A miscellany of early cordials
Forester Nigel FitzMaurice
Introduction. One factor in the emergence
of cordials and liqueurs as recreational beverages occurred as a result
of a long period of development from medicinal preparations of a largely
herbal nature. In this regard, a useful search may be undertaken of early
medicinal common-books, with a view toward discovering recipes and commentaries
describing such preparations. The present paper is the result of one such
search. In it, a number of recipes are transcribed from various common-books
dating from the late 14th century. The transcriptions are followed by a
translation, and a commentary. Finally, a compilation of the diverse ingredients
found in the collection of recipes is presented, with suitable commentary.
The recipes presented herein are all taken from four different manuscripts (Harleian 2378, the Johnstone Manuscript, Sloane 521, and Sloane 2584). Each of these works are privately produced formularies describing a wide variety of medicinal preparations, presenting several hundred leaves each both in Latin and in Middle English. Each recipe described below was originally set down in English. They represent only the slenderest fragment of the whole works. They were selected as clear examples of medicines on their way to becoming liqueurs. Other preparations in the primary sources are, for the most part, solids or ointments, or fluids unrelated to liqueurs, or preparations so complex and/or dangerous as not being of value otherwise. I tried to select recipes which could be reproduced, at least in large part, but some were chosen despite being irreproducible for any of several reasons, because they seemed to me to shed light upon one or another aspect of the topic at hand. I comment on the practical aspects of recreating these formulae, but let me be quite clear here, that due caution and common sense must be exercised in any attempts to reproduce these items.
A few comments regarding the translations may be in order. Middle English is a deceptive language, because when confronted by a page of it, one immediately has the feeling that with just a little effort it can be read straight off. This is often the case, but there remain shifts in vocabulary, subtle variations in syntax and grammar, and an orthography which is actually more phonetic than English is now. All of these factors can lead one astray without care being taken. I have provided fairly loose translations which strive for readability and intelligibility to a modern audience, while still preserving the feel of the original. Plant names have changed a lot in 600 years, and I have substituted modern labels for the originals wherever they are known. Likewise, where saints feast days are mentioned, I have inserted the calendar date instead. Finally, I have modernized punctuation and general format. Transcriptions of the original language is provided so that the reader may compare directly, and thereby decide for themself whether I have done an adequate job. One note on transcription needs to be made; while there is an html code for the early Teutonic thorn character (þ, used extensively here), and an image file I have created for the "ounces" character found in recipe #11 (), there is no html coding for the Anglo-Saxon gutteral, yogh, which looks much like a script "3". To use the numeral in its place would tend to confuse in places, and no image file I have been able to create fits into the text without looking awkward and out of place. Therefore, I have transliterated yoghs as they occur with the formula "gh"; many, though by no means all "gh"s will, therefore, represent the gutteral.
Here then are twelve different recipes which, it is to hoped, will be of assistance in showing how a variety of cordials and liqueurs could have developed.
1. (Harl. 2378)
P. 30. For ame[n]dyng of þe stomake, and to distroye euele blode. - Take fumytere iii handfull and of borage ii handful and cute hem smale and seeth hem in iii quartes of white wyne þe space of iii pater-nosteres and iii aves, and late it coleun and þan clense it and kepe it in a fayre vessell; and drynke þer-of euen and morwe xii sponfull y-warmed.
For mending of the stomach and to destroy evil blood. - Take 3 handfuls of fumitory and 2 handfuls of borage, cut them fine and boil them in 3 quarts of white wine the space of 3 pater nosters and 3 ave marias; then let it cool, clarify it, and keep it in a fair container. Use it evenings and mornings, 12 spoonfuls warm.
Commentary. - An uncomplicated recipe to start with, showing many of the basic elements of later cordials and liqueurs: herbs prepared and fixed into an alcohol (usually wine), clarified, and used as a kind of tonic. Regarding measurements; after due experimentation, I find that for me, a "handful" equals about 1 tablespoon.
