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Period-Fruit-art - 1/13/02


"Fruit of Period Times" by Baron Akim Yaroslavich.


NOTE: See also the files: Pattrn-Gardns-art, fruits-msg, fruit-apples-msg, fruit-pies-msg, berries-msg, fruit-citrus-msg, marmalades-msg, fruit-melons-msg.





This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.


These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author or translator.


While the author will likely give permission for this work to be reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.


Thank you,

Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous

stefan at florilegium.org



Fruit of Period Times

by Baron Akim Yaroslavich.


From the Fall of Man in the Garden, man has cultivated fruit, whether forbidden or not. The seasonal ripening of fruit has always been an eagerly anticipated event by man as a delicious adjunct to his regular fare of meat and grain. Except for honey and the rare and costly spice, sugar, there was nothing else other than fruit which could satisfy the craving for sweet, one of man's five basic taste sensations. In most central European nations during what the Society for Creative Anachronism terms "period times", fruit was largely a food item of privilege. This is comparable in present times to the place of nuts in modern diets, costly and not part of daily fare to the average American or European. This is a fascinating reversal from period times as nuts then held a far more important place in the hierarchy of available foods.

Fruits perhaps, are the least used and most misunderstood foods in all of SCA cookery. For the most part, period cooking in the SCA is firmly rooted in that of central Europe along with elements of Arabic and Indian cuisine "brought back" by Crusaders or traders. For various reasons, many fruits are wrongly considered "exotic" and "extremely late period" by a wide number of SCA cooks. Flavoursome and useful foods have always traveled with man since the beginnings of agriculture and animal domestication began some 15,000 years ago. As man spread across the world at the end of the Ice Ages, his food crops and animals spread with him. If growing conditions were such to allow it, fruits and nuts were grown; if not, they were imported as far as the limits of available preservative methods permitted.

It must be stressed that Europe, particularly in the mediaeval period due to a climatic occurrence known as the "Little Ice Age", was not suitable for cultivation of semi-tropical and tropical fruits and vegetables; hence their scarcity in recipe manuscripts during that time. Most of Europe lies at latitudes far north of Chicago and currently has its climate moderated by the influence of the Gulf Stream to a temperature range which Americans would consider comfortable. Growing conditions in most of period Europe until the end of this "Little Ice Age" can only be described as severe.

It should be clearly understood therefore, that the European continent has very few indigenous fruits and vegetables other than berries, though its forests had several species of nuts in plenty. Almost all fruits and vegetables commonly eaten by Americans and Europeans then and now are natives of Asia Minor with only a few exceptions, such as pineapple. The conquests of Alexander the Great and subsequent conquests of Rome spread fruits and vegetables of Persia and India across Europe and North Africa, including apples, melons, citrus and even bananas. A number of these were lost and forgotten to Europe at the Fall of the Roman Empire to be rediscovered only in the fifteenth century with a new age of exploration. A curious effect of this rediscovery concurrent with the exploration of the New World has been the assumption by many SCA cooks that many of these fruits were therefore New World in origin as well. Actually, a number of Old World fruits taken to the tropics of the New World grew so successfully and bountifully with such superior size and flavour that modern supplies largely are grown there for export.

Another confusing aspect in ascertaining the period use of one fruit or another is that fruit described in early literature was very nonspecific and often mistranslated. For example, the apple was first mentioned by Homer in his Odyssey, but the Greek word translated as apple was melon which the Greeks applied to any round fruit grown on a tree! (1) The Bible was a source of confusion also, evidenced by the apples eaten by the Shulamite in the Song of Solomon, which were more likely to have been quinces (2), and by the melons which were mentioned in Exodus of the Authorized Version of the Bible which were mistranslated from the correct fruit, watermelon. (3) It is probable that the single enormous cluster of grapes of such size as to have to have been carried on a staff between two men (Numbers 13:23-24) was in fact a large stalk of bananas (4). Modern biblical scholars place the time of the writing of Numbers around the 5th century B.C., which is consistant chronologically with the spread of bananas from Persia and India. This is certainly more consistent with the description of a single cluster on a branch than an aberrant instance of giant grapes which never were to be found or mentioned again in Canaan.

A further problem faced by SCA cooks is that in the evolution of food crops, many fruits and vegetables have had mutations with such overwhelmingly desirable attributes that the original strain was so little cultivated afterwards that it was allowed to actually become extinct. Such is the case with modern carrots, all of which were originally white, and with fruits, allowing the unfortunate loss of the entire family of British Costard apples (5).

A great number of new fruit varieties occurred with the settlement of the Americas as new trees were grown from seeds rather than grafts and cuttings as was customary in Europe. European apples interbred with native wild crabapple species which further separated American varieties (6) from the original European apples. Unless one grows antique European varieties on one's own trees, it is very difficult for American SCA cooks to realistically expect to duplicate results from period European recipes. Consider further differences among apples, for example, which make American SCA cooks experience problems. Commercial apples in the USA are selected more for their appearance (7) than flavour, clear red skins being preferred, and for their shipping characteristics, i.e. uniformity and resistance to bruising. The few commercially grown varietal apples are generally available only as fresh produce near the orchards or in specialty departments of large markets. Any dried apple or applesauce sold in America is a generic apple, not a named varietal. As American apples are bred for both cooking and eating (8), they are low in acidity and retain their form when cooked.

European apples today, as they were in period, are not marketed as dual purpose fruit. Cooking apples, such as grown still in England, typically disintegrate into pure in cooking due to a higher malic acid content (9) than American apples. Eating apples such as European 'dessert' apples are small and more tart than American tastes are now accustomed to. Even if period varieties were available to cooks of the American SCA, there would still be a significant difference from the original period recipes. Virtually all varieties of cooking apples in period times were preserved whole by drying peeled and cored apples and hanging them on strings (10), except for Norfork Baffins which were oven dried whole like prunes and packed in close layers (11). These varieties and preservation methods significantly alter the appearance and outcome of period recipes.

