Page 1 of 1

Garlic, when was it first used

Posted: Wed Sep 16, 2009 1:11 pm
by Cathy the slayer
Please help settling this minor dispute, A freind of mine is adamant that garlic was not used in british cuisine until tudor times (henry 8th) but I am sure that people would have made use of garlic before this, norman invasion garlic must have been used. & what about the romans surely they bought garlic with them? or possibly may have used wild garlic well before that,

Is wild garlic native to the british isles or did it come over with greek or roman traders, I noticed it seems to be a lot more common as a wild plant in the southwest but quite rare here in the east midlands

Posted: Wed Sep 16, 2009 7:19 pm
by Steve of RaT
The word garlic comes from Old English garleac, meaning "spear leek." Dating back over 6,000 years, it is native to Central Asia, and has long been a staple in the Mediterranean region, as well as a frequent seasoning in Asia, Africa, and Europe.
Taken from ... istory.htm
Garlic was rare in traditional English cuisine (though it is said to have been grown in England before 1548) and has been a much more common ingredient in Mediterranean Europe.

Posted: Wed Sep 16, 2009 7:39 pm
by Handbag
Garlic is mentioned in the forme of cury several times.

Alexander neckham - abbot of cirencester in the 12century wrote several recipes with garlic in them

Posted: Wed Sep 16, 2009 9:09 pm
by gregory23b
"Garlic is mentioned in the forme of cury several times. "


Posted: Wed Sep 16, 2009 11:01 pm
by Hellequin
yes but you're talking about two sets of recipes associated with the highest possible status - they could get whatever foreign ingredients they wanted.

was garlic common in Britain? probably not...

Posted: Thu Sep 17, 2009 7:52 am
by Brother Ranulf
Regarding the recipes associated with Alexander Neckham and to set the record straight, he was not an abbot at the time he wrote his "De Nominibus Utensilium" - he was a very well educated but relatively poor schoolteacher. He was certainly not "the highest possible status" as has been suggested.

He delighted in observing things, making long lists of the mundane, for no other purpose than his own interest. For that reason he is extremely reliable, unlike some other sources of the late 12th century.

It is perhaps worth recording some of his text, if only to dispel the idea that "A Forme of Cury" is the only culinary source we have:

"A roast of pork is prepared diligently on a grid, frequently basted and laid on the grid just as the hot coals cease to smoke. Let condiments be avoided other than pure salt or a simple garlic sauce . . ."

"A domestic fowl may be quite tender having been turned on a long spit, but it needs a strong garlic sauce diluted with wine or vinegar . . ."

"Let fish that have been cleaned be cooked in a mixture of wine and water; they should be taken with green savory made of sage, parsley, dittany, thyme, cost[mary], garlic and pepper; do not omit salt . . ."

This last recipe is particularly relevant in terms of ingredients - the list includes garlic as one of many commonly-grown and widely available items. If garlic were indeed a "foreign ingredient" as has been suggested, where are all the spices and other foreign imports?

While garlic is less likely to feature in the diet of a village blacksmith or shepherd (as would pork), the idea that only the highest possible status had access to it is without any proof. If the Saxons had a word for it, they were certainly using and growing it; even if it were imported at some early date, the idea that people did not plant the bulbs in their own plots to avoid any future cost seems ridiculous.

Salt, incidentally, was produced on a massive industrial scale at Nantwich and other sites in the west Midlands; pepper was imported on an equally huge scale and was widely available at reasonable prices in markets around the country. A Guild of Pepperers existed in London in the last third of the 12th century.

Wild garlic is indeed a native woodland plant in Britain - it has long been known by many other names, including ramsons. It has been used in English cuisine as an alternative for onions for over 1,000 years but has always been seen as a different thing to real garlic.

