is not yet there in Africa.” In other words, farmers don’t have access to a reliable source of seed for indigenous vegetables, such as amaranth, spider plant, cowpea, okra, moringa, and other crops. As a result, the Center is working—partly with CNFA, an Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) grantee—to link farmers to input or “agro-” dealers who can help ensure a steady supply of seed.
    In addition, the Center is providing how-to brochures to farmers in Swahili and other languages to help them better understand how to grow vegetables in different regions.
    Stay tuned for more about our visit to the World Vegetable Center later this week.
    — You can also follow Danielle Nierenberg and Bernard Pollack’s travels on our personal blog Border Jumpers []


  2. Just wanted to flag an article published today about the World Vegetable Center in Arusha, Tanzania written for the Worldwatch Institute’s blog called Nourishing the Planet [].

    Breeding Vegetables With Farmers in Mind

    As hunger and drought spread across Africa , there’s a huge focus on increasing yields of staple crops, such as maize, wheat, cassava, and rice. And while these crops are important for food security, providing much needed calories, they don’t provide much protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, calcium, iron, riboflavin, thiamin, niacin, other important vitamins and micronutrients—or much taste. “None of the staple crops,” says Dr. Abdou Tenkouano, the World Vegetable Center’s Regional Director for Africa, “would be palatable without vegetables.” And vegetables, he says, “are less risk prone” than staple crops that stay in the field for longer periods of time. Because vegetables typically have a shorter growing time, they can maximize often scarce water supplies and soil nutrients better than crops such as maize which need a lot of water and fertilizer.

    Unfortunately no country in Africa, according to Dr. Tenkouano, has a big focus on vegetable production. But that’s where the Center steps in. Since the 1990s, the Center (which is a part of the Asian Vegetable Research and Development Center based in Taiwan) has been working in Africa to breed cultivars that best suit farmers’ needs.

    Despite the focus on staple crops, vegetable production generates more income on and off the farm than most other agricultural enterprises, according to the Center’s website. And unlike staple crops, vegetable production is something that benefits urban and rural farmers alike (See our posts on urban farmers in Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya).

    In addition, vegetable production is the most sustainable and affordable way of alleviating micronutrient deficiencies among the poor. Often referred to as “hidden hunger,” micronutrient deficiencies—including lack of Vitamin A, iron, and iodine—affect some 1 billion people worldwide. They lead to poor mental and physical development, especially among children, and cause poor performance in work and in school, further crippling communities already facing poverty and other health problems.

    But by listening to farmers and including them in breeding research, the Center is helping to alleviate these problems. Watch for more blogs about our visit to the World Vegetable Center and their efforts to raise nutrition and income in Africa.

    — You can also follow Danielle Nierenberg and Bernard Pollack’s travels on our personal blog Border Jumpers []


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