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Milberger's Nursery and Landscaping
3920 North Loop 1604 E.
San Antonio, TX 78247

Open 9 to 6 Mon. through Sat.
and 10 to 5 on Sun.

Three exits east of 281, inside of 1604
Next to the Diamond Shamrock station
Please click map for more detailed map and driving directions.

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Vegetables, Herbs and Spices of the Bible*

When we think of religious holidays, we think of the Bible. The Bible is a collection of sacred writings. It is a history of mankind from the beginning. Intertwined in this history are horticultural phenomenon which we are still experiencing today.

The need for a horticulturist became apparent early in this history of the world --- on the third day as a matter of fact. Genesis 1:11 12 explains that:

" 11. God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.

12. And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

13. And the evening and morning were the third day."

It is also significant that God felt man belonged in a garden. Genesis 2:7 8 recounts that "the Lord God formed man of the. dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden and there he put the man whom he had formed." Some believe that Genesis 1:29 * "God said, 'Behold, I give you every seed bearing plant that is upon all the earth, and every tree that has seed bearing fruit; they shall be yours for food'" -- indicates that man was originally intended to be a vegetarian.

In fact, man may have been created to be a gardener. According to Genesis 2:15, "The Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. If this interpretation is valid, then women owe a debt of gratitude to gardening. It seems that Adam was having problems in Genesis 2:18, "And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make an appropriate helper for him." So woman was created!

Not much is mentioned in the Bible about the vegetables with which we are accustomed. This is because vegetables have only recently become "domesticated," i.e., many of the most common vegetables were discovered by explorers of the New World. Vegetables which are mentioned in the Bible include herbs of all kinds, mandrakes (a narcotic, short stemmed solanaceous herb, Mandragora officinarum, with a fleshy root), cucumbers, melons, gourds, beans, and corn. The urge for fresh vegetables caused considerable discontent among the children of Israel as they complained to Moses in Numbers 11:5 6, "We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the melons, and the garlic. But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside the manna, before our eyes." It seems that manna from heaven could not replace the enjoyment of fresh vegetables! In Jonah 4: 6 8, Jonah encountered a serious lesson in vegetables, pest control which we still experience today. The verses read:

"*6. And the Lord God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd.

" 7. But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that is withered.

" 8. And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live."

Sound familiar to the squash vine borer?

Insect control could have presented quite a problem in Biblical times since modern pesticides were not available. Although the thought of organically produced, non*contaminated food may sound like an ideal situation to many, it may have meant that the majority of vegetables produced could not be eaten. In accordance with Genesis 1:29 (quoted above), all vegetables and fruits are kosher. Not only that, they are gender less and may be served with either milk or meat foods. The only thing to worry about is that insects haven't invaded the food, since food invaded by insects could not be eaten. For further elucidation, see A Guide to the Jewish Dietary Laws by Rabbi Dr. Y. Kemelman.


Chinese Parsley
Name: Coriandrum sativum, or Cilantro. The seeds are called coriander. In Thai., cilantro is called pak chee.
Bible Verse: Exodus 16:12-35 (also Numbers 11: 7)
Coriander has been used by people for thousands of years and has been found in ancient Egyptian tombs dating back 3000 years. The Hebrews of biblical times used cilantro as the bitter herb in the Passover meal.
The Roman soldiers under the reign of Julius Caesar took coriander with them, using it as a meat preservative and to flavor food. . It was introduced to Britain by the Romans, who used it in cookery and medicine, and was widely used in English cookery until the Renaissance, when the new exotic spices appeared.
Among ancient doctors, coriander was known to Hippocratic, and to Pliny who called it Coriandrum for its 'buggy' smell, coris being a bug; or perhaps because the young seed resembles Cimex lectularius, the European bed-bug.
Coriander is also mentioned in The Tales of the Arabian Nights. Sugarplums as referred to in the Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy, were actually a treat made of sugar coated coriander.
Coriander was introduced into the Americas around 1670 and was one of the first herbs grown by the colonists. (Spanish conquistadors introduced it to Mexico and Peru.)

