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herbs-cooking-msg – 5/4/08


Period herbs used in cooking.


NOTE: See also the files: herbs-msg, spices-msg, p-herbals-msg, herb-uses-msg, garlic-msg, capers-msg, lavender-msg, mandrake-art, rue-msg, seeds-msg, mint-msg.





This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


I have done a limited amount of editing. Messages having to do with separate topics were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the message IDs were removed to save space and remove clutter.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make no claims as to the accuracy of the information given by the individual authors.


Please respect the time and efforts of those who have written these messages. The copyright status of these messages is unclear at this time. If information is published from these messages, please give credit to the originator(s).


Thank you,

    Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                          Stefan at florilegium.org



From: greg at bronze.lcs.mit.edu (Greg Rose)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Period plants

Date: 11 Jan 1995 05:18:35 -0500

Organization: Guest of MIT AI and LCS labs


Greetings, all, from Angharad ver' Rhuawn.


Meli ferch Iasper responds to someone else (I believe it was Alix de Mont

Fer; the email address references Emily Epstein), who questioned the

claim that parsley was a relative latecomer to England.


>> This seems odd to me. There are English recipes that call for parsley

>> from considerably earlier than that. A quick peek in my files comes

>> up with Mounchelet (lamb stew) from one of the books in Hieatt's _Curye_

>> on_Inglysch_ (15th century), and Ravieles (ravioli) from her

>> "Two Anglo-Norman Culinary Collections" (13th century, I think. I'll

>> have to look it up.)


>      Could you please tell me where editions of these books can be gotten?  

>Are there ones currently in print, or perhaps there are isbn numbers for the

>editions, since I can trot to the online catalog for the Library of Congress?


Constance B. Hieatt and Sharon Butler, _Curye on Inglysch_, Oxford

University Press (London, New York, Toronto), 1985, ISBN0-19-722409.  

In print.


The Anglo-Norman collections are published in an article coauthored with

(I believe) Robin Jones, which appeared in _Speculum_ in 1986.  Any decent

university library should carry _Speculum_; it is a major research

journal among scholarly historians.  (My actual copy of the article, and

a fair amount of my other resources, are at home.)  One of the Anglo-

Norman collections is indeed late 13th C; the other is early 14th C,

and is duplicated by one of the MSs in _CoI_ (that is, an early 14th

C translation from Anglo-Norman into (Middle) English exists, and is

included in _CoI_).


I fully agree with the observation that parsley is surely older than

the quote disputed here suggested.  My notes on ingredient frequency

show that it occurs in 30 out of 447 recipes from England prior to

the 15th C, and indeed is the most common herb in them (next is sage,

at 22 recipes).  It seems clear, from many, that fresh parsley is




-- Angharad/Terry



From: greg at bronze.lcs.mit.edu (Greg Rose)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Period plants

Date: 11 Jan 1995 05:27:15 -0500

Organization: Guest of MIT AI and LCS labs


Angharad ver' Rhuawn, again.  I just wrote:


>I fully agree with the observation that parsley is surely older than

>the quote disputed here suggested.  My notes on ingredient frequency


Bad fingers; don't leave words out!  Also, don't overstate the case.

The claim does not have to do with how old parsley is as a plant,

but with how far back it was grown in England (as opposed to on the

continent.  My position, in agreement with the previous poster, is

that it is highly unlikely that parsely was not grown in England

at least as early as the 13th C.  (It's still possible; but I think

it very unlikely, given the evidence from the cookery literature.)


The rest is short, so I'll let it stick around.


>show that it occurs in 30 out of 447 recipes from England prior to

>the 15th C, and indeed is the most common herb in them (next is sage,

>at 22 recipes).  It seems clear, from many, that fresh parsley is




-- Angharad/Terry



From: "Mark A. Sharpe" <yb867 at freenet.victoria.bc.ca>

Date: Thu, 8 May 1997 14:34:02 -0700 (PDT)

Subject: Re: SC - Mastic Thyme


On Thu, 8 May 1997, LYN M PARKINSON wrote:


> If you get this twice you are on both my cookery lists, sorry, but I need

> a fast answer.  Taillevent refers to 'mastic thyme' in his Cameline

> Bruet.  None of my herb books give the word 'mastic' although they do

> claim there are 200-400 varieties of thyme.  Does anyone know if 'mastic

> thyme' is simply a variety or if it refers to something else?


> Allison


Acording to The Herb Society of America Encyclopedia of Herbs mastic thyme

(thymus mastichina) is also known as Spanish wood marjoram. It is found

in Spain and Portugal on rocky ground and beside roads. It has a strong

camphoraceous aroma. The leaves can be added to strong flavored meat dishes

and its oil, known as oil of wild marjoram, is used in the food industry

to flavor meat sauces and soups.


The Herb Society also has a web pageat http://www.herbsociety.com.

Terrendon the Wanderer



From: KandL Johnston <woodrose at malvern.starway.net.au>

Date: Tue, 08 Jul 1997 19:44:55 +1000

Subject: Re: SC - semolina and mixed herbs


ND Wederstrandt wrote:


>         Also, I was reading a few redactions and originals this past

> weekend and noticed that many times when the period recipe calls for herbs

> people generally use spinach.  Is there a reason?  Is it because we are a

> nation of non-green eaters (hoping I'm not offending anyone here)  Is it

> that spinach is milder than most greens or is more readily available .  Has

> anyone tried say " A Tarte of Herbes " and not used spinach.  The book I

> was using is To the King's Taste and/or To the Queen's Taste but many other

> books usually have some reference to herbes.


> Clare St. John


Yes and while it sounds very off, the herbs as long as they are fresh

make a very delightful, watercress, leeks, spring onions, fennel,

parsley (lots), rosemary, mint, sage, thyme, plus whatever else is in


- -- Nicolotte --

- ---------------------------------------

Rudolf von der Drau and Nicolette Dufay

Baron and Baroness, Stormhold



Date: Thu, 21 Aug 1997 11:21:10 -0500 (CDT)

From: nweders at mail.utexas.edu (ND Wederstrandt)

Subject: Re: SC - Crustade Lombard - a redaction


>(There was a discussion on one of the newsgroups about using nettle tops in

>this way.  I missed the end of the discussion - did anyone read it?)

>If, indeed, cheese was intended in Crustade Lombard, and parsley was the

>intended curdling agent, I find it more likely that the remains of the

>previous day's cheesemaking (left in the bowl through improper washing)

>would be responsible for curdling the mixture.