2. (Harl. 2378)
P. 237-4. Another - Tak camamile and beteyne, and temper hem to-gedir with red wyn, and gif it him to drink.
Another - Take chamomile and betony, and blend them well together in some red wine, and give it to him as a drink.
Commentary. - A very straightforward little formula; the only ambiguity here is the quantity of herbs and wine; not terribly much of either, I should imagine.
3. (Harl. 2378)
P. 237-7. For þe pose in þe hed. - Sethe pympernol in wyn and drynk it at euen hoot and at morwe cold.
For a head cold. - Boil burnet in wine and drink it hot in the evening and cool in the morning.
Commentary. - Another very simple little concoction with ambiguous measurements. Note that despite the Mediaeval name, the specified herb is not pimpernel, but salad burnet. See the ingredients glossary below for more details.
4. (Harl. 2378)
P. 239-2. For þe pyn in þe eye. - Tak hony and sethe it and spoo[r]ge it and put þer-to als mykil of whit wyn, and sum of þe pome-garnet; and let it sethe to-gidir til half be sodyn In; and anoynte þin eyen þer-with.
For pain in the eye. - Take honey, boil it and sparge it, and mix it together with an equal amount of white wine and some pomegranate. Let it boil together until the volume is halved, and anoint the eye with it.
Commentary. - Despite the fact that this formula calls for use as an ointment, I felt compelled to include it anyway, because not only is it a very tasty sounding preparation, but it is also one of the earliest period references I have come across of the term "sparging", which is used here exactly the way a modern brewer or vintner would use it: to cleanse, wash, or clarify. To comment on this as a potential cordial, boiling honey will destroy much of the delicate flavors to it, so I would recommend a gentle heat designed to blend rather than force.
5. (Harl. 2378)
P. 278. A precious water to clere a mannys syght and distroy þe pyn in a mannys eye. - Take þe rede rose and ambrose, þat men callyn capillus veneris, and fenel, iue, verueyne, eufras, endiue and beteyne; of ilk alyk mekyl, so þat þou haue vndur alle vi hanful; and lat hem reste in whit wyn a day and a nyght; and þe secunde day stille hem in a stillatory; þe fyrst water þat þou stillist schal seme colour of gold, and þe toþer of siluer, and þe iii of baume; þis precious water may serue to ladys insted of baume.
A precious water to clear a mans sight and destroy the pain in a mans eye. - Take red rose, germander (which some call capillus veneris), fennel, ivy, vervain, eyebright, endive and betony; of each equal amounts, so that you have in all 6 handfuls; and let them rest in white wine a day and a night. The second day still them in a distillator; the first water that you produce shall be the color of gold, the next of silver, the 3rd of balm; this precious water may serve to ladies instead of balm.
Commentary. - A relatively simple and straightforward recipe, with no particularly dangerous ingredients. The method of distillation is alluded to, but not addressed directly; there is a more detailed reference in number 9, below. The measurements imply about 3/4 cup of herbs altogether, and about 3 teaspoons each. A further implication is, therefore, that no great quantity of wine is being called for; perhaps no more than a quart? Another point which we shall see repeated in all these recipes is that, for the most part, the part of the plant to be used is not specified, and we are left to guess whether the root, the stalk, the seeds, or the flowers are meant.
6. (Johnstone Ms.)
P. 161-3. Alia. - Who-so haue suellyng in his stomake, take þe route of fynel and þe route of arache and stampe hit wiþ wyn and hit schal helpe and hele hit.
Another (recipe...) - Whoso has swelling in their stomach, take the root of fennel and the root of orache, and mix them well in wine, and it shall help and heal.
Commentary.- A very basic little formula, very medicinal in orientation, but showing the essential elements of a cordial; distinctive flavoring elements in an alcohol vehicle.
7. (Johnstone Ms.)
P. 162-7. Pro fluxu.- Take red wyn and þe sed of persile and stampe hit and tempere hit and drinke hit ofte: et restringit ventrem.
For the flux. - Take red wine and seeds of parsley, mix them well, and clarify it. Drink it often, and it will restrain wind.
