Rhubarb, or Rephontic

Do not start, and say, This grows, you know not how far off: and then ask me, How it comes to pass that I bring it among our English simples? For though the name may speak it foreign, yet it grows with us in England, and that frequent enough in our gardens; and when you have thoroughly pursued its virtues, you will conclude it nothing inferior to that which is brought out of China, and by that time this hath been as much used as that hath been, the name which the other hath gotten will be eclipsed by the fame of this; take therefore a description at large of it as follows.

Descript : At the first appearing out of the ground, when the winter is past, it hath a great round brownish head, rising from the middle or sides of the root, which opens itself into sundry leaves one after another, very much crumpled or folded together at the first, and brownish: but afterwards it spreads itself, and becomes smooth, very large and almost round, every one standing on a brownish stalk of the thickness of a man's thumb, when they are grown to their fulness, and most of them two feet and more in length, especially when they grow in any moist or good ground; and the stalk of the leaf, from the bottom thereof to the leaf itself, being also two feet, the breadth thereof from edge to edge, in the broadest place, being also two feet, of a sad or dark green colour, of a fine tart or sourish taste, much more pleasant than the garden or wood sorrel. From among these rise up some, but not every year, strong thick stalks, not growing so high as the Patience, or garden Dock, with such round leaves as grow below, but small at every joint up to the top, and among the flowers, which are white, spreading forth into many branches, consisting of five or six small leaves a-piece, hardly to be discerned from the white threads in the middle, and seeming to be all threads, after which come brownish three square seeds, like unto other Docks, but larger, whereby it may be plainly known to be a Dock. The root grows in time to be very great, with divers and sundry great spreading branches from it, of a dark brownish or reddish colour on the outside, having a pale yellow skin under it, which covers the inner substance or root, which rind and skin being pared away, the root appears of so fresh and lively a colour, with fresh coloured veins running through it, that the choicest of that Rhubarb that is brought us from beyond the seas cannot excel it, which root, if it be dried carefully, and as it ought (which must be in our country by the gentle heat of a fire, in regard the sun is not hot enough here to do it, and every piece kept from touching one another) will hold its colour almost as well as when it is fresh, and has been approved of, and commended by those who have oftentimes used them.

Place : It grows in gardens, and flowers about the beginning and middle of June, and the seed is ripe in July.

Time : The roots that are to be dried and kept all the year following, are not to be taken up before the stalk and leaves be quite turned red and gone, and that is not until the middle or end of October, and if they be taken a little before the leaves do spring, or when they are sprung up, the roots will not have half so good a colour in them.

I have given the precedence unto this, because in virtues also it hath the pre-eminence. I come now to describe unto you that which is called Patience, or Monk's Rhubarb; and the next unto that, the great round-leaved Dock, or Bastard Rhubarb, for the one of these may happily supply in the absence of the other, being not much unlike in their virtues, only one more powerful and efficacious than the other. And lastly, shall shew you the virtues of all the three sorts.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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