Posted: Thu Sep 17, 2009 10:12 am
by Brother Ranulf
I just came across Alexander Neckham's description of a "proper" garden (meaning one belonging to a middle-class or aristocratic Anglo-Norman rather than a peasant's croft and toft):

"It should be ornamented with roses and lilies, the heliotrope, violets and mandrakes. One should have also parsley, cost, fennel, southernwood, coriander, sage, savory, hyssop, mint, rue, dittany, celery, pyrethrum, cress and peonies. There should also be made beds for onions, leeks, garlic, pumpkins and shallots. . ." (He then goes on to describe the far more exotic contents of a Spanish or Mediterranean garden.)

So much for "garlic wasn't used until Tudor times". :roll:

Posted: Thu Sep 17, 2009 1:51 pm
by Cathy the slayer
Thanks Guys, I thought my mate had watched too many carry on films :roll:
& will tell her as soon as I see her next :lol: ,
We have used a few wild garlic leaves but not the bulb (not wanting to destroy the plant) & it does seem to taste rather like a cross between garlic & chives very nice on a salad or in a stew.

Interesting to note that celery was also grown along with some of the more commonly known herbs some of which were used for medicinal use,

We are hoping to do more living history next year & would like to make sure we are using correct ingredients, never mind finding the right types of pots/pans etc especialy as we span from about 800 to 1200

Posted: Thu Sep 17, 2009 7:48 pm
by Handbag
ah i was waiting for Brother Ranulf to come along!! a gem of knowledge there!!
(im glad i was right about old neckham and garlic!!)
still good question - ive always used garlic in our authenti kitchen and never really questioned it... its good to make you think about the little things!! :lol:

Posted: Thu Sep 17, 2009 8:31 pm
by sally
slight tangent-what variety of pumpkin is he talking about, any ideas?

Posted: Thu Sep 17, 2009 9:46 pm
by Brother Ranulf
Sally - sadly he doesn't go into varieties - the word used is pepo, the standard classical Latin for a pumpkin. Latin has another term melopepo, literally "sweet pumpkin" and I guess that's as near to the idea of varieties as you could get.

Neckham's glossers do not include the term in their Norman French translations, so people must have understood the word as it stood. The usual Anglo-Norman terms were citre, cibole, citrin; farine was apparently pumpkin flour.

Posted: Thu Sep 17, 2009 9:51 pm
by sally
so its probably a 'savoury' gourd or squash, most of what we think of as pumpkin are new world varieties arent they, especailly the 'sweet'ones?

Posted: Thu Sep 17, 2009 11:58 pm
by Cathy the slayer
Brother Ranulf is indeed a fount of knowledge, At present i am trying to work out which recipe's we regularly eat at home that can be used under camp conditions, problem with carrots, am I wrong in thinking that early carrots were white like wild carrots? & later orange ones come from holland but everyone seems to use them anyway

Posted: Fri Sep 18, 2009 12:03 am
by Cathy the slayer
Was there a form of clay oven that was used over a fire, sort of a large plate with perforations in the bottom & a large clay or wooden dome with handles possibly some kind of oven used to bake bread etc, the thing i saw looked as if used on a grid above charcoal or is this a modern invention or a "They may have existed" but no evidence?

Posted: Fri Sep 18, 2009 7:13 am
by Brother Ranulf
Sally - I think this is another case like horses, dogs, apples and so on, where nothing we have today is exactly the same as that known in the 12th century. Savoury squash sounds right to me, but we will probably never know for sure.

Cathy - we have evidence for huge bread ovens of stone built into the walls of kitchens at monastic and castle sites. I believe that the miniature modern versions in pottery and other forms are simply a way of demonstrating the principle, rather than having any exact historical basis.

Carrots came in a wide variety of colours, including red, white and black. White carrot seed is now widely available - I get mine from here: ... carrot.htm

Posted: Fri Sep 18, 2009 1:46 pm
by Cathy the slayer
Thankyou very much for your help,plenty of choice in seeds, any you would especialy recomend, Being a rabid gardener I am always keen to try new varieties, suffering from tomato & cooking apple glut at the moment chutney is being made this weekend trying out an old recipe that says loaf sugar, would i be correct in thinking that just substitute same weight of normal sugar?

