July Pottage


In June I started a project of making a seasonal pottage each month, using things that would be available to a medieval household at the lower end of society. As far as possible I’m using things from my own garden, although this exercise makes me realise how many of the things I grow were not available here in the fourteenth century.

One of my gardening friends told me a couple of weeks ago that his onions and garlic were ready, which was a bit of a relief. I like garlic and it does give food a bit of a kick when you’re not using salt or pepper, which were beyond the means of most people.

Correlating my list from the Vegetarian Society with the guidance of Medieval Gardens about which vegetables were available in the Middle Ages, I worked out that I could use:  Beetroot,  Broad Beans,  Carrots,  Garlic, Lettuce, Onions, Peas,  Radishes, Sorrel, Spring Greens, Turnips and Watercress. That’s quite a long list, but not all of those are things that I’d particularly want in a bowl together.

I’ve long wanted to try beetroot leaves, so I thinned the beetroots intending to add the leaves to the pot. Since the thinned plants included a few decent-sized roots, I threw those into the pot as well, along with the stalks. As you can see from the photo above, there were rather a lot of leaves, but not all of them were in a good enough condition to be eaten. Blackfly has been a major problem in the garden this year and they have taken to the beetroot.

I also thinned the leeks. At this stage of the year they look a bit like tiny spring onions, but they do have some taste and I thought a medieval housewife would probably be frugal enough to use them. Since there weren’t many, I added some chives as well. I bought a carrot and put that in with some garlic.

I used very little water, remembering how unpleasant the liquid had been in last month’s pottage.

July pottage

This is what it looked like and it was very tasty. I don’t know if it was a combination eaten in the fourteenth century, but I enjoyed it. It was much sweeter than I expected and even the liquid was good. I didn’t miss salt and pepper and I definitely want to try beetroot leaves again.





Filed under Fourteenth Century, Medieval Food

42 responses to “July Pottage

  1. I love beetroot leaves. They have a bit more punch than lettuce.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It looks delicious, April. It would surprise me a bit to find it on the menu in a hipster restaurant!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Is this the precursor to a 14th century cafe at your place? 😊

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I too eat beetroot leaves on a regular basis, along with grated raw beetroot. In fact I love beetroot fullstop!! The leaves have to be very young. Good on you April for trying it out!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. That certainly does look tasty. I’ve never tried beetroot leaves – I shall.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. It looks good.

    This is such an interesting experiment in general. Are you planning to do it every month of the year? I hope you do.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m going to do one each month. I’m not saying that these are authentic dishes, but they’re the sort of thing you might have ended up with if you just picked what was available and threw it in the pot.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Reblogged this on lorettalivingstone and commented:
    Medieaval-style pottage.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Looks tasty!
    I’ve recently read Tudor Monastry Farm by Ruth Goodman which has a chapter on food and also a couple of recipes. Have you read it?

    Liked by 1 person

  9. This is nothing I would want to eat on a regular basis (as my only meal) but I have to say, it looks pretty good and I think I would enjoy it.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. A lovely dish! Being sweet, probably enjoyed by medieval youngsters.

    Was celery available? In colonial America it was considered an apothecary herb, as well as a vegetable. As a child, I loved the faint saltiness of a raw stalk. I presume the bitterness of the leafy greens lent the plant its apothecary powers.

    Since England had plenty of oaks in medieval days, were the acorns consumed by people or left to the livestock? Original Americans leached acorns in running water to make a flour.

    English walnuts were often gathered when green and eaten whole, pickled or
    prepared other ways. I remember reading that American colonists used green American walnuts in cooking. Perhaps they used Old World recipes.

    Dock, comfrey, asparagus, cresses, lambs-quarters, and plantain were brought by colonists to plant, not knowing how safe American plants were. Now most of them are considered weeds. How welcome they must have been to medieval folk!

    Carrot tops are also edible. If you can grow them, just lop off the tender tops so the carrots still have plenty of greens to grow with. They are fine and feathery, and when minced, can be added just before eating a hot pottage for color, taste, & to preserve the nutrition. The fronds of Queen Anne’s lace may be used the same way. They pack a carroty punch.

    When thinning carrots, eat the entire carrot, saving the fronds for the finish.