Nettle has been used as a curdling agent in cheeses as well as some species

of Gallium(?) of which some grow wild in the US.  Cleavers is a member and

grow in early spring down in our part of Ansteorra. Ladies bedstraw (also

a Gallium) , nettles, sage and a few other plants have been used to curdle

cheese.  I've seen cheese renneted with nettle on the market and next time

I see it I will get more info.  Parsley is not one of the rennet herbs as

far as I can tell but I have no books with me and will look it up tonight.

The latin name is close if not the name, I'm sure some one will correct it

if I am wrong.


You can buy dried cleavers at some herb stores/ health stores....It's used

for dandruff and as a fasting herb.


Clare St. John



Date: Wed, 3 Sep 1997 15:30:32 +0000

From: "Nick Sasso(fra niccolo)" <grizly at mindspring.com>

Subject: Re: SC - Licorice sticks


> > And what do you mean by licorice sticks? When I think of licorice sticks

> > I think of the long red or black "noodles". But I thought those were a

> > candy. Perhaps these are like modern marshmallows are to the real thing?

> >

> > Stefan li Rous


> Stefan, let me know any event you will be at and I will bring you a true

> licorice "stick".  It really is a stick and doesn't taste all that much like

> licorice. I bought some sticks of it at Pennsic.


> Gunthar


Gunthar and Stefan,


you can find it at homebrew supply stores as 'brewer's licorice'.  A

bit more expensive than if you get it at an herb store.


fra niccolo

(a brewer at heart.....and mug)



Date: Wed, 3 Sep 1997 18:05:25 -0400 (EDT)

From: Uduido at aol.com

Subject: Re: Re- SC - Spices


<<And what do you mean by licorice sticks?>>


Licorice sticks are another term for the dried root of the licorice plant.

These were used as a sort of candy during the middle ages. The idea being to

suck on a piece of the root.


If a recipe calls for licorice, use licorice. Many people say aniseed, star

anise, fennel and licorice taste the same. If you were to taste each of these

side by side you would immediately see the differences between each one.


Yours in Service to the Dream,

Lord Ras (Who loves fennel and aniseed but only eats licorice if it's served

to him)



Date: Tue, 23 Sep 1997 12:38:38 -0400

From: Philip & Susan Troy <troy at asan.com>

Subject: Re: SC - A quick question. . .


Varju at aol.com wrote:

> Are bay leaves period?   I have a vague memory that they aren't. . .


> Noemi


They very occasionally appear in medieval English and French recipes,

and appear somewhat more often in Roman recipes.


You also find them in later period recipes...





Date: Tue, 30 Sep 1997 08:43:39 -0500

From: "Decker, Terry D." <TerryD at Health.State.OK.US>

Subject: RE: SC - bay leaves


>Were what we now call bay leaves used as a food flavoring by the

>European cultures before 1600 AD?


>  Stefan li Rous


I believe you will find bay laurel to be of southern European origin and

used in Greek and Roman cooking in Antiquity.  Giacosa's A Taste of

Ancient Rome has at least one recipe calling for bay berries (if I read

the Latin correctly).


Schivelbusch in Tatses of Paradise quotes a late-medieval account book

on a banquet for forty, "one pound of columbine powder. . .half a pound

of ground cinnamon. . .two pounds of sugar. . .one ounce of saffron. .

.a quarter pound of cloves and grains of guinea pepper(grains of

paradise). . .an eighth of a pound of pepper. . .an eighth of a pound of

galingale. . .an eighth of a pound of nutmeg. . .an eight of a pound of

bay leaves."  Unfortunately the source is not specifically stated.  The

American version of this book is fun, but not much value as a historical

reference (it doesn't even have an index).  Since Schivelbusch is a

historian, it may be a case of diluting the German original for the

American market.


I've seen some other references to bay in period, but I would have to go

dredging to find them, as I did not make note of them.





Date: 14 Oct 1997 10:08:29 -0500

From: "Sue Wensel" <swensel at brandegee.lm.com>

Subject: SC - Re: sca-cooks V1 #358


><< Many of the herbs used in period really aren't safe for ingestion. >>


>Say what?



That's what I get for throwing off a note from work.  Some of the herbs used

in period are of dubious safety for ingestion; comfrey, tansy, rue, and

pennyroyal (and I have recipes using these) come to mind. Other herbs can

cause contact dermatitis, photosensitivity, etc. and it is wise to know this

before you begin experimentation.


So using a modern herbal to verify the use of period herbs is a sensible






Date: Thu, 23 Oct 1997 16:46:53 -0400

From: Philip & Susan Troy <troy at asan.com>

Subject: Re: SC - Re: eggs


Christi Redeker wrote:


> This is the first time I have seen cilantro mentioned on the list.  Was this a

> period spice used commonly?


The simple answer is yes.  The more complex answer is that it depends on

where you lived in period. The plant from which cilantro grows was

pretty much spread across much of the Eurasian land mass. Cilantro

generally refers specifically to the green leaves, stems, and roots of

the plant, while the seeds are generally referred to as coriander.


In general, the Northern portions of the Eurasian landmass are where the

coriander seeds would be used in cooking, whereas the southern parts is

where you would find cilantro being eaten, particularly in places like

the Middle East and India.


Now, it's also very common in the cuisines of South America.





Date: Sun, 26 Oct 1997 16:04:27 -0500

From: John and Barbara Enloe <jbenloe at mindspring.com>

Subject: Re: SC - Tansy:To poison or not to poison


Not only is tansy poisonous, it is a very powerful abortive in the smallest

doses -- ladies have been known to abort from the amounts absorbed through

the skin by touching the leaves.





Date: Sun, 26 Oct 1997 16:44:18 -0500

From: John and Barbara Enloe <jbenloe at mindspring.com>

Subject: Re: SC - Tansy:To poison or not to poison


Re: the below:

Per The Herb Society of America Encyclopedia of Herbs & Their Uses  by Deni


Pages 359-360; There are various types of tansy out there and they are

referred to as "extremely pungent, potent herbs and should be used with

caution.  Benefits are listed in the book; some of the cautions refer to it

as NOT being given to pregnant women,... dermatitis and mouth ulcers in

some cases,... possibly unsafe for internal use, especially in pregnancy,

...the oil is highly toxic for both internal and external use, and very

small amounts may prove fatal,...excess (among other things) can cause

venous congestion of abdominal organs, and convulsions. It is rarely used


        In light of this information, it may be very much worth your while to

discuss any use of this herb with an experienced herbalist.  They may be

able to give you types and amounts that are not harmful...without that, I

would hesitate to use this herb.  Just as a note, I keep my supply

grown/dried/stored away from all the rest of the herbs I grow to limit

access to it.