Commentary.- An excellent example of a very simple one-ingredient decoction. No measurements are given, but my impression is that a small amount is indicated, perhaps a handful of seed to a pint or so of wine.
8. (Johnstone Ms.)
P. 205. For þe cardiacle. - Take gallynggale, gyngeuer and licoris, with fynel; seþ and make to poudre, and drynke with stale ale.
A cordial. - Take galangal, ginger, liquorice, and fennel; blend them together and powder them, and drink with an old ale.
Commentary. - Another very simple recipe, but one not at all accordant with modern notions of what a cordial is supposed to be, at least in terms of the vehicle of old ale. This preparation will be a remarkably pungent brew, combining as it does four very aromatic and sharp-tasting herbs. No measurements are spoken of or implied; I would be inclined to use about a tablespoon each, in perhaps a quart or so of ale. Once again, the parts of the plants are not specified, although there is no great puzzle about any except for the fennel. I suspect that for fennel, the seeds are to be used.
9. (Johnstone Ms.)
P. 258. For to make aqua vite. - Take sauge and fynel-rotes
and persely-rotes and rosmaryne and tyme and lauendre of euerech
lyche moche and wasche hem and drye hem after and wenne þey
ben drye, grynde hem a lytel in a morter and strawe þer-on a lytel
salte, and putte hyt in þe body of þe styllatorye and helde
þer-on wyne, reed oþer whyghte, þene putte hyt
in a potte fulle of asckes ouer ze forney and make so softe fuyre þer-vnder
þat wen ze styllatory by-gin to dropp, loke þat hyt dropp no
fastur þan þou myste seyghe on, two, þre, by-twene þe
And so do stylle hyt al to-gedre; þenne take þye water þat is distillyd, and distyllet aghen ghyf þou wolte and vse þat of euer[e]ch day a lytel spone-ful fastyng.
To make aqua vite. - Take germander, fennel root, parsley
root, rosemary, thyme and lavender, each in equal amounts.
Wash them and dry them, and then grind them a little in a mortar
and add a little salt. Then put it in the body of the distillator
and pour in wine (red or white), then place it in a pot full of ashes over
the furnace and make a gentle enough fire underneath that when the distillator
begins to drip, look that it drips no faster than you can say "one, two,
three" between the drops.
And so do distill it all together; then take the water that is distilled, and distill again if you like, and take a little spoonful every day while fasting.
Commentary. - This item is the very last one in the book it is drawn from, and is written in a different, slightly more modern hand. It seems to date from the period 1400-1450. It is a classic recipe for strong waters, and has a rather detailed reference to period methods of distillation. What is not mentioned is that the first third and the last third of a distillate is useless for our purposes, and liable to be dangerous if consumed. Note that quantities are not described at all, except in relative terms; anyone wishing to reproduce this drink will need to estimate and experiment. My own feeling is that not much is needed; perhaps a handful of each herb, and a gallon or less of wine. Here, finally, we see some specific references to the plant parts, for the fennel and parsley, at least.
10. (Sloane 521)
P. 265-2. A nobyl watyr for alle seknesse in mannys body, and for al þe membrys of mannys body. - Take borage, langdebef, lyuerwort, hertstunge, sowthystel, planteyne; of ych iiii handful; beteyne, wyrmode, tenderons of hoppys, herbe yue, cleuer, watyrcressys, cowsloppe, þe leuys of segge, elena campana, horound, of ych half an handful. Schrede al theys to-gedyr smal, and medyl hem wel to-gedyr and stylle hem alle, and gadyr þe watyr in-to a glas and sette þe glas aghen þe sonne vi or vii dayis; and if a man haue nede, late hym take þer-of morn and euyn iiii sponful at onys.
A noble water for any sickness in a mans body, and for all the members of a mans body. - Take borage, bugloss, liverwort, scaly ceterach, sowthistle, plantain; of each 4 handfuls; betony, wormwood, new shoots of hops, ground pine, red clover, watercress, cowslip, the leaves of sedge, elecampane, and horehound, of each half a handful. Shred all these together fine, and mingle them well together and distill them all, and gather the water into a glass and set the glass in the sun 6 or 7 days; and if a man have need, let him take 4 spoonfuls at once, morning and evening.