Fruits such as apples, pears and grapes today exist in thousands of varieties derived from their original wild stock. Many intermediate and named local varieties of apples and pears no longer exist that were common in period times. Many still exist in fact, but are rare and often difficult to obtain as horticulture of the 17th and 18th centuries was particularly faddish in development of new varieties. This caused the loss of many specialized varieties. Fortunately, apple and pear trees are very long lived trees and scions of a number of period varieties were saved as curiosities in the 19th century. Today, recognition of the importance of preserving plant genetic diversity for breeding new varieties has made the search for and preservation of old varieties imperative.


Native to the Caucusus regions of Asia Minor (12), apples (Malus pumila , Malus sylvestri, Malus domestica) have been cultivated since around 2500 B.C.. Apples were grown in Palestine in 2000 B.C. and in Egypt from 1300 B.C. (13). The rest of the Arab Middle East has a climate not well suited to apple growing. The name apple derives from Anglo-Saxon aepl or aeppel (14). The process of grafting of apple buds has been known since classical times, described by Cato the Elder in De Agricultura in the 2nd century B.C. (15). Pliny listed 23 varities (16) of which perhaps three survive. A surviving Roman variety is the Api or Lady apple (Pomm d'Api) (17), a small, hard, yellow winter apple with a red cheek. The Italian Decio (18) variety, cream and red in appearance, is small, crisp and claims Roman origin. Possibly the French variety Court pendu plat (19) may also be a Roman legacy. It is small and flattened, green with faint red stripes and richly flavoured. Other period varieties surviving include:

Codlins (20), was class of cooking apples which are elongated, pale green or yellow with a reddish flush. British.

Old English Pearmain (21), a red and green variety of desert and cider use, was recorded by the Normans in 1204 (22).

Golden Pippin (23), hard, long-keeping and acid apples, were popular for cider-making and dessert apples in the 16th century. English.

Reinette (24), was a firm, dry-fleshed 16th century apple of dull green skin, sometimes with matt brown russeting. French/ Germany

Golden Rennett (25)(Reinette) was a firm dry-fleshed fruit with golden yellow skin russetted evenly with red speckling. English.

White Joaneting (26) (Jenneting), an early eating yellow apple sometimes with a red flush, was well known to Elizabethans. English.

Borsdoff (27), was a yellow apple with a red-flushed skin. The flesh was whitish-yellow, crisp and juicy with a very sweet flavour. It was first recorded in Saxony in 1561. German.

Nonpareil (28), a medium sized dessert apple, yellow and red with russet speckles, has been grown in Europe since before 1500 A.D.. It was introduced into England in the 16th century. French / German

Many dishes using apples date from mediaeval times; 14th century cookbooks give recipes for apples including applesauce, fritters, rissoles (29) and ciders. Apple butter was popular throughout Europe. The hardy crab-apple was a source for making verjus (30) in England instead of green grapes, which were ripened more usefully for winemaking.


Though more highly regarded than the apple in Classical and mediaeval times, the pear (Pyrus communis linnaeus) shares its origin in the same Caucasus regions of Asia minor. (31) Pliny listed 41 varieties (32) of pears of which only the Jargonelle, his Numidianum Groecum , may be identified. The pear is named for Jargon, a city once known as Gergon, the name of which was corrupted from Groecum. (33) Jargonelles were yellow-green, flushed with gold and very tender.

Hastibeam (an early pear), Saint-Rieul, Bon Chrtieu (34) (today Williams) and Poire d'Angoisse (35) were popular mediaeval pears.

Other period pears include the Colmar or Bergamot (36) pear, a smooth-skinned, tender yellow-green and very juicy, very sweet pear. Belgian.

Brown Beurr wass a golden-russet pear or "butter pear" as its flesh seems to melt in the mouth as does butter. This variety was known as Isambart previous to 1608 apparently (37).

The Crassene (38) pear was an old variety in France when first mentioned in the 17th century. It was a particularly unattractive, dumpy fruit, green-skinned with russet dots, of the butter-fleshed type, sweet and perfumed.

Passe crasanne (39) was a common Italian cooking pear, broad, dull greenish-brown but of coarse texture.

The Caillou (40) pear of Burgundy was a very hard pear, mainly suited for cooking, extensively grown on the estates of Henry III.

Wardens (41) was the most commonly grown cooking pear of Tudor times. it originated at the Cistercian Monastery of Wardon in Bedfordshire.

Pears, unlike apples, will not air dry whole. Pears were preserved uncooked in honey (42) in Roman times. Fresh pears were also packed in sand in amphorae and placed in a cool place (43); the fresh fruit would keep often until March. Cider made from pears was called perry. Warden pears were an important ingredient in the making of chardequynce, a form of quince marmelade, eaten at the end of mediaeval feasts to ease the stomach (44).


By far the largest fruit crop of both ancient and modern times is the grape. Of course it is for wine production that the bulk of grapes are now grown and for which some 10,000 modern varieties have been developed. Fortunately, the diversification of varieties occurred rather late, beginning in the 18th century when glass bottling developed. Virtually all period grape wine was available only in barrels and casks. Vintage wine was unknown and the most palatable wine was considered to be the newest (45). All period grapes of both table and wine grapes are varieties of Vitis vinifera which originated in the area of Mt. Ararat (46) in Turkey and Iran and which thrives in the temperate climate of Europe. English vinyards have been mentioned as early as Anglo-Saxon charters and in the Domesday Book (47), however English vinyards were centered in the monastic abbeys. After the dissolution of the English monastaries by Henry VIII, English vinyards quickly went into decline (48). The principal varieties grown in period times were the Pinot, the Tokay, the Muscat, the Traminer, the Sylvaner and the Riesling (49). All of these varieties are full-flavoured and seeded. Most grapes sold in the USA are seedless Thompson varieties or the principal American species, Concord or Catawba, none of which are period. Some varieties of these European grapevines recently are available through mail-order catalogues, one of the few avenues by which American SCA cooks can obtain period grapes.

Other than for wine-making and for table, grapes are dried to make raisins. Unfortunately, American raisins are almost universally of the seedless variety; raisins from seeded grapes like the Muscat have more flavour. Currants are raisins of a variety of very small black grapes from Greece, specifically from the island of Zante, which are distinguished from regular raisins in period times as "raisins of the sun" (50). These differ from red, white and black currants of northern Europe which are not grapes at all.