Date: Sun, 26 Oct 1997 00:17:43 -0400

From: Philip & Susan Troy <troy at asan.com>

Subject: Re: SC - Tansy:To poison or not to poison


Michael P Newton wrote:

> I have a quandary which has come up again: is tansy poisonous, and if so,

> why do I keep running into recipes in period or near period, which call

> for tansy as the main flavorings?


Lawyers, my dear lady. Lawyers. That is why. Seriously, though, I

suspect the simplest answer is that tansy contains some toxic element or

ingredient which you are unlikely to absorb unless you really immerse

yourself in the stuff. In other words, casual and occasional consumption

of tansy probably wouldn't do you any harm, but that doesn't mean it is

impossible for it to do you harm. It's just that I don't know what

constitutes a harmful dosage.


> It is especially madding considering that I have planted three tansy

> plants outside my kitchen window to repel the ants {which worked for a

> while}. When I bought them, they came with a warning that they were

> poisonous, then I found some recipes in my herbal books, but our local

> herbalist thought they were similar to wormwood, in that flavoring

> wouldn't kill you but it was to picky to mess around with.Now I find two

> more recipes in the _A concise encyclopedia of Gastronomy_, one of which

> says that a "Tansy" in England was the name of a custard flavored with

> tansy or other bitterish leaves. The other recipe is for a pudding.

> Has anyone else come across these or similar recipes,preferably in

> period sources? Is it really poisonous or only in large quantities? Does

> anyone have any other uses for tansy?


I have seen the reference you mention. There are several recipes from

period sources that indicate that a tansy (apparently contracted from

the Greek term, "athanasia", which more or less means "banishing death",

or some such) is more of an omelette than a custard. The herb tansy does

sometimes appear as an ingredient in a tansy, if you get my meaning, but

sometimes it is absent, in favor of a mixed assortment of herbs and

greens. If you find a recipe for an herbolaste, erbolaste, or arbolaste,

they are virtually the same, except those last often contain cheese,

which a tansy lacks, IIRC. The impression I get is that a tansy would be

eaten as a Spring tonic, to cure or forestall the effects of various

vitamin-deficiency diseases like scurvy, which could have come on over

the Winter, when fresh vegetable matter was hard to come by.


A friend of mine, who used to dabble in herbal medicine, made me a

marvelous bruise ointment of lanolin, with infusions of tansy, boneset,

comfrey, oil of cloves, and oil of wintergreen. It killed pain almost

immediately on contact, and somehow flushed the bits of coagulated blood

from the injury, causing it to heal up much faster. I'm talking fighting

bruises here, not casual elbow-cracks. Unfortunately the recipe seems to

have been lost, but I still have quite a bit of the stuff left, and it

seems to grow more potent with age.





Date: Mon, 27 Oct 1997 08:36:58 -0400

From: Philip & Susan Troy <troy at asan.com>

Subject: Re: SC - white drinks and other


david friedman wrote:

> At 12:35 AM -0500 10/27/97, Varju at aol.com wrote:

> >Yes, coriander== cilantro.

> >

> >Noemi


> Cilantro is the leaves and stems of the coriander plans. The seeds are

> usually called "coriander." Hence the potential confusion--both today and

> in the past. 13th c. Andalusian recipes, for example, routinely use both

> and distinguish between them.


> David/Cariadoc

> http://www.best.com/~ddfr/


Agreed as to the definition of the distinction, but there is still a

distinct source of confusion, since what we now call cilantro used to be

called coriander by most of the English-speaking world. The term

"cilantro" has only entered the mainstream English-speaking culinary

terminology in the last ten or fifteen years.


So, generally speaking, the seeds of the coriander plant seem always to

be called coriander. The leaves, stems, and sometimes the roots can be,

and are, referred to in English as coriander, green coriander, cilantro,

culantro, Chinese parsley and Arabian parsley, and heaven knows what



Sometimes you have to go by the context.





Date: Mon, 08 Dec 1997 17:22:44 -0500

From: Woeller D <angeliq1 at erols.com>

Subject: Re: SC - Fritelles


James L. Matterer wrote:

> 177. (Clary Fritters): Take the herb called clary and grind it, steep it

> in pure water and beat well sieved flour into this; add in some honey

> and a little white wine and beat these together until smooth; then fry

> small spoonfuls of this mixture in oil, as is done for fritters, and put

> rosemary generously on each fritter; squeeze your fritters between two

> blades to drain off the oil, then put them in a fine new pot beside the

> fire. Dress them on a plate with sugar. (Le Viandier de Taillevent,

> Terence Scully's edition, p. 297)


> Scully says Clary is Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea) which "has tall

> flowering spikes and a taste reminiscent of grapefruit." He also goes on

> to say that the Liber de coquina has another version of the recipe that

> "offers a broad choice in the matter of flavoring by specifying

> elderflowers or any other flower."


> I would prefer to use actual Clary in this recipe: does anyone know of

> availability or a viable substitute?


> Huen/Jim Matterer

> http://www.labs.net/dmccormick/huen.htm


The essential oil of clary sage is widely available (several brands) at

any local health food store.(In VA- hopefully, the same where you are)

You should be able to get the DRIED herb in the bulk herb section, as

well.  Your health food store might be able to order fresh for you, or

you may be able to special order it through the produce dept. of your

local grocery. (Giant, in this area gets fresh herbs, including sage.

Though I've not yet seen clary sage, I haven't asked.)


For use in aromatherapy, some folks use regular cooking sage (salvia

officianalis) in place of clary sage, but the smell is very different.

Regular sage has the familiar smell I associate with sausage & stuffing,

clary sage has a smell that is musky, earthy & reminds me of

fresh-turned earth in a vegetable garden (In a GOOD way!)