Commentary. - An interesting period example of what is in effect a type of "sun tea". Note well, one of the ingredients, wormwood, is on the SCA proscribed list. As is indicated in the comments for number 1, a "handful" seems to be roughly a tablespoon, so the total amount of herbs comes to just over 4 cups. This seems like rather a lot for "a glass", so I am assuming that a fairly substantial amount of liquid is produced to be tapped for individual glasses; perhaps a gallon or so? An ambiguity is the reference to "stylle hem alle"; no wine is mentioned, so it may be that is implied or assumed by the author. Otherwise, this would be non-alcoholic, and the distillation would be to refine or clarify the brew. As before, plant parts are not mentioned except for the hops and the sedge.
11. (Sloane 521)
P. 266-1. For to make gratia dei. - Take sarcocolle, colofonye, ana iiii, mastik, galbanum, armoniak, frankencens, bdellium, ana iii, scrapyng of bellys, verdegres, opoponak, ana ii, pik greeke, pic naual, ana 5, and al þo þat be abyl to be pouderyd must be mad as smal as it may be. Thanne, take þeis herbys þat folwyn; of betayne iiii, pimpernol, uerueyn, consold, þe more and þe less, mousere, planteyne, ribbe, lauriol, gharow, centory, þe rede and þe qwyte, if it mowe be get, auence, sauge, ana ii; stampe al þeis herbys to-gedyr in a morteer, and sethe hem in a galon of qwyt wyn, til hauyndel or more be sothyn in; and late stande to kele iii hourys at þe lest; þanne streyn hem and set þe lecour a-ghen on þe feer, and qwan it begynnyth to boyle al þeis forseyd pouderys put þer-to, and boyl hem wel to-gedyr, and in þe ende of þe boylyng put þer-to a quarteer or half a pound of oyl of rose, and aftyr, take it from þe feer, and stere it stylle o þes tyl it be cold and put it in boystes or in boxis.
To make Grace-of-God. - Take 4 ounces each of sarcocolla and colfine, 3 ounces each of mastic, galbanum, armoniac, frankencense, and bdellium, 2 ounces each of the scraping from bells, verdegris, opoponax, and 5 ounces of greek pitch and naval pitch. All those that can be powdered must be made as fine as possible. Then, take the following herbs: 4 ounces of betony, 2 ounces each of burnet, vervain, comfrey, daisy, mouse-ear, plantain, ribwort, spurge laurel, yarrow, centaury, (the red and the white if it can be obtained), avens, and germander. Grind all these herbs together in a mortar, and boil them in a gallon of white wine, until half or more be blended thoroughly in; and let stand to cool 3 hours at least. Then strain them and set the liquor again on the fire, and when it begins to boil put in all the aforesaid powders. Boil them well together, and when finished add a quarter or half a pound of oil of rose, then take it from the fire and stir this gently in the other until it is cool; then put it in boists or in kegs.
Commentary. - I include this recipe for completeness sake; I don't expect it will ever be able to be reproduced accurately, since at least one of the listed ingredients (Sarcocolla) is unknown in modern times. Another ingredient, verdigris (copper acetate), is somewhat toxic. Finally, the colfine and the two "pitches" are unfamiliar to me, aside from being some sort of resinous material. A boist is a kind of box, presumable fit to contain liquid. I am not clear on what the difference is between boystes and boxis, I am assuming that at least one refers to small kegs.