The Chinese used the herb in love potions believing it provided immortality. Coriander is one of the herbs thought to have aphrodisiac qualities

This herb was believed to have a variety of medicinal uses and was thought to alleviate abdominal pains.
Coriander seed oil is strongly antibacterial against several organisms and can be used as a fungicide.
The seed is an aromatic stimulant, a carminative (remedial in flatulence), an appetizer and a digestant stimulating the stomach and intestines.
Coriander seeds are considered to have cholesterol lowering properties.
A poultice of Coriander seed can be applied externally to relieve painful joints and rheumatism.
One source (Herbs & Herb Gardening by Jessica Houdret) said the seeds can be mixed with violets for a remedy for a hangover.

Today the only medicinal use of coriander is as flavoring for certain prescription medicines to mask their taste and odor.

Cooking *
Used in curry powders, where it is the bulkiest constituent.
The seeds can be likewise used in stews and soups.
They blend well with smoked meats and game and feature in traditional English black pudding recipes and Italian mortadella sausage.
Coriander is an ingredient of garam masala, pickling spices and pudding spices and is used in cakes, breads and other baked foods.
I've found coriander in shrimp boil.
Sugared comfits made from the seeds are a traditional sweetmeat and breath sweetener.
Coriander is a characteristic of Arab cookery, being common with lamb, kid and meat stuffings. Taklia, a popular Arab spice mixture, is coriander and garlic crushed and fried.
Coriander with cumin is a common combination and features in falafel and in the Egyptian appetizer dukka, which consists of those spices plus sesame seeds, hazelnuts, salt and pepper, roasted and crushed.
Coriander goes well with ham and pork, especially when orange is included.
It enhances fish dishes and, with other spices, may form a delicious coating for spiced fish or chicken, rubbed into the scored flesh and grilled.
Try frying a few seeds with sausages to add an unusual flavor.
Coriander complements chili and is included in many chili recipes, such as harissa, the hot North African red pepper sauce.
It may be added to cream or cottage cheese.
The leaves are always used fresh. They feature in Spanish, Middle Eastern, Indian, Oriental and South American cookery. They are sprinkled like parsley on cooked dishes, minced or puréed in sauces, soups and curries, especially bhuna. Both seeds and leaves can be used in salads.
In Thailand the root of the coriander plant is used to flavor meats and curries

Name: Tamarisk Manna (Tamarix mannifera)
Country of Origin: Egypt's Sinai Desert and Iraqi Kurdistan
The puncture of plant lice on the slender branches and leaves form honey-like drops that are solidified during the cool morning desert hours.
One books notes that the Sinai produces about 500 pounds of tamarisk manna/ year (sold by Bedouin to tourists)
Name: Camel's Thorn Manna (Alhagi Camelorum)
Country of Origin: Native to Egypt and Syria
Description: A low-lying shrub whose leaves and stems exude a sweetish gum, primarily in liquid form.
Name: Lichen (Lecanora esculenta) Similar to reindeer lichen.
Country of Origin: Algeria, Turkey, Iran
Description: Throughout history, peasants of Persia have survived by eating this rock lichen.
The flaky foodstuff is blown off the rocks in small patches by wind, often accumulating under shrubs or in crevices.
It is usually ground and mixed with other meal to make bread.
Name: Manna Ash (Fraxinus ornus)
Country of Origin: Indigenous to the Mediterranean coast, but mostly cultivated in Sicily.
This type of manna comes from the South European Flowering Ash tree.
Pieces of bark, no bigger than three inches, are scraped off the tree in September and October.
The pale yellow flakes are mixed with water and are still used today as a children's laxative

Description: Flowers: Fresh The flowers have a pineapple scent. A chemical analysis reveals that this type of manna contains a mixture of three basic sugars with pectin. One who has wandered with nomads in the desert knows that sweetness is their highest culinary dream. At the time in which the Israelites wandered in the desert, neither sugar beets nor sugar cane was known. Sweet dates had only a limited productivity and may have been unknown or almost unknown in the deserts. Therefore, the sudden discovery of a source of pure and attractive sweetness would have been an exciting event.