:)  If you can't get clary, you could TRY sage.  BTW the smell of clary

sage is wonderful for relaxation, combatting stress, depression and


Bon chance




Date: Mon, 8 Dec 1997 22:32:49 EST

From: LrdRas <LrdRas at aol.com>

Subject: Re: SC - Fritelles


<< I would prefer to use actual Clary in this recipe: does anyone know of

availability or a viable substitute? >>


Exotic Plant Manual, Fascinating Plants to Live With (For Horticulturists and

Botanists, Professional Decorators, Libraries, Schools, Plant Fanciers) by

Alfred Byrd Graf, 3rd Revised Edition, pub. Roehrs Company, 1974, ISBN

0-911266-11-9, LOC Cat. No. 74-75310, illus. pg. 322, text pg. 699


Salvia (Labiatae)

sclerea (So. Europe). "Clary Sage": handsome hardy biennial with clammy-hairy

herbaceous stem 1/2-1 m high; pubescent broad-ovate, scalloped, pebbly gray-

green leaves often to 22 cm long, smaller higher up the 1 m flowering stalk,

the flowers whitish-blue in clusters, and with floral bracts colored rose and

white. Use: foliage for flavoring wine, beer and ale.; leaves may be eaten in

omelettes or as fritters or to flavor soups, also employed in sachets, Flowers

make tea. Oil from seeds used in perfumes. From seed.

C: 76 p. 322


There you have it. It appers to be a useful plant, at least commercially in

the Current Middle Ages and should be available from most good herb companies

as seed. I will check around tomorrow as I am off from work. :-)





Date: Tue, 9 Dec 1997 17:08:37 EST

From: DianaFiona <DianaFiona at aol.com>

Subject: Re: SC - clary sage-source


A number of seed catalogs carry this. One that I'm very fond of is

Nichol's Garden Nursery. They do have a website

(http://www.pacificharbor.com/nichols/), but, frustratingly, you seem only to

be able to order a catalog or *from* the catalog online, *not* look through

the catalog! I believe that they have live plants of clary, as well.

     Another place that I *think* has dried clary is Frontier Herbs. Again,

they have a large and informative website--but the catalog it's self is not

online! (My mom has *my* catalog, or I'd check it.) For what it's worth, their

address is:


      They are a great source for a huge number of items, but they only sell

their bulk herbs by the pound. :-( Maybe if you were doing these for an event

you'd need that much, otherwise.........try to find some friends to split it

with you? Or convince a local healthfood store that they *would* sell the rest

of the pound and let them order it? It sounds like it would be good for

potpourri or bath mixes..........


     Ldy Diana



Date: Fri, 9 Jan 1998 00:46:17 -0500

From: David Friedman <ddfr at best.com>

Subject: Re: SC - Apricot recipes?(was Byzantine Cooking)


>And one last minor querry--it calls for mastic, which I

>would have to mail order. How strong a flavor does mastic have, and what might

>it be similar to? (In other words, if I just leave it out will it make a big

>difference, and is there a reasonable substitute?)


It has a strong flavor and it is similar to turpentine--or, more politely,

retsina. Resiny. We use it in very small quantities (typically 1/16 t for a

recipe that uses a pound or two of meat), and in those quantities find that

it adds a noticeable and attractive tang.





Date: Sat, 10 Jan 1998 09:16:42 -0800

From: David Friedman <ddfr at best.com>

Subject: Re: SC - Apricot recipes?(w


><Snip>>And one last minor querry--it calls for mastic, which I

>>would have to mail order. How strong a flavor does mastic have, <snip>It has

>a strong flavor and it is similar to turpentine--or, more politely,retsina.

>Resiny. We use it in very small quantities <snip>


>Would something like juniper berries work as a substitute?  Or a small shot of

>Retsina?  Or is it one of this irriplacible things?


I think retsina would be closest in taste. Of course, wine doesn't appear

in period Islamic recipes. You can probably order mastic from one of the

mailorder spice sources--I think I list two near the beginning of the






Date: Fri, 23 Jan 1998 11:50:22 -0800

From: david friedman <ddfr at best.com>

Subject: Re: SC - Sumac (was: Imam Bayaldi)


At 9:44 AM -0800 1/23/98, Mike C. Baker wrote:


>> sumac


>I've had an outstanding request from my (mundane) brother for

>sources and alternatives for this ingredient.


Try an iranian grocery store. I don't remember what the call it, but I

believe it is a standard ingredient/condiment. Iranian restaurants

sometimes put it on the table.






Date: Fri, 23 Jan 1998 21:18:37 -0500

From: margali <margali at 99main.com>

Subject: Re: SC - Sumac (was: Imam Bayaldi)


> I've had an outstanding request from my (mundane) brother for

> sources and alternatives for this ingredient. I understand that it

> might also be marketted as "zamak" or some other spellynge

> variations. I have inquired at halal markets and some Oriental

> groceries, but have yet to find this commercially available.


Can be ordered from Penzey's, ltd- 414-697-7207, 1/2 cup glass jar for

$4.59, stock number 48253


they [penzeys] also sell zatar, 23731, 2.19$ for a 1/4 cup jar. It is a

spice blend that they put on tables to dip bread in. penzeys also has a

web site.





Date: Fri, 03 Apr 1998 18:05:59 -0800

From: "Crystal A. Isaac" <crystal at pdr-is.com>

Subject: Re: SC - Rapes Recipe


Decker, Terry D. wrote:

> > <<<snip>

> >  1 tsp dried sweet basil>>


> Basil may be valid.  It is Indian in origin and may have been introduced

> into the Mediterranean countries by Alexander's armies.  It appears in one

> recipe in Apicius.


Basil also appears in the Anonymous Andalusian Cookbook of the 13th

Century. I seem to recall reading it in a European source as well, but

cannot dig it up at the moment.





Date: Sat, 4 Apr 1998 08:53:14 EST

From: LrdRas <LrdRas at aol.com>

Subject: SC - Horseradish


In a message dated 4/3/98 11:09:18 PM Eastern Standard Time,

heilveil at students.uiuc.edu writes:


<< Horseradish recipes >>


Again from WR, "Food">


Horseradish was known in Egypt at least by 1500 C.E. and is one of the 5

bitter herbs used by the Jewish population eat at Passover. The Romans were

divided on it's use as a culinary plant with some expounding it's use in

winter as a warming herb  and other's like Apicius thought it much too bland

and accompanied it with peppered wine and/or garum. Still others saw it as a

cure for gallstones, asthma or to be used to improve eyesight and overcome

menstrual problems.


It was being used early on in the Middle Ages in Germany as a food but in

England it was grown in the 13th century C.E. as a medicinal up until the 16th

century when an English herbalist mentions it's use as a suce on fish and meat

made in a fashion similar to mustard.


A simple recipe is to grate the root finely, add a touch of salt and some

distilled vinegar although I much prefer using cider vinegar which

unfortunately discolors it as Mr. Root points out.


