Use this to search the site!
Just type your request in the
blank and click on "Search"!

Today's Case

Roman Spice Called "Laser"

Re: "laser"
From: Bunny
Date: 11/24/2021, 8:57 AM

On 11/23/2021 8:15 PM, Bunny wrote:

Hi Phaed:

You mentioned that you might be able to help me with the “modern” 
translation of some of these Ancient Roman spices. 

The one spice that I am totally mystified (& see in recipes over 
& over again) is called “Laser”.

I have found a couple of different possible  names, but since I am 
not sure about these sources, I would absolutely prefer a different opinion!!!

Hi Bunny,

"Laser", or "laserpitium", or "laserwort", was the extract of a wild giant fennel plant called "silphium". It apparently only grew in one place, the ancient Greek city of Cyrene, which was near present-day Shahhat, Libya. It could not be cultivated and it was so popular that it was harvested to extinction many centuries ago. The only substitute, and a poor one at that, is a spice from the Middle East called "asafoetida." Some supermarkets and health food stores have asafoetida, and you can order it online from

I thoroughly researched and wrote a detailed article about silphium a few years ago. See this page: 8-7-2017

You can also find a few bits about it on these sites:

The Mystery of the Lost Roman Herb



Please sign your real first name to all recipe requests.

Please don't type in all capital letters.

If you have more than one request, please send them in separate e-mails.

Send Requests to

Copyright © 2021 Phaedrus