Uses: The whole plant is diaphoretic, diuretic, expectorant and laxative.
An oil from the leaves is used in the treatment of rheumatism
The flowers are used in the treatment of piles

The manna fell for the first time while the Israelites were in the desert of Sin, six weeks after their departure from Egypt, in answer to their murmurs over the privations of desert life (Ex., 16, 1 sq.) and thenceforth fell daily, except on the Sabbath, till they arrived at Galgal in the plain of Jericho (Jos.., v, 12). During these years the manna was their chief but not their only article of diet. Their herds furnished them some milk and meat; they had oil and flour, at least in small quantities, and at times purchased provisions from neighboring peoples (Lev., ii, sq.; xvii, 1 sq.; Deut., ii, 6, 28). The manna had to be gathered in the morning, as the heat of the sun melted it. The quantity to be collected was limited to a gomor (omer, between six and seven pints) per person; but on the eve of the Sabbath a double portion was gathered. When kept over night it putrefied and bred worms, except the portion which was reserved for the Sabbath. Though it was probably eatable in the natural state, it was usually ground in a mill or beaten in a mortar and then boiled and made into cakes. As a reminder to future generations, a vessel filled with manna was placed near the Ark of the Covenant. The name is connected with the exclamation "Man hu", which the Israelites uttered on first seeing it. This expression since the time of the Septuagint is generally translated "What is this?", though it should more probably be translated "Is this manna?", or "It is manna". A substance named mannu was known in Egypt at that time, and the resemblance of the newly fallen food to this substance would naturally call forth the exclamation and suggest the name.
Many scholars have identified the Biblical manna with the juice exuded by a variety of Tamarix gallica (Tamarix mannifera) when it is pricked by an insect (Coccus manniparus), and known to the Arabs as mann es-sama, "gift of heaven" or "heavenly manna". But although manna in several respects answers the description of the manna of the Bible, it lacks some of its distinctive qualities. It cannot be ground or beaten in a mortar, nor can it be boiled and made into cakes. It does not decay and breed worms, but keeps indefinitely after it is collected. Besides, being almost pure sugar, it could hardly form the chief nourishment of a people for forty years. But even if the identify were certain, the phenomenon of its fall, as recorded in Exodus, could not be explained except by a miracle. For, although the tamarisk was probably more plentiful in the days of the Exodus than it is now, it could not have furnished the large quantity of manna daily required by the Israelites. Moreover, the tamarisk manna exudes only at a certain season, whereas the Biblical manna fell throughout the year; it exudes every day during its season, while the Biblical manna did not fall on the Sabbath. Most of these objections apply also to the juice exuded by the Camel's Thorn (Alhagi Camelorum), which is sometimes considered identical with Biblical manna.
Others think they have found the true manna in a lichen, Lenora esculenta (also known as Spharothallia esculenta), met with in Western Asia and North Africa. It easily scales off, and being carried away by the wind sometimes falls in the form of a rain. In times of famine it is ground and mixed with other substances to make a kind of bread. But this lichen is dry and insipid, and possesses little nutritive value. The regular fall in this case, too, would be miraculous. The manna may, indeed, have been a natural substance, but we must admit a miracle at least in the manner in which it was supplied. For not only does the phenomenon resist all natural explanation, but the account of Exodus, as well as the designation "bread from heaven", "bread of angels", i.e., sent by the ministry of angels (Ps. lxxvii, 24, 25; Wisd., xvi, 20), plainly represents it as miraculous.
Christ uses the manna as the type and symbol of the Eucharistic food, which is true "bread from heaven":, and "bread of life", i.e., life-giving bread, in a far higher sense than the manna of old (John, vi). St. Paul in calling the manna "spiritual food" (I Cor., x, 3), alludes to its symbolical significance with regard to the Eucharist as much as to its miraculous character. Hence the manna has always been a common Eucharistic symbol in Christian art and liturgy. In Apoc., ii, 17, the manna stands as the symbol of the happiness of heaven.