I am of the opinion that this herb deserves a place in the Modern Medieval

Garden. :-)





Date: Tue, 23 Jun 1998 12:21:23 -0500

From: Philip & Susan Troy <troy at asan.com>

Subject: Re: SC - Silphium & Alisander (fwd)


> Flicking through Alexis Soyer's "Pantropheon" (not the most reliable source

> I will admit) I came across two seasonings/spices that I am unfamiliar

> with, silphium and alisander. does anyone know what they are?


> Andrea Willett


Alisander is probably the same thing as Alexander, which is known in

English as horse-parsley.


Silphium is a little more complicated, I'm working from memory here, so

please bear with me: Sylphium is a plant grown in, I believe, India and

Persia, and its aromatic gum is powdered for use as a spice. The

best-known variety would be asafeotida, also known as hing and

teufelsdreck (devil's-dung). On a related note, silphium appears in some

Roman cookery as a substitute for laser root, an entirely different

plant which appears to have become either unobtainable or perhaps

extinct during, approximately, the early Roman Empire. Anyway, silphium

is pretty rank-smelling, a little like garlic going off, but tiny

amounts of hing powder are often used in Indian curries, particularly

vegetable and fish varieties. The idea is to season the dish and bring

out the other flavors, rather than to make the dish smell or taste of

hing. It also appears pretty frequently in Apician fish recipes.





Date: Tue, 23 Jun 1998 12:45:04 EDT

From: LrdRas at aol.com

Subject: Re: SC - Silphium & Alisander (fwd)


charlesn at sunrise.srl.rmit.edu.au writes:

<< I came across two seasonings/spices that I am unfamiliar

with, silphium and alisander. does anyone know what they are?


Andrea Willett



Silphium is presumably a plant which the Romans literally ate to extinction.

Most scholars agree that the use of asefoetida is a viable substitute. It can

be found in stores that sell food common to India. Alisander has me stumped.





Date: Thu, 8 Oct 1998 21:02:47 -0700

From: "needlwitch at msn.com" <needlewitch at email.msn.com>

Subject: Re: SC - Rosemary Usage


to rub the

>called for amount between my hands rapidly, which pulverizes the needles

>rather handily (No, I wasn't deliberately punning, unlike some people I

>could mention, A).It takes only a few seconds, and you release the

>essential oils with the heat of friction


This also works with any dried herb, from my experience. You rub it to

release the essential oils before adding it to a dish. Works wonders.

Thorbjorn the Cook (finally passing on a trick he learned in school)


{Northwest Washington}



Date: Sun, 17 Jan 1999 18:39:35 EST

From: LrdRas at aol.com

Subject: Re: SC - Sumac?


melisant at iafrica.com writes:

<< Could someone please tell me what sumac or sumach is? >>


Sumac is the roots or bark of the Sumac tree. as a culinary ingredient.

Usually it refers to the berries of non-poisonous sumac. These berries are

reddish colored and fuzzy. They grow in tight clumps at the ends of Sumac



<<none of my cookbooks mention it. >>


That doesn't surprise me.  :-) It is found most often as an ingredient in

Middle Eastern dishes.


<<The recipe requires you to boil the

sumac and then cook the lamb in the sumac water - what would this do? >>


One of the modern uses of sumac berries is to make a beverage that tastes very

similar to lemonade. The berries are acidic and produce a liquid which has

been described as lemony. The flavor actually is about as similar to lemons

as rabbit is to chicken. :-)


<<Is it a thickening or binding agent, or is it just for flavour? >>


Flavor. It adds no body to the finished dish.


A word of caution: if you collect your own sumac berries or bark be very

careful not to collect poison sumac. Although poison sumac looks very

different from edible sumac, there are people who have somehow mistaken the

two. Edible sumac has hairy stems and leaves with tightly clumped hairy red

seed heads. Poison sumac has smooth bark and shiny leaves and the smooth

berries are born in very loose racemes and are a different color. Edible sumac

is available at any good middle eastern grocersand, rarely, at health food



<< Melisant >>





Date: Mon, 18 Jan 1999 10:50:45 +0000

From: Robyn Probert <robyn.probert at lawpoint.com.au>

Subject: Re: SC - Sumac?


At 22:00 17/01/1999 +0200, Melisant wrote:

>Could someone please tell me what sumac or sumach is?


Sumac is a spice -  a ground red dried berry of the sumac bush. It looks

like a dark red coarse powder and has a great lemon tang. I buy it from

middle eastern food stores. I guess you could substitute lemon juice in the

water if you can't get sumac.





Date: Sun, 17 Jan 1999 22:14:37 -0500

From: James Gilly / Alasdair mac Iain <alasdair.maciain at snet.net>

Subject: Re: SC - Sumac?


At 18:39 17-1-99 EST, Ras wrote:

>Poison sumac has smooth bark and shiny leaves and the smooth

>berries are born in very loose racemes and are a different color.




>From the *EB*:


    sumac, any of certain species of shrubs and small trees belonging to

the genus *Rhus*, in the cashew family (Anacardiaceae), native to temperate

and subtropical zones.  All sumacs have a milky or resinous sap, which in a

few species can cause a contact dermatitis.  Used in the past as a source

of dyes, medicines, and beverages, sumacs are now valued as ornamentals,

soil binders, and cover plants.  The sumacs grown for landscape use display

a graceful habit, spectacular fall colour, or colourful fruit clusters.


    The smooth, or scarlet, sumac (*R. glabra*), native to the eastern and

central U.S., is the most common.  It grows to a height of 5 metres (20

feet), with an open, flattened crown and a few stout spreading branches.  A

cultivated variety has much dissected, fernlike leaves. Somewhat taller is

the staghorn, or velvet, sumac (*R. typhina*), up to 9 m, named for the

dense or velvety covering on new twigs.  Its fall foliage is orange-red to

purple.  It also has a variety with finely cut leaves.


    Poison sumac, or poison elder (*R. vernix*, or in some classifications,

*Toxicodendron vernix*), is an attractive narrow shrub or small tree native

to swampy or acidic soil of eastern North America.  It has whitish waxy

berries on loose hanging stalks, unlike the upright reddish, fuzzy fruit

clusters of other sumacs.  The clear sap. which blackens on exposure to

air, is extremely toxic for many people.


