Of Mintes full and Fennell greene."—Romaunt of the Rose. Parsley is, perhaps, still more common than either of these. In the earliest English gardening treatise,† a section of the short poem is devoted to parsley, and the instructions for its culture are quite correct:—
" Percell kynde ys for to be.
To be sow yn the monthe of mars so mote y the.
He will grow long and thykke.
And euer as he growyth thu schalt hym kytte.
Thu may hym kytte by reson'.
Thryes yn one seson '.
Wurtys to make and sewes ‡ also.
Let hym neuer to hye go.
To lete hym grow to hye hit is grete foly.
* * *
Thay that the sede schal bere the Kytte hym nou5t but lete hym be".
The same practical poet, John Gardener, also gives directions for the planting of onions, garlick, and leeks. They were to be sown on St. Valentine's day, as they are " herbys vn-meke," or what we call " hardy." The onion plants which were required for seed, were to be sown in April or March, and when the heads began to grow tall, they were supported by ash-sticks :—
" Forkys y made of asche-tre That none of hem downe nou5t fall.
* * *
When they rype they wyl schow.
And by the bollys thu schalt hem know.
The sede wt[ith]yn wul schewe blake.
Then thu schalt hem vp take.
They wul be rype at the full.
At lammasse of Peter Apostull".
† MS. Trinity College, Cambridge. Printed in Archceologia, 1894. ‡ Sauces.
Saffron was used in cookery in astonishing quantities, and the price paid for it was very high, from ten to twenty shillings per pound. It was chiefly grown in the Eastern Counties. Walsingham, in Norfolk, was famous for its saffron in early times, and the plant gave its name to the town in Essex, Saffron Walden. The beds of saffron required considerable care. John Gardener says the " Beddys" must be "y-made wel wyth dyng, For sothe yf thay schal bere." The bulbs, he goes on to say, must be set with " a dybbyl," and planted three inches deep.
" Thay wold be sette yn the moneth of September Three days by-fore seynt mary day natyuyte".
Among the other herbs of the garden, cabbages, or kale, held a foremost place. They are spoken of as " caboges," " cabochis," " caul," or " kole-plantes," and sometimes " wurtes," or " wortes," stands for cabbages.* John Gardener speaks of " wortys" in that sense:—
" How he schall hys sedys sowe Of euery moneth he most knowe Bothe of wortys and of leke Ownyns and of garleke Percely clarey and eke sage And all other herbage".
He devotes a paragraph of twenty-five lines to the culture of these "wortys." He says they could be had all times of the year by a careful succession of sowings.
" Euery moneth hath his name-To set and sow wtou5t eny blame May for somer ys al the best July for eruyst† ys the nexst Novembr' for wynter mote the thyrde be Mars for lent so mote y the ‡ * * * and a cabbage at his feet appears on his monument." The tomb is to be seen in the church to this day, dated 1627.
And so fro moneth to moneth.
Thu schalt bryng 'thy wurtys forthe".
In fifteenth century cookery books we find recipes for cabbages, both in "potage" or dressed with marrow, gruel, and saffron. In the lists of great banquets which have been preserved, such dressed vegetables rarely, if ever, occur. At the third course of a banquet on the occasion of Henry the Fourth's marriage, "pescodde" and "strawberry" were among the dishes, but this is almost a solitary instance among bills of fare of that date.* Cabbages were, from the earliest times, grown in this country, but it may be some improved variety which is referred to in the following passage †:—"Sir Anthony Ashley, of Wimborne St. Giles, Dorset, first planted cabbages in this country.
* " Brassica . . . wortes aut cole aut colewortes."—Turner's Libellus, 153S. † = liarvest. ‡ — so may I thrive.
There was both a good variety and a fair supply of fruit in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Several new kinds of apple and pear are mentioned by the poets of the day, and must have been well known. Lydgate speaks of the Pomewater,‡ Ricardon, Blaundrelle, and Queening apples. Gower of another kind, the Bitter-sweet:—
" For all such time of love is lore And like unto the bitter-swete For though it think a man fyrst swete He shall well felen at laste That it is sower." §—Confessio Amantis.
In the " Miller's Tale," Chaucer incidentally alludes to the old custom of storing apples,— "Hire mouthe was swete as..... . . . hord of apples, laid in hay or hethe".
He gives us the name of a pear, evidently newly introduced, in the same description,—
" She was wel more blisful on to see Than is the newe perjenete tree".