Grapes in period cooking are largely limited to verjuice or verjus, made from the juice of unripened grapes, and to sweet syrups made from boiled down must (unfiltered fresh grape juice) (51). Period methods of preserving grapes involved storing them under must in a cool cellar, or dry in barley, or in airtight crocks sealed with pitch in boiled water (52).


Wild cherries, both sweet (Prunus avium) and sour (Prunus cerasus), are native to the same areas of western Asia (53) as the apple and pear, but had spread throughout Europe in Mesolithic times (54). Cherries were cultivated in Assyria from 800 B.C. (55) and in northern Mediterranean areas from 500 B.C. or so. In the 1st century A.D., Pliny the Elder listed eight varieties being grown in Italy (56). Improved varieties of sweet cherry came to Italy from Pontus in Armenia and were exported to Roman Britain in the 1st century A.D.

The Yellow Spanish (57) (now Bigarreau) cherry was a heart-shaped, hard-fleshed yellow cherry. This cherry may have been derived from Pliny's Duracina cherry (later called Amber or Graffion) (58). The dark blackish-red Morello (59) cherry was the principal sour cherry of period Europe, usually pitted and dried for winter use. Gerard lists both the Yellow Spanish cherry and the sour Morello in his Herball of 1597. A hybrid sweet-sour cherry, the May Duke (60), was developed in the middle 16th century; the English corrupted the name from Mdoc (61) in France where it originated. Its advantage was that cherries picked early in the season were acid (sour) but later ripened into a juicy, sweet fruit. The Bing, a soft-fleshed, deep red cherry, is probably a descendant of the wild sweet cherry variety, Gean (Guigne) (62). Sweet black cherries like the Black Tartarian were brought from the Black Sea area in the 18th century (63).

Fresh sweet cherries, seasonally available throughout the USA, almost always are Bing cherries. An American variant of the Yellow Spanish, the Rainier, is sold fresh in the northwestern states and only in large eastern cities as a specialty fruit. In late 14th century France, sweet red cherries were used to make a cherry pottage (64); whereas in northern Europe, cherry soups were made with sour cherries (65). As today, cherries were popular in pies and tarts.


Bananas.... Yes. Bananas!.... are on example of an Old World fruit that has so sucessfully adapted to cultivation in the New World, that most persons have assumed it is native to the Americas. The Greek soldiers of Alexander the Great encountered the banana (Musa acuminata) in India where it had been cultivated since the 6th century B.C. (66). The Classical name for bananas was ,sapientium, known from the writings of Theophrastus (67). The Arabs grew bananas, in Arabic al vaneyra (68), throughout all of the Islamic regions as far west as Egypt before 650 A.D. and, by the 14th century, the fruit had been established across all of North Africa (69). Islamic myth has the banana being the original forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The banana became known to Europeans through Portuguese sailors who discovered it in West Africa in 1402 (70). Cultivation of the fruit for consumption in Spain and Portugal began in the Portuguese-held Canary Islands. Friar Tomas de Berlanga, a Spanish missionary took banana roots to the West Indies in 1519 where growing them quickly spread throughout Spanish Central America (71).

Modern bananas are of two varieties, Gros Michel and Cavendish, of which the former is the familiar yellow supermarket variety. Period bananas are of a dwarf variety of the Cavendish strain. Generally, there is no diffence in modern and period bananas as far as the edible fruit is concerned. The major differences are in size, skin thickness, colour and keeping time. Some supermarkets carry the small reddish Cavendish bananas as a specialty fruit, but they are expensive. By selecting stubby, small regular bananas and placing them in a closed box with green tomatoes, the skins will turn red-brown. This is as close as possible a match with the 15th century banana from the Canary Islands as is economically feasible. Period consumption of bananas by the Spanish and the Portuguese was almost certainly of fresh fruit only; however, further research into early Arabic cooking may reveal recipes for cooked bananas in that cuisine. Unfortunately, climatic changes since 1600 A.D. have greatly reduced banana growing in the Middle East today, so banana recipes are probably not traditional in that region. Only in Isreal, through intensive land reclaimation, has the banana again become a major fruit crop.


Citrus is a large family of fruits which came from China and northern India. Of them, the Citron (citrus medica) was the first to reach Mediterranean Europe through Persia and Palestine in the 5th and 4th centuries B.C. (72). It was grown for its fragrant peel and used for religious and medicinal purposes until the 2nd century A.D. (73), when it began to be grown in Italy, Greece and Corsica. Culinary use of the peel began with late Roman cooking. The introduction of sugar by the Arabs allowed citron peel to be candied, which remains as its usual modern use. The juice is weakly lemon-flavoured and became popular in the late 16th century through the 18th as a Italian drink called "acquacedrata" (74).

Oranges (citrus sinensis and citrus aurantium) were next to be introduced west, following the same route as the citron. Both semi-sweet and bitter oranges were known in classical times and had spread to Spain and Portugal by the Fall of the Roman Empire. Oranges have been grown at the Roman-built, clay pipe irrigated groves at Soukra near Tunis continuously since the 2nd century (75). After the Fall of Rome, European orange cultivation disappeared except in Spain and Portugal, but the Moors did not export citrus to Christian Europe. Bitter oranges or Bigarades (76), as well as lemons and limes, were reintroduced into Italy in the later Crusades. Sweet oranges from Palestine reappeared in Italy and Portugal in the 15th century and, in the 16th century, the Portuguese exported these sweet oranges, called "Portingalls", to neighboring France and England (77). An account of an enthronement feast for the Archbishop of Canterbury on March 9, 1505 had two dishes made with oranges, orange and quince pie and succade (78). Succade, sometimes called "wet sucket", was a wet sweetmeat of mixed citrus peel boiled in honey. Orange marmalade was first prepared in late Tudor times. A separate recipe appeared for "Conserve of Oranges" in the 1587 Book of Cookrye (79). Spain introduced citrus to the New World beginning with the second voyage of Columbus, whereupon later colonists would establish the great American citrus industry in Florida and California.