Posted: Fri Sep 18, 2009 2:11 pm
by Brother Ranulf
I have been growing "white satin" for the past two years with good results - I grow them in deep raised beds rather than in the ground, as our soil is heavy clay and pebbles which is useless for root crops. The white carrots taste different to orange ones, more nutty and with less carotin.

Sally may be able to help with sugar, cooking isn't a strong point with me!

Posted: Fri Sep 18, 2009 2:40 pm
by Eve
My guess with sugar is to substitute as you have said ,Cathy.

Posted: Fri Sep 18, 2009 4:33 pm
by hazyma
The bread oven that I use for the 1480's is a copy of a 16th century german woodcut, which shows pies being taken from the oven. Commonly used while on campaign and known as beehive ovens. still used in many countries....
If you want to see pics or more info pm me
Loaf sugar is sugar lumps, but i don't know why they specify lump sugar, other than tradition

Posted: Fri Sep 18, 2009 5:19 pm
by gregory23b
"yes but you're talking about two sets of recipes associated with the highest possible status - they could get whatever foreign ingredients they wanted."

Those recipes also call for water, onions, salt, cabbage, peas, eggs, bones, flour, bread, mustard etc

Just because a recipe is in the form of cury and other high status documents, does not mean all the ingredients are exotic.

There are other less elevated cooking recipes, eg the Pepys cook/commonplace book, 15thc, loads of recipes for all kinds of things including treating hawks.

And we know the kinds of food people were eating at other occasions, eg funeral minds, the meal eaten by the family and guests after a burial, the Stonors have some interesting ones, including roasts, potages and breads, the quality divided along status lines of the guests, the poor men were treated to roast meats and potages.

"Salt, incidentally, was produced on a massive industrial scale at Nantwich and other sites in the west Midlands; pepper was imported on an equally huge scale and was widely available at reasonable prices in markets around the country. A Guild of Pepperers existed in London in the last third of the 12th century. "

Yep, I think it was gandi or even Grym who posted up sample prices in this section, of not just pepper, but other spices too.

"so its probably a 'savoury' gourd or squash, most of what we think of as pumpkin are new world varieties arent they, especailly the 'sweet'ones?"

There is a 15thc herbal,. Italian I think that has some very nice renderings of gourds or others.

In Portugal a cucumber is called a Pepino, ref. BR's comment.

Re: Garlic, when was it first used

Posted: Fri Sep 18, 2009 8:53 pm
by Karen Larsdatter
FWIW, earliest mention of garlic in the Middle English Dictionary is c. 1150 (Wring þanne garleyc inne þa earre alche dæ3), but there's plenty of other references that indicate (to me, at least) that it appeared more than occasionally in British cuisine before the 16th century. (For example, the Summoner from the Canterbury Tales loved "garleek, oynons, and eek lekes.")

See for some images of sugar loaves.

Posted: Sat Sep 19, 2009 11:09 am
by gregory23b
Garlic mongers are sellers of garlic...