    Purslane is a good green that our ancestors used. The thick stems were good pickled, and the leaves & thin stems for salads or steaming. They offered a fine source of vitamin C where that vitamin was hard to come by.

    I have arrowleaf and trefoil sorrels, which give a lemony taste & more C. The trefoils are quite tender & good eaten raw. Arrowleaf lends itself to pottage, and is good stewed with a bit of bacon rind and other leafy greens. The tiny, okra-shaped seedpods of the trefoil are a delightful crunch! The yellow flowers are pretty as an edible garnish. Even lovlier are the pink flowers of the woodland variety of trefoil sorrel.

    This is such fun!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. I’ve never eaten comfrey, although it’s a weed in my garden. I let it live because the bees like it. The blackfly have had a go at my sorrel again this year, but I noticed yesterday that there’s new growth at the base, so all may not be lost.

      Celery was available, but it probably wasn’t the same as the celery I can buy in the supermarket. I tried to grow celery this year, but the young plants died in the heat. Carrots were also a bit different. They were purple. I’ve tried to grow them in the past, but the soil is clay and there are too many stones. I might give them another go next year now that the ground has been dug over a few times.

      I don’t know about acorns. Logic says that, if they were edible, people ate them.

      Purslane looks fun. It might have to go on my list of herbs for next year.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Grandpa’s soil was so clayey one could make pots from it. He had several raised beds, and also dug narrow slit trenches which he filled with compost/sand/and topsoil from our garden. Those slits were where he planted root crops. They were just wide enough for him to rake with a 3-tine cultivator. Clay & stone sides held up well 2 or more seasons when he’d once again get his post hole digger to make new trenches.

        Oh he fought that clay! But he grew great crops. I best remember his Concord grape arbor, tomatoes and raspberry bushes. Except for the tomatoes, which needed lots of TLC, the berries & grapes seemed to thrive in clay and benign neglect.

        He loved turnips, and was determined to raise his own, as Hoosier grocers weren’t good about supplying them (still aren’t). Those were the chief trench plants. When I was around 10 he finally got a Rototiller. It was a an early version & quite a monster. Never knew who’d win when he took it out to use. Grandma warned me to stay far away. But! No more post hole digger!

        I deeply respect the efforts you must put into your garden. Clay can be a real back breaker to cultivate crops!

        Liked by 1 person

        • I’m trying a raised bed this year. It’s small and it’s not very high, but it’s enough to see if I can make it work. There are potatoes in there, which I’ll dig up in two or three weeks. If it’s a success, I might make some more.

          Liked by 1 person

  11. This is such an interesting experiment April. Love the idea!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. As I’ve said before, I just love that you do this kind of thing, April. Brilliant. I’m not great on leaves, I must confess – but no doubt I’d have got on with it when a 13th century peasant. One thing – I heard somewhere that carrots were not originally orange; is that true? If so, what colour were they – purple? Anyway – loved the post!

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Heirloom foods are big in America, and carrots are popular. Other colors are white, yellow, purple (usually with orange piths), and reddish-orange.

    Queen Anne’s lace, the progenitor of carrots, has a white taproot, often forked, & quite tough. They can be shredded or diced fine & cooked. The flavor is strong, and a long simmering is necessary. I’m betting the greens were the original goal of early gatherers. But the roots must have been valuable in long winters. When the colors were bred is something I’m going to explore.

    Does anyone know what the progenitors of other root vegs were like? Are any still cultivated or foraged anywhere? Beets are particularly interesting; the mangles grown for livestock can be enormous! Daikons can grow to prodigious sizes if the soil is just right. Hard to believe Daikons are related to little garden radishes!

    More fun! Happy pottaging!

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Apparently carrot propagation began in the Middle East, around the 8th century B.C. A website to explore is www carrotmuseum.co.uk/history.html.

    Seems the orange varieties were more developed in western cultures, whereas the purples & such were embraced by the eastern ones. This is rather simplistic. The website offers much more & is fascinating!

    Hope this is of help! Happy pottaging!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. priscillaking

    I’ve made root stews similar to this and liked them so I expect yours was delicious.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Pingback: August Pottage | A Writer's Perspective

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