Lemons (citrus limonia) arrived in the Mediterranean later than previous citrus fruits, around the end of the 1st century A.D. (80). However, the lemon was not used for culinary purposes by the Romans, but rather, only as a curiosity and for decorative garnish (81). Lemons and limes were grown in Arab lands from the early 10th century (82) from seeds brought along the trade routes from India. The Arabic name for lemon was li mm as cited in the Medical Treatise of Ebembitar in 1187 A.D. (83). Like the orange, lemon disappeared from Europe and was not reestablished until brought back from Arab orchards during the Crusades.

Lemon juice largely replaced verjus in late Renaissance cookery. Cristoforo di Messiburgo, an Italian chef, gives a recipe (1549) for marinated brill with lemon slices (84). Lemon and fish have maintained this happy culinary relationship ever since.

The Lime (Citrus aurantifolia) followed much the same route to Europe as other citrus fruit from Southeast Asia to India to Persia. Limes, known in Arabic as limah, came to Spain by the Moors in the 13th century (85). Limes were introduced into the West Indies in the early 16th century (86). Whole dried limes have long been an important seasoning in Arabic cuisine. The sharp taste of lime was well regarded, though not as highly as lemon, in Renaissance cookery. However the lime attained its greatest importance in the 17th century as a preventive for scurvey on English sailing ships. British sailors thus become known as "limmeys".

Pomelos (Citrus maxima) or Shaddock followed lemons and limes to Arab lands and to Spain, in the 13th century, where they were cultivated on a small scale (87). The largest of citrus fruits, the pomelo did not reach the rest of Europe during the Crusades. It was also late to the West Indies, arriving in the mid-17th century. It is of importance only because a mutation occurred which produced a new smaller fruit which was named the grapefruit (88).


Plums (Prunus domestica) also originated around Armenia in Asia Minor and are only botanically distinguished from cherries by their size. Plums were first cultivated in western China (89). Wild plums, the Bullace (90) (Prunus instititia), Cherry Plums (91) (Prunus cerasifera) and the Sloe (92) (Prunus spinosa) now grow wild throughout Europe and have hybridized extensively. Cultivated plums arose as a cross between the sloe and the cherry plum in the Caucasus region (93). Damsons are a variety of bullace plum well known in Roman times, and imported from Damascus in Syria, hence its name (94). At the time of Cato, Romans were familiar with prunes but not the plum tree itself (95). Besides the Damson, Pliney described 12 varieties of plums growing in Italy in the 1st century A.D. (96). Plums have been cultivated in Europe since the 8th century and are recorded in England from the 13th century. Chaucer described a garden with "ploumes and bulaces" in 1369 (97); "Damaske or damassons" (damson) plums are mentioned in the 1526 Grete Herball of Peter Treveris (98).

The Sainte Catherine, a white plum, was an old French variety grown for drying and sold as the famous Pruneaux de Tours (99).

The Morocco plum was a sweet black plum listed by Parkinson in 1629 (100) as an old plum of unknown origin.

Blue Prrigon or the Prcoce de Tours was both a blue-black prune and dessert plum grown in Italy and France near the Basse Alps. It was first imported to England in 1582. (101)

The Mirabelle de Nancy was a bullace plum grown in France in the 15th century. (102)

Another French bullace was the Reine Claude (103), dating in France from the reign of Francis I (1494-1547). It came from Italy, where it was called Verdocchia (104); it came to Italy from Armenia via Greece. This plum is better known by its English name of Greengage.


The wild ancestor, now lost, of Apricots (Prunus armeniaca) grew in China where they were first cultivated over 4000 years ago. (105) Silk traders carried seeds of the apricot to Persia in the 2nd century B.C.; from there, it spread to Armenia, Greece and Rome. Pliny regarded the apricot as between a plum and a peach, referring to it as an Armenian plum (106). A Roman variety of plum, Roman or Common, is known today as Brussels (107). Orange was an old variety thought to have come from Persia (108). The gardens of Henry VIII had the first apricots to be grown in England in 1542 (109), though the dried fruit was known earlier. Dried apricots were imported during Roman times from Damascus and Upper Egypt (110) before the fruit was grown in Italy.

Apricots are often stuffed with sweetmeats in traditional Arabic cookery. The pits contain kernels which when roasted are used as almonds are used in Italian pasteries.


Peaches (Prunus persica) followed much the same path to Persia as did the apricot. Greeks brought them from Persia at the time of Alexander according to Theophrastus (c. 370-286 B.C.) (111), hence the species name, persica. By Roman times, peaches were known across the Empire; peach juice was drunk with wine or vinegar (112). The fruit reached Roman sites on the Thames near London. Peach cultivation had begun in France by the 6th century and had spread across Europe by the 9th (113). First planted in England in Anglo-Saxon times, by 1216 A.D. an overindulgence of peaches and ale reputedly caused the death of King John (114). Peach trees were recorded planted in the gardens of the Tower of London in 1275 A.D. (115). By the 14th century, peaches were a common fruit sold on the streets of London (116).

Peaches breed true more usually than fruits such as apples, so there were fewer separate varieties, though often the same fruit had more than one name. There are two types of peach, clingstone and freestone with either white or yellow flesh. Gerard in his Herball of 1597 describes four varieties, "white, red, yellow and d'avant" (117), though which specific variety names he meant are uncertain.

Some of the 16th century varieties named were Red Nutmeg (118), a very small, yellow-fleshed freestone peach and Noblesse (119), a large pale fleshed peach.

Grosse Mignonne (120) was a large red French peach with yellow flesh and is still grown commercially in Europe today.

Syon and Orleans (121) were 16th century French peaches being grown in England which were mentioned by John Evelyn in the mid 17th century.

Nectarines (Prunus persica nectarina) lack the nap of regular peaches, a mutation of which there is no record of its origin. Nectarines were first noted in 1587 A.D. (122). A named variety in Gerard's Herball is Red Roman (123).

Peaches were preserved for short periods by cooking and storing in a honey syrup, though drying was the most common practice. In the early 16th century, a form of conserve was made in England as described in the translated The Secrets of Alexis of Piedmont in 1562 (124). In the 1587 A Book of Cookrye, a dry moulded marmalade of peaches and rosewater (125) was recorded.