Name: Biblically probably Origanum Maru) (probably not Septuagint hyssopos).
Bible Verse: Exodus 12:21-22
Show bag of hyssop leaves.
The leaves have a slightly bitter minty flavor/flavor and can be added to soups, salads or meats, although should be used sparingly as the flavor/flavor is very strong. Hyssop also has medicinal properties which are listed as including expectorant, carminative, relaxes peripheral blood vessels, promotes sweating, anti-inflammatory, anti-catarrhal, antispasmodic.
Note: Hyssop also has uses in the garden, it is said to be a good companion plant to cabbage, partly because it will lure away the Cabbage White butterfly. However hyssop is said to be antagonistic to radishes, and they should not be grown nearby.
Hyssop also attracts bees and butterflies, thus has a place in the wild garden as well as being useful in controlling pests and encouraging pollination without the use of unnatural methods.
Hyssop is also used as an ingredient in eau de Cologne, and in the liqueur Chartreuse (one of the 130 herbs in it).
Moses is represented as bidding the elders of Israel to take a bunch of hyssop and to sprinkle with it the blood of the paschal lamb upon the lintel and the side posts of the doors of their dwellings.
In the wilderness hyssop was also ready at hand, as can be inferred from Ex.24: 8, completed by Heb. 9: 19, according to which Israel's great lawgiver sprinkled the Hebrews with hyssop dipped in the blood of victims, at the sealing of the old covenant between Yahweh and His people.
The references to hyssop contained in the Mosaic ritual show clearly that it was a common plant in the peninsula of Sinai and in the land of Chanaan, and disclose its principal uses among the Hebrews. Thus, it is with hyssop that the blood of a bird offered in sacrifice is to be sprinkled for the cleansing of a man or a house affected with leprosy (Lev. 14: 4-7, 49-51);
It is with it, too, that the sprinkling of the water of purification must be made at the cleansing of a tent, a person, or a vessel polluted by the touch of a dead body (Num.19: 8).
Besides being thus used as an instrument in the act of sprinkling, hyssop was employed as one of the elements to be burned in the preparation of the water of purification itself (Num.19: 6).
Note: It is believed that the reed or rod used to raise the sponge of vinegar water to Jesus was actually Hyssop.
1. The Cross might have been shorter than we normally think.
2. I see some symbolism in this possibility of the reed being hyssop.

Name: Black Mustard or Brassica nigra Some think Sinapis orientalis is the biblical mustard.
Bible verse: Matthew 13: 31-32; Matthew 17:20; Mark 4: 31-32; Luke 13:19; Luke 17:6
Mustard seeds are from the mustard plant, which is a cruciferous vegetable related to broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbage.
While there are approximately forty different varieties of mustard plants, there are three principal types used to make mustard seeds: black mustard (Brassica nigra), white mustard (Brassica alba) and brown mustard (Brassica juncea).
Black mustard seeds have the most pungent taste, while white mustard seeds, which are actually yellow in color, are the most mild and are the ones used to make American yellow mustard. Brown mustard, which is actually dark yellow in color, has a pungent acrid taste and is the type used to make Dijon mustard.
Mustard also yields an oil similar to colza oil.

Medical: Shown to help reduce the severity of asthma, decrease some of the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, and help prevent cancer; helps to lower high blood pressure, to restore normal sleep patterns in women having difficulty with the symptoms of menopause, to reduce the frequency of migraine attacks, and to prevent heart attack in patients suffering from atherosclerosis or diabetic heart disease; seeds also qualified as a very good source of omega-3 fatty acids as well as a good source of iron, calcium, zinc, manganese, magnesium, protein, niacin and dietary fiber.

