Gumbo - Encyclopedia

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GUMBO, or Okra, termed also Okra, Ochro, Ketmia, Gubbo and Syrian mallow (Sans. Tindisa, Bengali Dheras, Pers. Beimiyah - the Bammia of Prosper Alpinus; Fr. Gombaut, or better Gombo, and Ketmie comestible), Hibiscus esculentus, a herbaceous hairy annual plant of the natural order Malvaceae, probably of African origin, and now naturalized or cultivated in all tropical countries. The leaves are cordate, and 3 to 5-lobed, and the flowers yellow, with a crimson centre; the fruit or pod, the Bendi-Kai of the Europeans of southern India, is a tapering, 10angled capsule, 4 to 10 in. in length, except in the dwarf varieties of the plant, and contains numerous oval dark-coloured seeds, hairy at the base. Three distinct varieties of the gumbo (Quiabo and Quimgombo) in Brazil have been described by Pacheco. The unripe fruit is eaten either pickled or prepared like asparagus. It is also an ingredient in various dishes, e.g. the gumbo of the Southern United States and the calalou of Jamaica; and on account of the large amount of mucilage it contains, it is extensively consumed, both fresh and in the form of the prepared powder, for the thickening of broths and soups. For winter use it is salted or sliced and dried. The fruit is grown on a very large scale in the vicinity of Constantinople. It was one of the esculents of Egypt in the time of Abul-Abbas el-Nebati, who journeyed to Alexandria in 1216 (Wiistenfeld, Gesch. d. arab. Arzte, p. 118, Gat., 1840), and is still cultivated by the Egyptians, who called it Bammge. The seeds of the gumbo are used as a substitute for coffee. From their demulcent and emollient properties, the leaves and immature fruit have long been in repute in the East for the preparation of poultices and fomentations. Alpinus (1592) mentions the employment of their decoction in Egypt in ophthalmia and in uterine and other complaints.

The musk okra (Sans., Latakasturikd, cf. the Gr. K&vrCop; Bengali, Latakasturi; Ger. Bisamkornerstrauch; Fr. Ketmie musquee), Hibiscus Abelmoschus (Abelmoschus moschatus), indigenous to India, and cultivated in most warm regions of the globe, is a suffruticose plant, bearing a conical 5-ridged pod about 3 in. in length, within which are numerous brown reniform seeds, smaller than those of H. esculentus. The seeds possess a musky odour, due to an oleo-resin present in the integument, and are known to perfumers under the name of ambrette as a substitute for musk. They are said to be used by the Arabs for scenting coffee. The seeds (in the Fantee language, Incromahom) are used in Africa as beads; and powdered and steeped in rum they are valued in the West Indies as a remedy for snakebites. The plant yields an excellent fibre, and, being rich in mucilage, is employed in Upper India for the clarifying of sugar. The bestperfumed seeds are reported to come from Martinique.

See P. Alpinus, De plantis Aegypti, cap. xxvii. p. 38 (Venice, 1592); J. Sontheimer's Abd Allah ibn Ahmad, &c., i. 118 (Stuttgart, 1840-1842); P. P. Pacheco, "La Ketmie potagere ou comestible," La Belgique horticole, iv. 63 (1853); Della Sudda, "De l'emploi a Constantinople de la racine de l'Hibiscus esculentus," Repert. de pharm., January 1860, p. 229; E. J. Waring, Pharm. of India, p. 35 (1868); O. Popp, "Ober die Aschenbestandteile der Samen von Acacia nilotica and Hibiscus esculentus in Agypten," Arch. der Pharm. cxcv. p. 140 (1871); Drury, The Useful Plants of India, pp. I, 2 (2nd ed., 1873); U. C. Dutt, The Mat. Med. of the Hindus, pp. 123, 321 (1877); Lanessan, Hist. des drogues, i. 181-184 (1878); G. Watt, Dictionary of the Economic Products of India (1890).

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