Quinces (Cydonia oblonga) arose in the now familiar mountains of Transcaucasia where they still grow wild. They were first cultivated in Mesopotamia and in Palestine from 1000 B.C. (126) and, as mentioned before, were probably the "apples" in the Song of Solomon. The Greeks called them "honeyapples"or Cydonian apples (mla Kudnia) (127); the Romans, melimelum (128), because they were perserved in honey. Another method used by the Romans was to store quinces in sealed amphorae in honey and water. The Portuguese called such preserved quinces marmelo from which the word marmalade is derived.

Discordides, the 1st century A.D. physician, packed uncooked, peeled and pipped quinces tightly in honey for about a year, during which, they softened and became melimela (129). In the 4th century A.D., Palladius called for boiling a quince and honey mixture until it jellied. Pepper and ginger were included in the recipe for making spiced cidonitum, the mediaeval forerunner of chardenquynce (130). Edward I had quince trees planted at the Tower of London in 1275 A.D (131); quinces remained popular in England in tarts and pies for 500 years afterwards.


The unusual Medlar (Mespilus germanica) came from the Transcaucausia region like so many other fruit species. Though appreciated by the Greeks and Romans (132) as well, medlars were comparatively unpopular in the Middle Ages and scarcely eaten at all in modern America. Due to the limited appeal of the medlar, little attempt was made to improve it by selective breeding as was practiced with most other fruits. Only two Roman varieties, Setania and Athedon (133), were named and probably survive renamed today as direct descendants. The Nottingham medlar, listed as the Neapolitan (134) by Gerard, and the Dutch (135) medlar are the two modern varieties. The medlar is grown principally in northern Europe, mostly in England and France, as far north as Scandinavia (136). It was listed in Charlemagne's Capitutare de Villis (Decree concerning towns) as a mandatory plant for Royal estates (137). Records of Westminister Abbey indicate the fruit was being grown by the monks in 1270 A.D. (138). Medlars are seen on one of the Unicorn Tapestries.

The medlar is stored in moist bran until winter when the fruit has half rotted to a brown mush. Like the persimmon, it is inedible even when ripened on the tree. Medlars and quinces were used in a form of French cidonitum called condoignac made in Orleans (139). Condoignac or cotignac was ceremonially presented to the French Sovereigns when entering a city. It was given to Joan of Arc when she first entered Orleans (140). The medlar is grown in the southern US mainly as a hedging plant.


The Pomegranate (Punica granatum), a native of Persia and Afganistan, has naturalized throughout southern Europe. The pomegranate has been cultivated since biblical times throughout the Middle East. The fruit first reached Europe with the Greeks and Romans by way of Carthage, so it was known as the Carthaginian apple (Mala Punica) (141). The many seeds or grains account for the species name granatum . Pomegranates are unusual in that the edible pulp surrounds numerous seeds which are encased in a honeycomb of inedible interior mebranes. Consuming a pomegranate can be a laborious task. Pomegarnate seeds have been used since classical Greek times to eliminate tapeworms (142). The rind and bark of the pomegranate were used to dye leather in North Africa (143). Pomegranates are largely a novelty fruit in America but remain of significant importance in Middle East cookery. Syrup made from the juice is called Grenadine (144).


Sorbs (Sorbus torminalis), or sorb apples, grow wild in eastern and northern Europe. Cato, in the 2nd century B.C., advisd the wife of the bailiff to keep dried sorbs in quantity (145). Pliny mentioned four varieties including both apple-shaped and pear-shaped fruit (146). Gerard, in 1597, described the fruit as edible only after post ripening in a manner similar to the medlar (147). The early 17th century author Hulme, in his The Fruits of the Countryside , quotes Gerard as to their nourishment value being "very little, grosse, and cold" (148). The principal use in cooking sorb apples is in tarts.


The Cornelian Cherry (Cornus mas) or Cornel, a fruit of a European dogwood, grows wild in southern Europe where it has been picked since before Roman times (149). Ovid mentioned the fruit in his Metamorphoses (150) and the Gorgon knot of antiquity cut by Alexander was formed from its bark (151). Cornels were commonly grown in monastary gardens in the Middle Ages (152). The acid and slightly bitter fruit has been traditionally used in western European cookery to make pies, sauces and confections (153).


Figs (Ficus carica) are native to the eastern Mediterranean and western Asia around the Transcaucaus region. Figs were recorded in the earliest records of civilization and in Egypt from 2700 B.C. (154). The original Mediterranean fig was the caprifig, noted by Aristotle in the 4th century B.C. (155). At the begining of the Christian era, a mutation occurred in Smyrna (Calimyrna) type figs; what was to be known as the Common (156) fig, where the fruits ripened without fertilization and hence, without seeds, was first discovered. This type has been the main variety cultivated since. The original variety, the caprifig, required fertilization by the tiny fig wasp which could not stand the cooler climate of northern Europe (157). The common fig fruited parthenocarpically, needing no pollinating insect, spread northwards, reaching Britain by the early 16th century (158). Fig seeds (of caprifigs) have been found in sites of Roman Britain (159); figs were imported to mediaeval England as early as 1290 for the table of Edward I (160).

Figs were eaten throughout Lent to commomerate Christ's last ride into Jerusalem (161). They were a special treat in mediaeval monastaries for monks and nuns. Recipes for fig compote and for fried fig pastries were included in the 14th century manuscript collections, Curye on Inglysch (162), and in a fig confection recorded in a 15th century manuscript (163).

Large Blue, a fig of Italian origin is known today as Brown Turkey (164). Another period variety is white fig or White Marseilles.


