/as'euh fet"i deuh/, n. Chem.a soft, brown, lumpy gum resin having a bitter, acrid taste and an obnoxious odor, obtained from the roots of several Near Eastern plants belonging to the genus Ferula, of the parsley family: formerly used in medicine as a carminative and antispasmodic.[1350-1400; ME < ML asafoetida, equiv. to asa ( < Pers aza mastic, gum) + L foetida, fem. of foetidus FETID]
* * *gum resin prized as a condiment in India and Iran, where it is used to flavour curries, meatballs, and pickles. It has been used in Europe and the United States in perfumes and for flavouring. Acrid in taste, it emits a strong onionlike odour because of its organic sulfur compounds. It is obtained chiefly from the plant Ferula foetida of the family Apiaceae (Umbelliferae). The whole plant is used as a fresh vegetable, the inner portion of the full-grown stem being regarded as a delicacy. The plant may grow as high as 2 m (7 feet). After four years, when it is ready to yield asafetida, the stems are cut down close to the root, and a milky juice flows out that quickly sets into a solid resinous mass. A freshly exposed surface of asafetida has a translucent, pearly white appearance, but it soon darkens in the air, becoming first pink and finally reddish brown.
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