12. (Sloane 2584)
P. 14. Item, bewe de Antioche. - For to make drynke of Antioche, take more of Auans, straubery-wise, bugle, pigle, litil daysi, þe reed-worte croppe, 5 croppes of orpyn and 5 of hemp and 5 of þe reed nettil, 5 of þe brembel and 5 of hemelokes, þe whiche is cleped fox and a porcioun of þe rote of þe more consaunde and brosewort and of grene mader, as moche as of alle þe oþere erbes in quantite. Afturward take 2 galouns of whighte wyne and alle þe forsaide erbes put to-gedere in a pott; boile hem into þe half lecor be soden, and afturiward take þe erbes and wring hem þorw a clene cloþ and aftur take as moche of hony as þou hast licour; and do it in a glas or in a-noþer uessel, and þis forsaide lycour, and 5 sponful of warme water, medled to-gedeir 9 daies and 9 nyghtes; and þis water schal be made betiwene þe firste of philyp and Jacob, and þe natiuite of seynt Ion Baptyst and use it afturwarde.
The drink of Antioch. - To make the drink of Antioch, take root of avens, strawberry, bugle, stitchwort, young daisy, red cabbage crop, 5 crops of orpine, 5 of hemp, 5 of red nettle, 5 of blackberry and 5 of hemlock, the which is called kex, and a portion of the root of comfrey and bruisewort and of young mader, as much as of all the other herbs in quantity. Afterward put 2 gallons of white wine and all the aforementioned herbs together in a pot; boil them until the half liquor be sodden. Afterward take the herbs and wring them through a clean cloth. Then take as much honey as you have liquor; and blend them together in a glass or in another vessel, along with 5 spoonfuls of warm water, settled together 9 days and 9 nights. This water should be made between May 1 and June 24, and use it afterward.
Commentary. - This is also included more to acknowledge its existence than to hope that someone will reproduce it; it contains one deadly ingredient, hemlock, and one illegal one, cannabis sativa Aside from that, though, it is an interesting recipe of which a variant without those ingredients could be perhaps be produced. Plant parts are specified more clearly than usual, and measurements also receive some notice, although the precise meaning of "crop" is obscure. One puzzle here is that daisies (Bellis perennis) are mentioned twice in this recipe, each under a different name (litil daysi and brosewort); I wonder that, since one reference is to "litil daysi", that that may refer to new shoots while the "brosewort" might refer to the mature plant? This problem is made all the more difficult in that most modern references I have seen refer to "bruisewort" as a variant name for comfrey, and yet Henslow refers to "more consaunde" as a reference to comfrey, and "brosewort" as a variant for daisy.
Ingredients: Here is an exhaustive reference to all the substances referred to in the above recipes. The list contains the common name in modern English, the name or names under which the substance appears in the original manuscript, the scientific label where applicable, the number or numbers of the above recipe(s) that the substance appears in, and comments about the substance of a general nature.
Ale (ale; 8). Common strong beer. In the recipe
in which it appears, "stale" ale is called for, and note that such
a reference will not refer to lack of carbonation, since carbonated beverages
as we understand the term did not exist in the 14th century. "Stale"
ale refers to what we would think of as finished, or clarified ale; a sufficiently
unusual product in the fourteenth century, since most beers and ales were
drunk almost immediately after production, often in a cloudy state and
while the yeast was still working. Note also that these are English recipes,
and English ale of the era did not as a rule use hops, but was gruited
with any of a variety of herbal ingredients, such as yarrow, bog myrtle,
Armoniac (armoniak; Dorema ammoniacum; 11). A flowering herb of the parsley family, long used in folk remedies.
Avens, Bennet (auans, auence; Geum urbanum; 11, 12). A perennial herb whose rootstock has long been infused in wine as a tonic.
Bdellium (11). An aromatic gum resin, closely related to Myrrh and Frankincense.
Betony (betayne, beteyne; Stachys officinalis; 2, 5, 10, 11). A perennial herb found in old gardens and shady meadows. The flowering herb is what has traditionally been used.
Borage (borage; Borago officinalis; 1, 10). An annual growing wild in the Mediterranean and cultivated in other regions. The flowers and herb are the useful parts.
Blackberry (brembel; Rubus fruticosus; 12). A bushy, trailing plant bearing the well-known fruit.
Bruisewort (12) A term sometimes referring to what we would call comfrey, and sometimes to daisies. It is difficult to decide in context just what is meant by this usage.
Bugle (bugle; Ajuga reptans; 12). An herb of the mint family, which forms dense carpets in damp meadows and wood lots.
