seasonal produce and imports

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seasonal produce and imports

Postby katiepoppycat » Fri Mar 07, 2008 5:18 pm

Most of my research is from secondary sources but i'm a bit stumped on this one.

I'm trying to add a bit more authenticity to our 15C camp food by sticking to produce in season - i've a reasonable idea of what is and isn't 'authentic', and the rest is easy to work out.

I was wondering however, did we import food OUT of season? I know that lots of non UK produce found it's way here ( oranges etc) and were a bit of a status symbol. But would we have imported say, pears or apples so that they were available out of season? And where would I look for evidence of this?

looking forward to hearing some thoughts . . . .
Last edited by katiepoppycat on Sun Mar 09, 2008 10:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Merlon. » Fri Mar 07, 2008 9:20 pm

What timeframe is your display covering?
The correct varieties of fruit can keep for several months, though you will need to look to the heritage ranges

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Postby katiepoppycat » Sun Mar 09, 2008 10:37 pm

Should have mentioned 15C - will go back now and edit first post.

I;'ve started ferreting out heritage varieties of things like apples and pears where the budget allows, and usually try to buy British. How long can you rasonably manage to keep produce? I know if you keep potatoes covered in earth they last practically forevere, but thats probably not the best example in the world!

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Postby sally » Mon Mar 10, 2008 9:20 am

I would think looking at preserving methods would be a good plan, some things will dry or bottle well and so be available out of season but not in their fresh form.

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Postby Merlon. » Mon Mar 10, 2008 7:44 pm

Couple of books you could try and get through inter library loan are

Cabbages and Kings: The Origins of Fruit and Vegetables
Author Jonathan Roberts ISBN: 0002202077

Food in Early Modern England: Phases, Fads, Fashions
Author Joan Thirsk ISBN: 185285538X

As to the importing of food stuffs that depends on who or what you are representing with your camp's food. If its for the Lords table it will certainly be of higher quality (and therefore possibly imported) than your average billman or archer fare. As always the food for the troops is done down to a price rather up to a quality, (Quartermasters and Provisioners never change).

The other thing with imports is the transport time, ships could take weeks to get to England from the Mediterranean then the land transport on top. Most perishable food would have rotted by the time it reached its destination.

If stored correctly russet pears and apples will keep for six to eight months. Though they will get leathery, most modern people don't like them when they get like that.

Next question are you certain that in your time frame people ate raw fruit? Fruit was often treated with suspicion unless it had been cooked.

In the 16th and 17th century army commanders used to dread Autumn and the troops eating the fruit from the hedgerows and tree, it was one the biggest causes of dysentry due to yeasts and moulds on the fruit (course they didn't know that at the time)

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Postby katiepoppycat » Tue Mar 11, 2008 8:23 am

thanks guys - the preserving and bottling thing is interesting and i'll definitely try and get hold of those books. All the books seem to tell us that they tended to eat fruit cooked in the 15C for the reasons you have mentioned - but for our group raw fruit is one of those acceptable compromises that keeps hungry peeps fed. I'm thinking on the whole i should be sticking to whats available in UK season when planning menus. Looks like fennel soup is on hold for a couple of months!

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Postby gregory23b » Tue Mar 11, 2008 9:13 am

Good wholesome seasonal potages, you can't go wrong.

Garden peas when in season, dried when not.

Some meat, depending on time of year dictating whether it is fresh or preserved, late winter tends to give you the preserved meats.

Many medieval MSS show the basic yearly calendar, some feature plants, some show the fattening of the pigs in autumn then them being turned into meat early winter.

Some fruit varieties, apples for example allow you to have fresh apples for much of the year, but as you said, cooked seems to be the way of it.

A suggestion for those with a bit of style: pears cooked in red wine syrup, you cannot go wrong, superb cold or hot.

Pies and tarts make a nice change from the potage, mmm

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Seasonal foods etc

Postby jelayemprins » Tue Mar 11, 2008 7:53 pm

Some products imported into Boston, Lincs in the 15th century.

The town was home to 14 different guilds, so plenty of mercantile nouveau-riches here, I guess. [and the tallest parish church in the country]

List copied courtesy of Ali Naylor at Boston Borough Council.

Ø Steel
Ø Bricks
Ø Pantiles
Ø Almonds
Ø Rice
Ø Cumin
Ø Saffron
Ø Canvas
Ø Sugar
Ø Ginger
Ø Mace
Ø Vermilion
Ø Swords, Helmets, Monumental brasses
Ø Glass
Ø Currants, Figs, Apricots, Dates,

Now I know that I'd rather eat dates, currants, rice and almonds, cooked in accordance with some fab recipes, than mouldy rotting fruit, or rancid meat. Especially during Advent & Lent. And remember that all fishes swim! [ it was common knowlege that during times of fast and abstinence when preserved herring & dried stockfish was a staple that wine & ale consumption increased accordingly! ]

Pm for more useful stuff! :)


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