Melons (Cucumis melo) are native to the Near East where the Arabs have cultivated them since the collapse of the Roman Empire (165). Melons were unknown to the Greeks, but Pliny mentioned them in the 1st century A.D. (166). Melons were grown in Moorish Spain and Andalusia as documented in the writings of Ibn Al Awam (1145 A.D.) (167). Melon cultivation was introduced into France at the end of the fifteenth century (168) attaining great and immediate popularity. Succint wrote a treatise on melons in 1583 (169). In a cookbook by Jacque Pons, 50 ways to prepare and eat melons are listed, including soup, fritters, salt and peppered, and rinds in compote (170). Melons were cultivated in England by 1570 and were mentioned by Gerard as growing at the Queen's House at St. James Court (171). Pope Paul II died of apoplexy after overeating iced melon in the Vatican gardens in July of 1471 (172). Cantaloupe melons are named for the Italian town of Canalupo near Rome (173). Winter melons, the Cavaillon (melons d'hiver de Provence) (174) and the Casaba melon, are a second type of dessert melon grown in period times. Another old variety is the Black Rock (175), a large, knobby, sweet-fleshed melon. The principal melon grown in the USA is the netted musk or nutmeg melon.

Watermelon (Colocynthis citrullus) is distinct from other melons (Cucumis) and has a longer history of cultivation. Arising in Africa, watermelons were grown in Egypt before 2000 B.C. from wild vines with a fruit the size of a large orange (176). Watermelons spread to the Holy Land and to the northern Mediterranean, though they never attained the general popularity of melons (177). The size of period watermelons was generally small (5-10 pounds); larger varieties were developed in the nineteenth century mainly for American marketing. In recent years a number of smaller watermelon varieties have been available which more closely resemble the original cultivated fruits.


A large class of soft fruits generally classed as berries have been known and sought after in period times, though usually from the wild. Most of these berries are native to Europe and easily gathered in quantity until modern times, hence cultivation of berries was relatively late.


Strawberries have been eagerly gathered from the wild by man since Mesolithic times (178). Indigenous varieties of European wild strawberries include the Alpine (Fragaria vesca semperflorens), in both the red and white forms, and the musky green strawberry (Fragaria viridis) (179). White alpine strawberies are small, about the size of mulberries, but have a very delicate flavour; the green strawberry is acknowledged to be the sweetest of all strawberries (180). Edward I was the first to have ordered wild (Alpine) strawberries to be transplanted from the wild in the 13th century (181). Organized cultivation of "fraises des bois" on a large scale began in France in the 14th century (182). Cream is a long-standing accompaniment to strawberries as noted by Andrew Boorde in the 16th century: "Rawe crayme undected, eaten with strawberys... is a rural mannes banket." (183)

The modern strawberry results from the hybrid crossing of North and South American species in the late 17th century. The native European varieties are now a costly delicacy, rarely available in the US unless homegrown.


Raspberries (Rubus idaeus), like strawberries, have been gathered from the wild since the Neolithic (184). The first to cultivate raspberries were the classical Greeks who called the fruit "idaeus", as the wild fruit grew thickly on the slopes of Mount Ida (185). In the 13th century, gardeners of Edward I grew raspberies transplanted from the wild (186); the Old English name for the fruit was "raspis" (187). Blackberries (Rubus fruticosus) are closely related to raspberries and share similar growing habits. The only major difference in the fruits are that the recepticle, or rasp, of trhe raspberry cleanly parts from the druplets when picked, leaving a hollow fruit; the blackberry recepticle is attached and eaten with the fruit (188).

Gooseberries (Ribes reticulata) and currants (Ribes nigrum and Ribes rubrum) are better known today in Europe than in tne US. As they grew wild in the cooler northern temperate zone of Europe but were somewhat sour, they were late to cultivation, and largely unknown in the warmer Mediterranean regions. The gooseberry was first cultivated in England by Edward I from 1276 A.D. where it was grown as a dessert berry (188), though it has never become widely popular in France and the low countries except as a sauce for fish (189). Gooseberries are most often green, but also occur in white, yellow, red and purple varieties. Dessert recipes include gooseberry fool, goosebery tansy and gooseberry pie (190). Red currants were first noted in a 15th century German manuscript and in domesticated cultivation by the 16th century (191). They were cultivated mainly in the Netherlands and in Denmark. Currants are used mostly in sauces and in jellies; though in Germany, currants were popular as a fruit juice. The French make a cordial, crme de cassis, from the black currant.


Cranberries (Vaccinium vitus idaea) better known to Europeans as lingonberries are another type of berry grown in the Northern areas of Europe, primarily Scandinavian, which are used in jellies and sauces (192). The fruit of North American cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon) is similar to that the European species except that it about twice the size. Lingonberry sauces are most popular in the Scandinavian areas and Russia (193); recipes, though, differ from American cranberry sauces.


The Blueberry or Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) has been harvested wild in Northern Europe since Neolithic times. Bilberry seeds have been found in Danish and Swiss archaelogical excavations dating from 3000 B.C. (194). In Britain, they were called whinberries or blaeberries. In Ireland, blaeberries have been harvested in County Down in late July (on Bilberry Sunday) since druidic times (195). Less acid than lingonberries or currants, bilberries were mainly used in pies, tarts and jams.


Mulberries (Morus nigra) have been growing in Europe since Roman times having been brought from the Caucasus region of Asia minor. Pliny described mulberries and Roman preferences for those from certain districts as superior (196). As the mulberry is a long-lived tree and breeds true from seed, the fruit was common throughout Europe. A Black mulberry planted in London in 1364 lived until 1969 (197). Mulberries are mostly eaten as fresh berries or in pies and are seldomly available in markets except as a canned product. Fresh mulberries are very fragile and perishable.


Less well known to Europeans of period times are two fruits which were only available as imports from the Middle East in period times. The climate of Europe was unsuitable for growing neither dates nor mangoes.

Dates, the fruit of the date palm (Phoenix dactylifera), are of North African origin and range throughout Egypt and the Middle East wherever a desert oasis provided sufficient water. Dates have been cultivated since prehistoric times and were staples in both Egypt and Mesopotamia. Romans were very fond of dates and imported them in great quantities as sweetmeats (198).

Mangoes (mangifera indica) are of Indian origin, spreading to Persia by the 10th century. Cultivation remained mostly in the Middle East until the 16th century when the Portugese introduced it to Africa (199). It was not well known to Europeans except through the Crusades.