    The smaller sumacs are the shining, winged, or dwarf sumac (*R.

copallina*) and the lemon, or fragrant, sumac (*R. aromatica*).  The former

is often grown for its shiny leaves, the leaflets of which are connected by

ribs along the axis, and showy reddish fruits.  The fragrant sumac has

three-parted leaves, scented when bruised; it forms a dense low shrub

useful in landscaping.


    The Sicilian sumac (*R. coriaria*), from the Mediterranean region, is

cultivated as a source of tannin in southern Italy.

[*The New Encyclopaedia Britannica*, 15th edition, vol 11, pp 381-382.

Copyright 1986 by Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc.]


We had sumac (presumably scarlet sumac) growing in our back yard and at our

neighbours' in Michigan when I was a kid, but it never would have occurred

to me that it was edible. 8)


By the way, for those who aren't familiar with it, it's "shoo-mac."


Laird Alasdair mac Iain of Elderslie

Dun an Leomhain Bhig

Canton of Dragon's Aerie [southeastern CT]

Barony Beyond the Mountain  [northern & southeastern CT]

East Kingdom



Date: Sat, 6 Feb 1999 18:14:02 -0600

From: LYN M PARKINSON <allilyn at juno.com>

Subject: Re: SC - Dan Gillespie <dan.gillespie at erols.com>: a favor to ask


Sylvia Landsberg's _The Medieval Garden_ contains references to rocket

and sweet rocket.  Rocket is listed under Herbs for salad, and Sweet

Rocket under additional plants from a variety of sources as aesthetically

appealing plants.



allilyn at juno.com, Barony Marche of the Debatable Lands, Pittsburgh, PA

Kingdom of Aethelmearc



Date: Fri, 16 Apr 1999 23:24:05 -0700

From: "David Dendy" <ddendy at silk.net>

Subject: SC - Re: Borage


>  I haven't found Borage as an herb to buy in a store, but you can find the

>  plants at nurseries.  I had a nice start on some last year, but the

>  family feeding the cat while I was at Pennsic didn't bother to water my

>  pricey herb garden start, so I haven't gotten any to try for recipes.


>  If you want borage, either plant some yourself, or find a gardener in

>  your group and persuade them to plant the borage seedlings you buy.


You won't usually find borage offered as a dried herb, as it doesn't dry

well, losing its flavour. Seed or plant some, though, and you'll soon have

more than enough -- it self seeds. The fuzzy leaves have a nice cucumbery

taste, good in drinks and also nice chopped fine in a salad. Choose young

leaves, which are not quite as fuzzy, and chp small -- I've discovered not

everyone likes their salad fuzzy ;) The blue flowers are also very

attractive floated in a punchbowl.


Francesco Sirene



Date: Sat, 17 Apr 1999 15:36:47 EDT

From: Aelfwyn at aol.com

Subject: Re: SC - Re: Borage


ddendy at silk.net writes:

<< The fuzzy leaves have a nice cucumbery

taste, good in drinks and also nice chopped fine in a salad. Choose young

leaves, which are not quite as fuzzy, and chp small -- I've discovered not

everyone likes their salad fuzzy ;) The blue flowers are also very

attractive floated in a punchbowl.


Francesco Sirene >>


Francesco's comment that borage self-seeds is putting it mildly. I grew a few

plants one year about 6 years ago and have had more than plenty as well as

weeding the seedlings out of that garden plot each year. The flowers are

beautiful, do I also remember correctly that they can be "candied" like

violets and violas for confection use?





Date: Wed, 28 Jul 1999 20:28:35 -0700

From: "David Dendy" <ddendy at silk.net>

Subject: Re: SC - spikenard


I have attached (below) the entries on "spignel" and "spikenard" (incomplete

as they are) from the glossary of spice names I am working on writing. It

would seem that Spikenard is usually the root etc. of "Nardostachys

jatamansi", but may on occasion be "Meum athamanticum". We sell the

jatamansi (which is certainly what is meant in 90% of the references, going

back to Roman times, but haven't found a source of the meum yet (anyone know



I'd be very interested in experiences, recipes, and comments from people who

have used spikenard. We have only recently added it to our stock, and I

haven't got around to doing much testing yet.


Francesco Sirene

David Dendy / ddendy at silk.net

partner in Francesco Sirene, Spicer / sirene at silk.net

Visit our Website at http://www.silk.net/sirene/



[English 1579; "spignale" 1502 (OED2 "Spignel")] Also known as "meum" or


"The aromatic root of the umbelliferous plant Meum athamanticum, used, when

dried and ground, in medicine as a carminative or stimulant, or as a spice

in cookery." (OED2 "Spignel")

  This was used in some spiced wine concoctions (viz. "1502 Arnolde Chron.

(1811) 188 Take cloues and gelofre, . . gynger and spignale, . . and temper

hem with good wyne." OED2 "Spignel")

  It may on occasion have been used as SPIKENARD, particularly where the

recipe calls for "spykenard de Spayn" (Hieatt and Butler 1985, p. 143), as

spignel was on occasion known as as "spygnal of Spaine" and Turner's 1562

Herbal says it "peraduenture was ones called Spiknard." (OED2 "Spignel")



[English c.1350; from the late or medieval Latin spica nardi, rendering the

Greek               (also            ) (OED2 "Spikenard")]


  (1) "The source of the true or Indian nard is now identified as

Nardostachys jatamansi, a plant of the family Valerianacae, the fibrous

root-stocks or Ôspikes' of which are still collected in Bhotan and Nepal."

(Encyclop¾dia Britannica 1932, vol. 21, p. 216)


  FlŸckiger and Hanbury confirm that Indian Nard is the rhizome of

Nardostachys Jatamansi DC., and is one of several substances known under the

name of sumbul, an Arabic word signifying an ear or spike. (FlŸckiger and

Hanbury 1879, p. 312)


  The ointment made from the plant is said to have gone under the name of

sinbul Hindi or Indian spike. (Walker 1957, p. 196)


  Jatamanshi is mentioned as a spice in Indian sources of the era 400-200

B.C. (Achaya 1994, p. 37)


  The perfume is actually in the lower hairy stems (the indian name

jatamansi refers to the shaggy hair, or Ôermine tails', covering the stems).

These are tied together by the roots. (Walker 1957, p. 196) It is stated to

still be sold today [1957], as in New Testament times,  in alabaster boxes

which preserve the essential perfume. (Ibid.)


