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Research - Medieval Cooking - Fruits

Now we will look at the fruits that were available.

Interestingly enough, nobles did not eat a lot of fruit as evidenced by their poor teeth/bone health. They thought fruit was for the poorer classes. It is known they did eat dates, an expensive and exotic import from Northern Africa.

According to the website Middle Life and Times - the following fruits were imported into Europe:
  • Apricot - from Armenia
  • Plums - from Syria
  • Peach - from Persia
  • Cherry from Cerasus
  • Lemon - from Media
  • Pomegranate and Quince - from Crete
  • Pear and Apple - from Greece
  • Oranges - from China
Wild cherries, raspberries, red currants, and strawberries grew locally. Quince was used as a dried perserve and to season meat. Eventually melons were introduced into gardens.

Fruits that have disappeared include sarb and carob.
Romans used a citrus fruit called a citron which no doubt made it to European hands.

Medieval Cookery has a wonderful, detailed listing by date of fruits and their varieties.

Old Cook has some interesting information about the different fruits and origins. For example, the orange. During the early middle ages, only the bitter orange was known (which was too bitter to eat outright) and the sweet orange (that is edible without cooking) wasn't known until the 15th century. Other fruits include blackberry, figs, and apricots. The site even includes a few recipes.

Research - Medieval Cooking - Gardening

This next topic will look at the various gardens that were in play in the middle ages.

Medieval gardens were almost always enclosed, ranging from monastic stone walls to poor laborer dirt embankments. For those who have wooden fences know a rabbit or other rodent will just burrow underneath and squeeze through, so using walls or hedges to keep out pests probably wasn't effective.

A good reference for the actual structure of medieval and later period gardens can be found in this website: Medieval Gardens. They also mention that grapes, roses and rosemary were grown over topiaries. Potted plants, both inside and out, were in use as well as starting seedlings in pots to extend growing seasons. Basil, rosemary, marjoram, gillflowers and others were often potted. Vegetables grown include cabbage, turnips, beans, peas, bulb onion, etc. A nice reference listing many different vegetables can be found near the end of the site.

Another excellent reference includes
Garden History Info which lists several good articles on gardening, including a medieval kitchen garden, mentioning turnips, beets, beans, peas, cabbage, leeks, cauliflower, and some information on tea.

A reproduction of a wattle fenced garden can be found on Penn State's Center for Medieval Studies - Kitchen Garden

And one last side trip to this nice site that talks about all kinds of gardens with lots of beautiful photographs:
Essentially England

Research - Medieval Foods - Spices

To understand cooking in historic periods, you have to learn what fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices were available either in the gardens/fields or by trade. After the Crusades, trade had spread throughout Europe, the Middle East and even to Asia and India, so exotic spices were available - to the rich, of course.

According to Middle-Ages.Org.Uk Website, the following spices and enhancers were known:
  • Pepper
  • Cinnamon
  • Cloves
  • Nutmeg
  • Ginger
  • Saffron
  • Cardamon/Cardamom
  • Coriander
  • Cumin
  • Garlic
  • Turmeric
  • Mace
  • Anise
  • Caraway
  • Mustard
  • Salt
For an excellent listing of spices used and currently available, check out the Medieval Cookery site which even includes pictures and photographs!