August Pottage

leeks-and-beetroot.jpg

The Vegetarian Society tells me that August is the month for :Aubergine, Beetroot, Blackberries, Blackcurrants, Broad Beans, Broccoli, Carrots, Cauliflower, Cherries, Chicory, Chillies, Courgettes, Cucumber, Damsons, Fennel, French Beans, Garlic, Greengages, Kohlrabi, Leeks, Lettuce, Loganberries, Mangetout, Marrow, Mushrooms, Parsnips, Peas, Peppers, Potatoes, Plums, Pumpkin, Radishes, Raspberries, Redcurrants, Rhubarb, Rocket, Runner Beans, Samphire, Sorrel, Spring Greens, Spring Onions, Strawberries, Summer Squash, Sweetcorn, Swiss Chard, Tomatoes, Watercress.

I’ve crossed out the many things that have come to England since the fourteenth century to show you how much more choice we have now in our own gardens before we even need think of imported food.  In my own garden I’m overrun with courgettes (zucchinis) and my aubergines (eggplants) are filling out very nicely. Unfortunately, neither was available 700 years ago. My beetroots are doing well and I’m trying for a second crop of peas while it’s still very warm.

As you can see in the picture above, my leeks are tiny, but need thinning. I decided to try leeks and beetroot.  I also managed to find a few beetroot leaves that the caterpillars hadn’t eaten. As usual, there’s no pepper or salt.

beetroot

I know this is almost the same as I had last month, with the exception of the carrots, but that’s the way of it when you eat food you grow yourself in season. I’ve been eating courgettes every other day for what feels like weeks now and the chickens are laying two or three eggs a day whether I want them or not. If you have a recipe that uses both, I’d love to hear from you.

When I saw the pottage in the bowl I was less than impressed and it tasted as bad as it looked. Last month small pieces of hot beetroot went very well with carrot. On their own they were unpleasant. I had to eat something else to take the taste away. Then I had to have a glass of homemade strawberry wine.

The experiment is proving to be a bit hit and miss and this was a definite miss.

Sources:

Medieval Gardens – Anne Jennings

April Munday is the author of the Soldiers of Fortune and Regency Spies series of novels, as well as standalone novels set in the fourteenth century.

Available now:

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41 Comments

Filed under Fourteenth Century, Medieval Food

41 responses to “August Pottage

  1. Samphire was imported? I thought it grew wild.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Losing the Plot

    It’s a pity you are inland. August is also a month for harvesting seaweed like dulse, which would help with seasoning.

    Have you tried making cake with the courgettes? Zucchini cake is very similar to carrot cake and uses both eggs and courgettes, plus you could batch bake and freeze them?

    Liked by 4 people

  3. That’s an interesting list, April. I wonder why garlic was regarded as more of a continental flavouring – at least when I was growing up – as it’s been around for so long. I’m sure you’ve made umpteen courgette omelettes but we sometimes liven ours up with a dollop of creme fraiche sprinked with chives.

    Liked by 2 people

    • The garlic that was around in the fourteenth century, like many of the vegetables, was different. It was more like wild garlic. My experiment is really a huge cheat, because everything is so different now.

      I have made courgette omelettes. I’ve also made frittatas with courgettes and runner beans. The runner beans didn’t like the heat, so I don’t have a glut this year. I like the idea of creme fraiche on them, though.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. April, you can freeze eggs, without their shells. Great for say cooking or making omelettes later on. You right that dish does not look very appealing!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Like Ellen, I’m surprised by the absence of samphire, as per
    “…half way down
    Hangs one that gathers samphire – dreadful trade!” (King Lear – significantly later, I know, but how did it get so well-established by then?

    You could always poach an egg in your pottage,

    Liked by 2 people

    • I was misinformed about the samphire. It wasn’t in the book and I couldn’t find an early reference to it. In my head I knew that it had to have been around.

      I’m going to do a pottage with an egg. I’ve found a recipe to follow that calls for one. In this particular pottage, though, I think an egg would not have helped.

      The experiment has taught me that medieval people must either have grown a lot of different things in their gardens or bartered produce with their neighbours. You would have needed access to most of the things on that list to have had a varied diet.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. You could also make a fritatta with eggs, courgettes, any other vegetables you find, and some prefabricated pesto (just scramble the pesto into the eggs). Pesto makes anything taste better. It’s a pity they didn’t have it in the middle ages.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. lydiaschoch

    Wow, I hadn’t realized that so many of those foods aren’t native to England.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Think I’ll stick with Asda. I’m very jealous of your home grown veggies and chickens.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. My sources state that samphire is native to the British Islands. Dried, it retains a good deal of salt. Wonder if it was traded inland?