Brassica nigra is now an annual garden herb, but in former days it grew wild in the fields of Palestine
The Jews sowed and cultivated it in their fields and not in their gardens (Mt 13.31*) probably for the oil.

Matthew 17:20 In our day the seeds of mustard are not considered to be the smallest of all seeds (a distinction held by the orchid). But in the days of Jesus the smallest quantity of something was proverbially compared with 'a mustard seed'
Also Luke 17:6
Show seeds for mustard and epazote.
The mustard plant does not usually grow as tall as a tree, but travelers relate that they have passed through mustard fields in which all the plants exceeded the height of a man, and where birds were actually sheltering in the 'branches'. The stem of the mustard plant may be as thick as a man's arm. The description of it as a 'tree' in the parable is, therefore, not misleading. They are normally not more than 3-4 feet tall but plants have been found 10-15 feet tall with a main stem as thick as a man's arm.
Although they are only annual plants, their stems and branches in autumn become hard and rigid and of quite sufficient strength to bear the weight of small birds
Some commentator have suggested that the seed mentioned in the parable was not that of the black mustard, but of a different plant, Salvadora persica. But this is found in the valleys of the Jordan river, not in the fields. Moreover, its seeds are too large to fit the description given in the Gospels.

Name: Cinnamomum zeylanicum
Bible verse:

Exodus 30:23 as one of the component parts of the holy anointing oil, which Moses was commanded to prepare - in Proverbs 7:17 as a perfume for the bed.
Revelation 18:13 it is enumerated among the merchandise of the great Babylon.

Description: Over 100 species of cinnamon trees.
It is actually the inner bark of a tropical evergreen tree that can grow to a height of 35 feet. The branches of 3-year old trees are removed and vertical slices are made down both sides of each branch. The bark is peeled off in half sections and left to dry. After a few days, the outer bark is then scraped away. As any moisture remaining in the inner bark evaporates completely, the pieces curl inward, forming a tubular "quill."
In China, recorded use goes as far back as 2800 BC.
Because of its preservative and antiseptic qualities, Egyptians mixed cinnamon into their embalming powder.
Asians have burned cinnamon as incense in temple ceremonies for centuries.
In Biblical times, it was commonly listed as an ingredient in oils used to anoint the body. It was used in the combination of ingredients used to make a holy anointing oil for the tabernacle. The ointment or oil was used to anoint the tabernacle of the congregation, the ark of the testimony, the table and all the vessels, the candlestick, the altar of incense, the altar of burnt-offering, etc.
Ancient Greeks enjoyed the sweetness of cinnamon in this way, too, and also used cinnamon to flavor wine

Cinnamon is a common ingredient in many sweets, pastries, pies, breads, and other baked goods. Hot and cold breakfast cereals come alive with a sprinkling of cinnamon. Sticks are used to stir and flavor hot beverages, especially coffee, hot chocolate, and cider. Cinnamon is a key ingredient of the Indian spice mix garam masala, a blend of dry-roasted herbs and spices. Cinnamon is used in many savory chicken and lamb dishes from the Middle East.
In the pharmaceutical world, cinnamon flavoring is added to toothpaste, gum, and dental floss.
Around the home, the warm, woodsy, pleasant fragrance is added to candles, potpourri, and air fresheners.
The aroma of cinnamon is said to reduce stress and to have a reviving, uplifting effect on mood.

For a complete history of most vegetables, see "Vegetable Travelers at:

*A special thanks goes to Esther Valadez who was my faithful secretary in 1983 when this column was written on February 23. She was convinced that I was "possessed" by the devil---so much so that she read the Bible EVERY day during her lunch break. So when I wrote this column, she checked-and-double-checked it for correctness of scripture. Her diligence probably kept me from being run out of town in '83.

Also, thanks to Jack Hoover for his hard work in providing the information about Herbs and Spices.