Bugloss (langdebef; Lycopsis arvensis; 10). A small, weedy annual related to borage.
Burnet (pimpernol; Poterium sanguisorba; 3, 11) Despite the Mediaeval name, this is not pimpernel, but a shrub of the Rose family, long used as a tonic in beverages, and as a salad green.
Centaury (centory, Erythraea centaurium; 11). An annual or biennial, found in damp fields, forest clearings, and sandy soils. The flowering herb is what is usually used.
Chamomile (Camamile, Anthemus nobilis; 2). A perennial found in dry ground, especially fields, gardens, and near cultivation. It has a very distinctive odor and taste, and has long been used as a muscle relaxant. The species listed is Roman Chamomile; there is a closely related species, Matrocaria chamomilla, German Chamomile, which is used in much the same way.
Colfine (colofonye; 11). I have not been able to identify this material specifically, aside from a note indicating it to be a type of resin.
Comfrey (more consaunde, more consolde, Symphytum officinale; 11, 12). A perennial found in damp, shady soils. The root is to be used.
Cowslip, English Primrose (cowsloppe; Primula veris; 10). A perennial flowering herb found in meadows and along forest edges.
Daisy (brosewort, daysi, less consolde; Bellis perennis; 11, 12). The common English daisy.
Elecampane (elena campana; Inula helenium; 10). A perennial found by roadsides and in fields. The rootstock is the useful part.
Endive (endiue; Cichorium intybus; 5). A leafy garden herb often used in salads. Originating in south Asia and being introduced into Europe via Egypt, it would have been a rarity in the present context, since its cultivation was not common in Britain until the 16th century.
Eyebright (eufras; Eufrasia officinalis; 5). A small, downy-textured annual of a reddish color, common to fields, pastures and other open areas.
Fennel (fenel, fynel; Foeniculum officinale; 5, 6, 8, 9). A biennial or perennial native to Asia Minor and the Mediterranean, but cultivated as far north as Britain from an early date. The roots and the seeds are of use.
Frankincense (frankencens; genus Boswellia; 11). The well known aromatic incense from the southern and eastern fringes of the Arabian peninsula. Frankincense as produced in the Middle Ages and today is usually a blend of resins from any of several different species of Boswellia, especially B. Bhaw-Dajiana, B. Carteri, and B. Frereana.
Fumitory (fumytere; fumaria officinalis; 1). A low-lying annual found almost everywhere, it favors places where other plants are cultivated.
Galangal (gallynggale; Alpinia officinarum; 8). A perennial with creeping roots found in many parts of Eurasia. The root is the useful part.
Galbanum (galbanum; Ferula galbaniflua; 11). A gum resin of Middle Eastern origin, notable for its bitter pungency.
Germander (ambrose, sauge; Teucrium scorodontia; 5, 9, 11). Often referred to as "Wood Sage", it is nevertheless not the well-known kitchen spice, but a different plant altogether, a denizen of wooded and shady areas.
Ginger (gyngeuer; Zinziber officinale; 8). A perennial native to tropical Asia, but known in the west from an early date. The root provides the well-known spice.
Ground pine (herbe yue; Ajuga chamaepitys; 10). A close relative of Bugle, see above. This derives its name from its distinctly coniferous-like odor.
Hemlock (hemelokes; Conium maculatum; 12). A tall, biennial, herbaceous shrub of the parsley family; this species is highly poisonous, and is reputed to be the toxin which killed Socrates.
Hemp (hemp; Cannabis sativa; 12). A rather tall annual, found in many places around the world, especially in warmer temperate zones. Long valued as a source of rope fiber and as a psychotropic agent.
Horehound (horound; Marrubium vulgare; 10). A bushy perennial found in waste ground and upland pastures; the herb is the useful part.
Honey (hony; 4, 12). This natural source of sugar has been known from the very beginning of human experience. I recommend using inexpensive generic grades of honey, not only to control cost but also for the fact that the generics are blends from several different pollen sources, just as Mediaeval honey most likely would have been. Single source honeys, particularly the clovers, have a tendency to overwhelm other flavors with their own distinctive essence.