    Never realized England was salt poor, surrounded by seas full of the stuff.
    Many cultures diverted seawater into diked areas, repeating as it evaporated
    until the salinity caused salt to encrust against the edges or “bloom” into crystals. But due to England’s “green and watered” nature, it might have been futile if repeated rains thwarted the venture.

    Also heard that salted fish from the Mediterranean and Baltic regions provided the vital mineral, and that the brine was frequently reused for other purposes. Is this correct or facetious license?

    Being too much addicted to the stuff, the pottage sure didn’t seem appealing to me!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I never thought about why England didn’t have salt coming out its ears. Good point.

      Liked by 1 person

    • There was, and is, salt in England, but not much. Salt marshes along the cost provided a lot of it, as did brine wells in Cheshire. As you say, salt was taken from the salt marshes by evaporation in salt pans. Salt did have to be imported, though, and it wasn’t cheap.

      I don’t know if England imported salted fish from the Mediterranean or the Baltic. I know that fish caught off the English coast was salted to be sent inland. Salt was a popular preservative of fish and meat. Reusing brine sounds disgusting, but nothing would be wasted.

      I’m assuming that my household can’t afford salt, so I use other things to flavour the pottage. There are lots of herbs in my garden and they do make a difference.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I often wonder what I’d eat if I was a Medieval peasant, especially as rice, potatoes and pasta are later introductions to Britain.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Back in January 2017 I wrote a post about what peasants might eat. They didn’t have access to much and ale provided a lot of their calorific intake.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Because peasants had such small plots to grow their sustenance, they depended upon growing things that yielded the most bang for their efforts.

      Pulses (lentils, peas, beans), barley (oats for the northerners & Scots), rye, spelt, lambs quarters (and seed — added to breads and soups), plantains, onions, mustard, leeks, and many, many herbs figured largely in their diets.

      Legumes & grains stored well, which was critical when brewing ale, which didn’t keep well & needed to be consumed soon after it was ready.

      Ale provided many nutrients that were released from the grain, and was more readily digestible. Barley malt offered one of the few sweets available, and gave fuel for hard labor. Everyone drank ale, even weaned babies.
      Water was suspect & rightly so in the days before pathogenic diseases were understood.

      Ale was thick & cloudy with the dregs, which were often stirred up so nothing could be wasted. Sometimes dregs were settled, and allowed to sour for barm to leaven bread. These were not the fluffy loaves of today, as the leaven was weak & the meal heavy. Sort of a cross between naan bread & pumpernickel. Woe to any who did not watch the loaves as they baked on hearthstones! Remember King Alfred & the scorched cakes! Uneaten bread was dried and broken into new batches of ale. Nothing was wasted.

      If a family was better off they might have a few chickens. But the birds had to scratch for all their food, as grain was too dear to feed them. Small wild birds provided some protein for the poor. They were netted and their nests raided for precious eggs. Sparrows, pigeons, wrens, robins, jackdaws, curlews, — all were pot worthy. Some demenses didn’t allow netting birds if they were needed for the lord’s tables.

      Fishing was common, but some lords were not generous in allowing it. Poaching anything declared as belonging to the lord was gruesomely punished. It was worth the risk when hungry children begged for food.

      If a lord was magnanimous & the crops were good, meat & bread might be available on saints’ days and holy days. There were a lot of those, and may have provided many peasants with the little protein they legitimately ingested. These would be eaten publicly, where reeves & sheriffs watched for wanted people & listened for clues to whereabouts. Entire families could be outlawed, with children being sent to the feast to try & bring back food for the rest of the clan. As always, hunger drove desperation.

      Potherbs, even bland or barely palatable, would have been eaten, as food was not wasted, and bitter things were considered medicinal. Herbs could be added to bread or ale if necessary to stretch things.

      Not all years were hard. There were times of plenty and times of famine.
      A good lord would garner extras, as Joseph did in Egypt, for dispensing in bad times. All depended upon the fertility and amount of arable land, as well as the conscience of the lord and his reeves.

      I enjoy reading about April’s adventures in medieval pottage. She has more gumption than I care to muster, and will probably have more survival skills as well!

      Liked by 1 person

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