A last fruit, the pineapple (Ananas comosus) is the only New World fruit which was sufficiently well known at the end of the 16th century by Europeans to warrent inclusion with the other aforementioned fruits. It originated in the Brazilian lowlands but had been spread by natives throughout the Carribean islands prior to the explorations of Columbus (200). They were brought to Europe in 1493 by Columbus and within 30 years were successfully grown in Mediterraean gardens and hothouses as popular curiousities. Pineapples were listed by Gerard in his Herball of 1597. Supplies, other than in the tropic colonies, were limited as fruit was grown sucessfully only in glass hothouses in the warmest areas of the Mediteranean. However, pineapple fruit was in demand as a luxury almost immediately and small numbers of them were grown in the Canary Islands for export to royal tables in Europe. Pineapple fruits were not sucessfully grown in England until 1661 in the reign of Charles I.


A New World discovery which was only slightly late to be considered a period fruit is the avocado pear (Persea drymifolia) and (Persea gratissima), native to the highlands of Central America. The early Spanish explorers found avocados under extensive cultivation by the natives. The first mention of the avocado was by Gonzalo Hernandez de Oviedo in 1526 (201). Largely, the avocado pear was familiar only to sailors and soldiers visiting the New World colonies until it was introduced to cultivation in southern Spain in 1601 (202).


There are a number of other fruits which are native to the Eastern hemisphere, especially of China, of Africa, and of India which never spread to Europe but remain important fruits in their native lands. These include durians, baobabs, jackfruit (breadfruit), jambolans, rose apples, belimbis, carambolas (starfruits), kakis, kiwis, akebias, langsats, loquats, jujubes, santols, lychees, and embrics. They have all had an important place in their respective native cuisines for millenia; however, they have remained largely unknown to those of European descent. A few are now being introduced in American markets with success and popular acceptance. For instance, the kiwi and the starfruit are now familiar fruits in the US. More may find favour in the near future as varieties are introduced into our markets. Such availability will be of limited interest to the cooks of the SCA other than use in examples of obscure and exotic period cuisines.


Out of the thousands of varieties of fruit grown today, it is difficult but not impossible to track down and utilize those original fruit varieties upon which a significant branch of cooking was founded. If not for historic accuracy, then at least for flavour, it behooves the SCA cook to take the time to discriminate between modern and period varieties available. Fruits deserve a more prominent place in the SCA mediaeval feast than is commonly given at this time. Canned pie fillings and modern fresh fruits give only a pallid taste of the rich palatte of period fruit recipes. It is difficult sometimes to obtain unripened fruits like green grapes for making verjus, or to find quinces for making marmalade, but such prepared fruits are the very foundation of the flavour of period feasts. If necessary, grow them! Utilize minor fruits even if they prove to be not particularly well liked by all. It is important that at least some more adventurous persons have the opportunity to sample original recipes and be inspired to further experimentation and research. SCA feasts can never duplicate the varieties and quantities of fowl and game, nor will the odd spicing of some periods ever be very desirable to duplicate either; however, fruit recipes are within the bounds of possibility with some effort.

Of considerable importance to the future of SCA cookery is the growing interest in preserving antique and wild fruits in seed and gene banks for future generations. Through these efforts and the preservation of mutations, sports and the process of back breeding, original, or at least close copies of original period fruits, may become available. As storage and shipping technology becomes more sophisticated, more fruits may become marketed for their flavour rather than their size or handling characteristics. Delicious apples may become something other than an oxymoron. Often antique varieties or the original wild species (speciosa) are available in specialty catalogues, most often from seeds. Unlike vegetables, most fruits require a number of years before yielding a crop, so plant now and later enjoy the rich tastes of period fruits.


1. Charlotte Knox, Fruit ( New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991), p. 10.

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid., p. 80.

4. Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat, History of Food ( Cambridge: Blackwell, 1994), p. 679.

5. Knox., p. 183.

6. Ibid., p. 12.

7. Ibid.

8. Ibid.

9. Ibid.

10. Ibid.

11. Ibid.

12. Frederick Roach, Hooker's Finest Fruits (New York: Prentice Hall, 1989), p. 24.

13. Ibid.

14. Clare Putnam, Flowers and Trees of Tudor England (Greenwich Connecticutt: New York Graphic Society, Ltd., 1972), Plate 1.

15. Knox, p. 10.

16. Roach, p. 24.

17. Knox, p. 10.

18. Ibid., p. 183.

19. Ibid., p. 184.

20. Ibid., p. 183.

21. Roach, p. 24.

22. Putnam, Plate 1.

23. Ibid., p. 36.

24. Knox, p. 186.

25. Richard Mabey, The Frampton Flora (New York: Prentice Hall, 1985),

p. 171.

26. Knox, p. 186.

27. Roach, p. 40.

28. Ibid., p. 52.

29. Knox, p. 12.

30. Hugh Johnston, Encyclopedia of Trees (New York: Gallery Books, 1984),

p. 195.

31. Knox, p. 14.

32. Roach, p. 66.

33. Ibid.

34. Toussaint-Samat, p. 638.

35. Ibid., p. 637.

36. Ibid., p. 68.

37. Ibid., p. 70.

38. Roach, p. 72.

39. Knox, p. 16.

40. Toussaint-Samat, p. 637.

41. Ibid.

42. C. Anne Wilson, The Book of Marmalade (New York: St. Martin's, 1985)

p. 22.

43. Roach, p. 68.

44. Wilson, pp. 26-28.

45. Alexis Lichine, Guide to the Wines and Vinyards of France (New York: Knopf, 1982), p. 17.

46. Knox, p. 40.

47. Putnam, Plate 31.

48 Ibid.

49. Lichine, p. 262.

50. Knox, p. 40.

51. Ibid.

52. Wilson, p. 18.

53. Knox, p. 20.

54. Roach, p. 140.

55. Ibid.

56. Knox, p. 20.

57. Roach, p. 140.

58. Ibid.

59. Ibid., p. 142.

60. Ibid., p. 144.

61. Knox, p. 20.

62. Ibid.

63. Roach, p. 154.

64. Maggie Black, The Medieval Cookbook (New York: Thames & Hudson, 1992), pp. 78-79.

65. Knox, p. 20.

66. Knox, p. 100.

67. Ibid.

68. Tousssaint-Samat, p. 679.

69. Ibid., p. 102.

70. Ibid.

71. Ibid.

72. Knox, p. 72.

73. Ibid.

74. Ibid.

75. Toussaint-Samat, p. 663.

76. Jay Jacobs, Gastronomy (New York: Newsweek Books, 1975), p. 64.

77. Wilson, p. 47.

78. Ibid., p. 38.

79. Ibid.

80. Knox, p. 74.

81. Ibid.

81 Toussaint-Samat, p. 662.

83. Ibid.

84. Knox, p. 74.

85. Sheridan Rogers, The Cook's Garden (New York: Viking Press, 1992),

p. 174.