Hops (hoppys; Humulus lupulus; 10). A perennial vine found in many parts of the world. Its inclusion as a bitter principle in beers and ales is of early date and well known, but it has many medicinal properties as well.
Ivy (iue; Hedera helix; 5). English ivy is a climbing evergreen vine whose woody stalk can grow to great lengths. This is the plant so often seen on stately homes and college buildings.
Lavender (lauendre; Lavandula officinalis; 9). A Mediterranean shrub well known for its flowers and strong, pleasant odor.
Liverwort (lyuerwort; Marchantia polymorpha; 10). Small, creeping, mosslike plant found in damp, forested areas.
Liquorice (licoris; Glycyrrhiza glabra; 8). A perennial found in warmer temperate zones, and cultivated elsewhere. The rootstock provides the well-known flavoring agent.
Mader (grene mader; Rubia tinctorum; 12). A Mediterranean perennial. The reddish-brown rootstock is the useful part.
Mastic (mastik; Pistacia lentiscus; 11). An aromatic tree of the pistachio family, providing a gum resin often used in folk medicines.
Mouse-ear (mousere; Hieracium pilosella; 11). A small perennial found in open fields in dry soil.
Opoponax (opoponak; Opoponax chironium; 11). A gum resin with a strong, acrid taste, whose source is the root of a Middle-Eastern plant.
Orache (arache; Atriplex hortensis; 6) A small garden herb, an annual, sometimes used in salad greens. Also known as Goosefoot, from the shape of the leaves.
Orpine (orpyn; Sedum telephium; 12). A flowering plant found in northerly climes, long used ornamentally or as a folk medicine.
Parsley (persely; Petrosilinum sativum; 7, 9). A small biennial or perennial found in cultivation everywhere, known for its rather pungent flavor.
Pitch, greek (pik greeke; 11). I am unclear as to what exactly this refers to, beyond it being a resinous or tarry substance.
Pitch, naval (pic naual; 11). I presume this refers to basic tar, but I have not found any further period references that would better identify it as yet.
Plantain (planteyne; Plantago maior; 10, 11). A common perennial found in lawns, meadows, and waste ground.
Pomegranate (pome-garnet; Punica granatum; 4). A shrub native to tropical southern Asia, but cultivated in southern Europe and the Middle East for quite a long time. It is used as a fruit and is recognized as having medicinal properties. CAUTION: overindulgence in this can cause a variety of unpleasant gastric effects, including cramps and, in extreme cases, vomiting.
Red cabbage (reed-worte; Brassica oleracca; 12). The common salad green variant.
Red clover (cleuer; Trifolium pratense; 10). Common field clover, found nearly everywhere.
Red nettle (reed nettil; Urtica dioica; 12). Also called stinging nettle, and very common. A perennial found in waste ground and beside roadways all over the world. CAUTION: older plants, uncooked are toxic and can cause kidney problems. Handle with care, it is called stinging nettle for a reason; the leaves will leave an irritant under exposed skin.
Red rose (rede rose; Rosa; 5, 11). Many species and varieties go toward making up this nearly ubiquitous flowering shrub; it is impossible to know just exactly which red rose the authors meant. Note that the item for #11 is rose oil, not the plant itself.
Ribwort (ribbe; Plantago lanceolata; 11). Another of the plantains, which see, above.
Rosemary (rosmaryne; Rosmarinus officinalis; 9). A Mediterranean evergreen shrub widely cultivated for its distinctive flavor and aroma.
Sarcocolla (sarcocolle; Any of several species of Penaea, especially P. sarcocolla; 11). Resin derived from a shrub of the same name, native to central and southern Africa. Having both a sweet and bitter quality to it's taste, the gum has been used medicinally, in treatment of wounds, ear discharges, and scrofula.
Salt (9). Common table-salt, NaCl.
Scaly ceterach (hertstunge; Asplenium ceterach; 10). Spleenwort, a type of fern.