  As an aromatic ingredient in costly perfumes and unguents of the Romans

and the Middle Eastern peoples of classical times, spikenard was highly

prized. "The ointment prepared from it is mentioned in the New Testament

(Mark xiv. 3-5; John xii.3-5) as being Ôvery costly,' a pound of it being

valued at more than 300 denarii (over £10 [work out modern equivalent value,

based on wages]). This appears to represent the prices then current for the

best quality of nard, since Pliny (H.N. xii, 26) mentions that nard spikes

reached as much as 100 denarii per lb." (Encyclop¾dia Britannica 1932, vol.

21, p. 216)


  The spice appears in Roman sources under several variant names: the late

4th or early 5th century cookbook of Apicius has nardostachyum and spica

Indica (Apicius 1958, pp. 56, 146, 164, 184, 211) In the Excerpts of

Vinidarius, an Ostrogoth living in North Italy in the fifth or sixth

century, his "Brevis Pimentorum" ("List of Condiments") includes both spica

indica and spicanardi, suggesting that the two are not precisely the same

thing. (Apicius 1977, p. 234; Apicius 1984, p. 282)


  (2) Garcia da Orta, a Portuguese physician and apothecary who spent 35

years (from 1534 on) at Goa in India, "verified that the spikenard of the

ancient Greeks was Cymbopogon schoenanthus, rosha grass that grew on the

banks of the Ganges." (Achaya 1994, p. 169) This, formerly designated

Andropogon SchÏnanthus L., is a grass of Northern and Central India, which

yields by distillation the oil known as Rœsa Oil or Oil of Ginger Grass.

(FlŸckiger and Hanbury 1879, pp. 725-726)


  (3) See SPIGNEL, which may on occasion have been meant, particularly when

"Spykenard de Spayn" is referred to.


  (4) "Ploughman's Spikenard" (1597 OED2 "Spikenard") is Inula conyza

(formerly assigned to the genera Baccharis and Conyza), a sweet-scented

shrubby plant which grows wild in Britain. It was used medicinally, and as a

garland plant, but no mention is made of culinary use. (Gerard 1994, p. 183)


  (5) There are several other plants which have acquired the name spikenard,

but which will not have been meant during the period covered here. Aralia

racemosa is known as American spikenard or great spikenard, but it is a

North American plant and there is no evidence of its use before 1600 (it is

now sold by herbal suppliers, in North America at least, simply as

"spikenard", so buyers would be wise to check the botanical name of what

they are buying). Another species of the same genus, Aralia nudicaulis, as

well as being called wild sarsaparilla is also known as wild spikenard and

small spikenard, but is again of American extraction. In the West Indies

Hyptis suaveolens is called spikenard. (Encyclop¾dia Britannica 1932, vol.

21, p. 216; OED2 "Spikenard")



Date: Thu, 9 Sep 1999 10:53:40 EDT

From: LrdRas at aol.com

Subject: Re: Parsley (was Re: SC - Experiments)


cnevin at caci.co.uk writes:

<< So did they use flat-leaf or curly parsley in medieval times?  >>


Flat leaf parsley is the culinary parsley used throughout history. Curly leaf

parsley is a mutation which occurred post-period and is used for garnish. The

species is Petroselinum crispum. Both flat leaf and curly are the same

species but curly leaf is a variety, for instance, P. crispum var. crispum.

There are no other species of parsley.


Although curly leaf parsley can be used in cooking, it is a poor substitute

and the flavor pales when compared to flat leaf.





Subject: RE: ANST - Lard

Date: Mon, 20 Sep 99 14:35:17 MST

From: "Decker, Terry D." <TerryD at Health.State.OK.US>

To: "'ansteorra at ansteorra.org'" <ansteorra at Ansteorra.ORG>


> What is a good substitute for Lard in today's cooking world and for penny

> royal?


> F. Havas

> ches at io.com


Lard is a pretty good substitute for lard.  It is available in stick form

and by the bucket.  About the same price as solid vegetable shortening.


<snip of more lard info. See cooking-oils-msg>


You might try substituting mint for pennyroyal.  There are two different

plants that I know of with the name pennyroyal.  Mentha pulegium is the

Eurasian mint which produced the aromatic oil used in medieval Europe.

Hedeoma pulegioides is North American pennyroyal whose aromatic oil is used

in insect repellent.  I've never experimented with the stuff, so I don't

know if the two can be used interchangeably.





Date: Mon, 7 Feb 2000 02:02:12 EST

From: LrdRas at aol.com

Subject: Re: SC - Apicius and Platina


acrouss at gte.net  writes:

Lazer "root" is the root of

laser, a plant used by Romans in cooking, which I believe is now extinct? >>


Extinct is correct. However, asafoetida is the standard substitute for laser.

Apparently the laser plant was similar in flavor to that substance if not

actually another species of the same plant.





Date: Mon, 07 Feb 2000 22:18:41 -0800

From: Anne-Marie Rousseau <acrouss at gte.net>

Subject: Re: SC - Apicius and Platina


hey all from Anne-Marie


we are asked re: asafetida.

Is there a more commonly known name for this?


aka "that really stinky stuff that lives inside a solid sealed plastic tub

inside no less than three zip lock bags in the backest back of my spice

cupboard and I can STILL smell it when I open the door!" :)


wonderful stuff...and a fun addition to our cucumber salad from apicius.

gives it the faintest oniony garlicly flavor.


- --AM



Date: Tue, 11 Apr 2000 00:12:37 EDT

From: DianaFiona at aol.com

Subject: Re: SC - hyssop


Seton1355 at aol.com writes:


what does Hyssop taste like?  Where can I get some and what is a good



    The seeds are readily available from most seed companies with a good

selection of herbs--and I found the plants for sale locally this spring, to

my glee. ;-) The taste is a bit minty, so that would be my best guess for a

substitute, perhaps with a touch of rosemary and thyme added............

    If you need a seed catalog source, try these:

http://www.thymegarden.com/, http://www.gardennursery.com/,

http://www.superseeds.com/, http://www.richters.com/,

http://www.johnnyseeds.com/, http://www.papagenos.com/,

http://www.burpee.com/   I have plenty more, but these are sufficient to find

all the hyssop you could use! ;-)


                Ldy Diana



Date: Tue, 11 Apr 2000 14:37:08 +1000

From: "Craig Jones." <craig.jones at airservices.gov.au>

Subject: Re: SC - hyssop


>my glee. ;-) The taste is a bit minty, so that would be my best guess for a

>substitute, perhaps with a touch of rosemary and thyme added............