(a) c1150(?OE) PDidax.(Hrl 6258b) 7/3: Nim garluces heafud swa 3ehæl mid felle and mid ealle and bærne hit to axan.
(1275-6) Let.Bk.Lond.A (Gldh LetBk A) 226: John Arnold, garlecmongere.
(1280) in Fransson Surn. 69: Thom. le Garlekmongare.
(1292) Will Court Hust.(Gldh) 1.106: Luke le Garlecmongger.
(1319) in Ekwall 2 Lond.Sub.R.(Lund 1951) 257: De Galfrido le Garlikmonger, vij d.
(1347) in Madox Form.Angl.(1702) 361: Ricardo Garlekmongere de Norhampton.
(1355) R.Arms Norwich in Nrf.Archaeol.14 301: Hamo garlicman cum baculo & cutell'.
c1400(?a1387) PPl.C (Hnt HM 137) 7.373: Godefray þe garlek-mongere. (1411) in Thuresson ME Occup.Terms 44: Joh. Garlekman.
(1415) Invent.Agincourt in Archaeol.70 100: j Garlek morter.
(?a1439) Lydg. FP (Bod 263) 8.748: Out of his contre first he dide fleen, Of garlec lekis, as seith the cronycleer, Because that he was but a gardener.
c1450 Med.Bk.(1) (Med-L 136) 76/197: Take a garlike hede and rost it..and ete it with goode purid hony.
?c1450 Stockh.PRecipes (Stockh 10.90) 135/17: Tak garlek-hedys, and sethe hem weel in clene water.
1483 Cath.Angl.(Monson 168) 150: A Garleke seller:

differentiation between wild and tame
(a1398) * Trev. Barth.(Add 27944) 214b/b: Of garlek is double maner of kynde, wilde and tame. Þe wilde is y-clepid scordioun.. þe flour þerof schal be gadered and y-do in medicynes..of tame garleek we vseth most þe heedes.
?a1425 *Chauliac(1) (NY 12) 62b/a: Þer suffiseþ domestic attractyuez & maturatiuez, as beþ onyons, wilde garlecke & tame.

Posted: Sat Sep 19, 2009 1:54 pm
by Brother Ranulf
I shall add "scordioun" to my list of names for wild garlic - it's not one I had seen before. Thanks for that (and to Karen for her input).

I think the case is proven "beyond all reasonable doubt", which all we can ever hope for. :)

Posted: Sat Sep 19, 2009 2:06 pm
by gregory23b
Welcome BR.

And I forgot references for garlic being used in France and continent for a size for gold in books.

If I can find a medieval English painter's treatise that has been translated/transcribed I would be eternally grateful, I know they exist, but where? my holy grail.

Posted: Sat Sep 19, 2009 5:36 pm
by craig1459
c. 1353-80 Romney "maletolts" [toll] charged 2 garbs of garlic sold 1/4d

'Petty Custom Account 1480-1: Imports: Jan - Mar 1481
12 Feb. From the ship of John Bargeman called Christofer of Reimerswaal ('Remersale')

Said master, A, 40 skives teazles, 2 bales madder weight 14 C. lbs., 1 basket with 48 [S 36] doz. felt hats, 400 bunches garlic, 1,000 pavingtiles, 2 brls. mackerel, £9 13s.4d. (45s. del.)
7 Mar Andrew Petirson, A, 350 bunches garlic, 2 brls. with 3,200 balls, 55s.
Thomas Johnson, A, 400 bunches garlic, 26s.8d.

Close Rolls, Edward III: November 1360' account at the exchequer all expenses by him incurred, two tuns of wine spent for
the refreshment of the king's lieges, and certain onions and garlic

Calendar of Close Rolls, Henry VI: volume 3
gardens and closes, meadows, pastures, commons of pasture, stanks, stews, fisheries,watercourses, dovecotes, hays, ditches and garlic beds

Don't have sufficient access for the last one but that sounds like it is being grown rather than imported

Re: Garlic, when was it first used

Posted: Tue Nov 03, 2009 12:57 pm
by Pelican
On the query about carrots, could I point the original poster in the direction of the one and only "Carrot Museum" - there is a section on this history of carrots with some nice pictures of different colour carrots at different points in history and theories about geographical location of coloured carrots. Our group also grow different colour carrots to show the public what was growing where during our time period - people are often astounded that they don't always come in 1kg plastic bags in a shade of luminous orange.

Re: Garlic, when was it first used

Posted: Tue Dec 22, 2009 1:57 pm
by Timothy
> scordioun

This will be from the Greek, skorodon in Classical time and contracted and diminished to skordion in medieval Greek.