86. Toussaint-Samat, p. 662.

87. Knox, p. 66.

88. Ibid.

89. Knox, p. 18.

90. Ibid.

91. Ibid.

92. Ibid.

93. Roach, p. 118.

94. Ibid., p. 136.

95. Putnam, Plate 26.

96. Roach, p. 118.

97. Knox, p. 18.

98. Roach, p. 136.

99. Ibid., p. 122.

100. Ibid., p. 128.

101. Ibid., p. 134.

102. Knox, p. 18.

103. Ibid.

104. Roach, p. 120.

105. Knox, p. 26.

106. Roach, p. 98.

107. Ibid., p. 100.

108. Ibid., p. 102.

109. Knox, p. 26.

110. Roach, p. 98.

111. Ibid., p. 82.

112. Ibid.

113. Ibid.

114. Putnam, Plate 26.

115. Roach, p. 82.

116. Ibid.

117. Knox, p. 28.

118. Roach, p. 86.

119. Ibid., p. 94.

120. Ibid., p. 84.

121. John Feltwell, The Naturalist's Garden (Topsfield, Massachusetts: Salam House, 1987), p. 74.

122. Knox, p. 28.

123. Roach, p. 106.

124. Wilson, p. 45.

125. Ibid., p. 148.

126. Knox, p. 22.

127. Wilson, p. 19.

128. Knox, p. 22.

129. Wilson, p. 19.

130. Ibid., p. 20.

131. Roach, p. 138.

132. Knox, p. 22.

133. Roach, p. 160.

134. Ibid., p. 162.

135. Ibid., p. 160.

136. Knox, p. 22.

137. Lee Reigh, Uncommon Fruits Worthy of Attention: A Gardener's Guide ( Reading, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley, 1991) p. 46.

138. Roach, p. 160.

139. White, p. 26.

140. Roach, p. 160.

141. Knox, p. 42.

142. Feltwell, p. 36.

143. Ibid.

144. Knox, p. 42.

145. Wilson, p. 18.

146. Roach, p. 164.

147. Ibid.

148. Knox, p. 24.

149. Reich, p. 213.

150. Ibid.

151. Knox, p. 54.

152. Reich, p. 214.

153. Knox, p. 54.

154. Roach, p. 200.

155. Knox, p. 56.

156. Ibid.

157. Ibid.

158. Roach, p. 200.

159. Ibid.

160. Ibid.

161. Black, p. 66.

162. Ibid, pp. 49-50. and pp. 66-67.

163. John Anderson, A Fifteenth Century Cookry Boke, (New York: Scribner's Sons, 1962), p. 53.

164. Roach, p. 202.

165. Knox, p. 78.

166. Roach, p. 206.

167. Ibid.

168. Rogers, p. 205.

169. Ibid.

170. Ibid.

171. Knox, p. 206.

172. Gillian Riley, Renaissance Recipes (San Francisco: Pomegranate Artbooks, 1993), pp. 24-25.

173. Knox, p. 78.

174. Ibid.

175. Roach, p. 206.

176. Knox, p. 80.

177. Ibid.

178. Rogers, p. 160.

179. Ibid. p. 162.

180. Ibid.

181. Ibid. p. 160.

182. Knox, p. 30.

183. Ibid.

184. Rogers, p. 160.

185. Knox, p. 32.

186. Rogers, p. 160.

187. Knox, p. 32.

188. Knox, p. 36.

189. Ibid.

190. Ibid.

191. Ibid., p. 38.

192. Ibid., p. 46.

193. Ibid.

194. Rogers, p. 160.

195. Knox, p. 48.

196. Ibid., p. 58.

197. Ibid.

198. Ibid., p. 104.

199. Ibid. p. 118.

200. Ibid., p. 86.

201. Linda Doeser, The Little Green Avocado Book (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1981), p. 11.

202. Ibid, p. 12.



Anderson, John. A Fifteenth Century Cookry Boke. New York: Scribner's Sons, 1962.

Black, Maggie. The Medieval Cookbook. New York: Thames & Hudson, 1992.

Doeser, Linda. The Little Green Avocado Book. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1981.

Feltwell, John. The Naturalist's Garden. Topsfield MA: Salam House, 1987.

Jacobs, Jay. Gastronomy . New York: Newsweek Books, 1975.

Johnston, Hugh. Encyclopedia of Trees. New York: Gallery Books, 1984.

Knox, Charlotte. Fruit . New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991.

Lichine, Alexis. Guide to the Wines and Vinyards of France. New York: Knopf, 1982.

Mabey, Richard. The Frampton Flora. New York: Prentice Hall, 1985.

Putnam, Clare. Flowers and Trees of Tudor England. Greenwich CT: New York Graphic Society, Ltd., 1972.

Reigh, Lee. Uncommon Fruits Worthy of Attention: A Gardener's Guide . Reading MA: Addison-Wesley, 1991.

Riley, Gillian. Renaissance Recipes.San Francisco: Pomegranate Artbooks, 1993.

Roach, Frederick. Hooker's Finest Fruits. New York: Prentice Hall, 1989.

Rogers, Sheridan. The Cook's Garden. New York: Viking Press, 1992.

Simon, Andr L.. Wines of the World. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1967.

Toussaint-Samat, Maguelonne. History of Food. Cambridge: Blackwell, 1994.

Wilson, C. Anne. The Book of Marmalade. New York: St. Martin's, 1985.


Copyright 2000 by Randall W. Diamond, 3407 Gillespie Lane, Columbia, Tennessee 38401. Email: ringofkings at mindspring.com . Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited and receives a copy.

If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.

<the end>

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Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org