Scraping from bells (scrapyng of bellys, 11) Presumably this means the greenish patina of copper oxides found on copper and bronze objects, but the term is ambiguous.
Sedge (segge; Carex arenaria; 10). A small perennial found beside rivers, on embankments, by shorelines, and other damp, sandy soils in France and northern Europe.
Sowthistle (sowthystel; Sonchus oleraceus; 10). An annual, closely related to true thistles.
Spurge laurel (lauriol; Daphne laureola; 11). A small evergreen shrub. CAUTION: the berries of this plant are highly toxic.
Stitchwort (pigle; Stellaria holostea; 12). An annual or biennial closely related to chickweed.
Strawberry (straubery; Fragaria vesca; 12). The very well known berry. Mediaeval varieties were probably a good deal smaller than found nowadays.
Thyme (tyme; Thymus Serpyllum; 9). Wild thyme, and closely related to the common kitchen herb.
Verdigris (verdegres; Copper acetate, Cu(C2H3O2)2*H2O ; 11) A greenish-blue, somewhat toxic compound, used in medicines, pigments, and dyes.
Vervain (uerueyn, verueyne; Verbena officinalis; 5, 11). An annual or biennial, native to the Mediterranean region.
Watercress (watyrcressys; Nasturtium officinale; 10). A perennial found rising out of clear waters, ditches, and streams nearly everywhere. Used in salad greens, and a natural source of vitamin C. Nevertheless, CAUTION, prolonged usage can lead to kidney problems.
Wine (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 11, 12). Both red and white wines are mentioned in various texts.
Wormwood (wyrmode; Artemisia absinthium; 10). A silky-textured perennial with a woody rootstock, found in cooler temperate climes in waste ground. CAUTION: while wormwood has many medicinal properties, and has also been used as a bitter principle in tonics and recreational beverages, the concentrated oil is a toxin, and it is on the proscribed list for SCA arts and sciences projects.
Yarrow (3arow; Achillea millefolium; 11). A perennial found in meadows, pastures, and by roadsides; it thrives in dry, stony soil, and has a distinctive odor. CAUTION: extended use can cause the skin to become sensitive to light.
Bibliography: Here is a listing of sources I have consulted for this work.
Burrow, J. A. and Turville-Petre, Thorlac. A Book of Middle
English. Blackwell Publishers, Oxford, UK, and Cambridge, Mass.
1992 (2nd Edition 1996). A standard work on Middle English, providing
a synopsis of grammar and syntax, with a large vocabulary list and
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th edition, 1974. Many articles to confirm botanical names (which change more frequently than one might imagine) where ambiguity was found in other sources.
Henslow, G. Medical Works of the Fourteenth Century. Burt Franklin, N.Y., N.Y. 1972 (reprint of the 1899 edn.). This work is a compilation of four Mediaeval formulary manuscripts (Johnstone Mss., Harl. 2378, Sloane 2584, and Sloane 521). Each is an extract, being those recipes which were written in English, rather than Latin or French. Original spelling, grammar, and syntax is preserved throughout. An appendix, listing all the botanics mentioned in the works together with supplementary information, is included.
Lust, John. The Herb Book. Bantam Books, New York. 1974. A detailed reference guide to a wide variety of medicinal herbs and botanicals.
Meyer, Joseph E. The Herbalist. (No publisher information given) 1972. Another reference guide to a wide variety of botanicals, for medicinal and dyeing purposes. It is stated that the original work was published in 1918, and the present volume is the 9th printing of the 3rd edition, but no other publication information is given.
Placeway, Paul W. Recreating Medieval English Ales. Privately published, 1998. Internet copy here.
Runnels, H. A., and Schaffner, J. H. Manual of Ohio Weeds. Bulletin 475, (April, 1931) of the Ohio Agricultural Experiment Station, Wooster, Ohio. A very useful guide of every grass and herb found wild in Ohio at that time, arranged taxonomically, with many illustrations. Its purpose was to assist farmers in controlling pests, but it value as a plant identifier is great.
This Version: 12 Nov. 2000: Last updated 17 Mar. 2002
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