I found that dried hyssop tastes very much like dried parsley with a

touch of mint.  I find fresh hyssop tasting like a cross between thyme

and pennyroyal.


Just shows ya that everyone taste buds are different.


Drake (who likes the taste of saffron only if well combined with other

ingredients and spices)



Date: Wed, 10 May 2000 02:56:22 EDT

From: allilyn at juno.com

Subject: Re: SC - Anise


Elinor Fettiplace's Receipt Book, by Hilary Spurling, uses anise in white

biskit bread, and biskit bread, which turn out to be meringues.  


Someone else, whom i can't find at the moment, candies the anise seed to

use as after-dinner comfits.  Check the books which specialize in

banquets, with all the sweet dishes.


Redon, et al, The Medieval Kitchen, list it for Poached Pears in Spiced

Syrup, and Spiced Plum Mousse with Honey.



Allison,     allilyn at juno.com



Date: Sun, 6 Jul 2003 10:25:52 -0400

From: Kirrily Robert <skud at infotrope.net>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks]2 - medieval herb garden

To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>


> What a terriffic list of herbs! I am impressed!!

> What is  *Good King Henry*?


It's a potherb.  Here's where I bought it, they have some details:



I haven't found out whether it's actually period or not, but I figured

there hasn't been a King Henry in England since 15whatever, so the

chances were moderately good.




Lady Katherine Rowberd (mka Kirrily "Skud" Robert)

katherine at infotrope.net  http://infotrope.net/sca/

Caldrithig, Skraeling Althing, Ealdormere



Date: Sun, 6 Jul 2003 10:53:10 -0500

From: "Terry Decker" <t.d.decker at worldnet.att.net>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks]2 - medieval herb garden

To: "Cooks within the SCA" <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>


> What a terriffic list of herbs! I am impressed!!

> What is  *Good King Henry*?

> Phillipa


Chenopodium bonus henricus, a pot herb AKA, fat hen, allgood, English

mercury, mercury goosefoot, tola bona, and smearwort.  It is related to red

goosefoot and white goosefoot.  It is in the same family as spinach and






Date: Thu, 29 Sep 2005 13:33:18 -0500

From: "Terry Decker" <t.d.decker at worldnet.att.net>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Re: ancient Roman cookery

To: "Cooks within the SCA" <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>


Silphium (AKA sylphium, silphion, laser, laserpicium, etc.) is an extinct

member of the genus Ferula, unless one takes the opinion that it is Ferula

tingitana.  The plant is dipicted on the back of Cyrenian coins.  If

silphium is F. tingitana, it is making a comeback in North Africa and is not

total extinct.


There is a question as to whether or not laser was originally attributed to

silphium and then transferred to asafoetida, or whether it was always used

for asafoetida.  In either case, I gather that asafoetida was considered a

poor substitute for silphium.


I also doubt lemongrass is a proper substitute for silphium.


Gernot Katzer provides some interesting information on the subject.






Date: Thu, 29 Sep 2005 14:48:26 -0400

From: "Lonnie D. Harvel" <ldh at ece.gatech.edu>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Re: ancient Roman cookery

To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>


OK, I am now confused... (no surprise there)


Some sources say that the ancient Laser is Laserpitium, others say that

it is Asafoetida, another says that Laserpitium's name was changed to

Asafetida. The taste of these, however, are described quite differently.

(Laser vs. Laserwort?)



Asafoetida, from the epicentre:


Asafoetida is a hard resinous gum, grayish-white when fresh, darkening

with age to yellow, red and eventually brown. It is sold in blocks or

pieces as a gum and more frequently as a fine yellow powder, sometimes

crystalline or granulated.

*Bouquet:* a pungent smell of rotting onions or sulfur. The smell

dissipates with cooking.

*Flavour: *on its own, extremely unpleasant, like concentrated rotten

garlic. When cooked, it adds an onion-like flavour.


Other Names:

Asafetida, Assafetida, Assafoetida, DevilÕs Dung, DevilÕs Durt,  

Food of

the Gods (Persian), Laser (Roman), Stinking Gum

/French: /assa foetida, ferulr perisque

/German:/ Asafotida, Stinkender Asant

/Italian: /assafetida

/Spanish:/ asafetida

/Afghan: /kama-i-anguza

/Indian: /hing, hingu, heeng

/Tamil: /perunkaya




Laserpititum from "Plants for a Future" website:


Common name:        Laserwort    Family:       Umbelliferae


Root - used as a flavouring[2, 105, 177]. It was used by the Romans with

cumin in order to season preserved artichokes[183].

A decoction of the seeds is used in beer[183].




  From Gernot Katzer's Spice Pages:







     In ancient Roman cookbooks, the spice was termed /silphion/,

     /silphium/ or /laserpitium/ (also /laser/); later, the last name  


     transferred to asafetida

     <http://www.uni-graz.at/%7Ekatzer/engl/Feru_ass.html>; (which was

     considered an inferior substitute).

*Used plant part*


     Some kind of resin obtained by cutting the root or the stalk;

     occasionally, leaves and root were eaten as a vegetable.


*Plant family*




     (parsley family).


*Sensory quality*


     Unknown, but extremely pleasing.


     Silphion was not only used as a spice, but also as a powerful herbal

     medicine and even for birth control.


*Main constituents*






     Northern Africa, about today's Libya. Several North African cities

     controlled the silphion trade and built their wealth thereon

     (Carthage, Kyrene); apparently, the product became known only after

     the foundation of Kyrene in the 7.th century.




     Greek /silphion/ [σλφιον] is probably a Semitic loan



Date: Thu, 29 Sep 2005 15:26:15 -0400

From: Barbara Benson <voxeight at gmail.com>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Re: ancient Roman cookery

To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>


OK, here is what one of my books has to say about the issue.


> From Around the Roman Table by Patrick Faas (p155 - 156):


Laserpithium, or silphium as the Greeks called it, is extinct, and

this is the Romans' fault, The herb used to grow abundantly in North

Africa, in the province of Cyrenaica (Libya). It was the country's

main export, and became a national symbol, appearing on coins and

reliefs. The plant itself was eaten, the stem boiled or roasted, but

the juice extracted from the roots was more important. It was called



Sadly the plant could not be cultivated, and had to be gathered in the

wild. It was worth its weight in gold. Apicius, who was generally

happy to pay considerable sums for his food, provides a cooking tip to

make a little laser go a long way. He stored it in pine nuts, which

absorbed its flavour. When a recipe called for laser, Apicius used the

flavoured pine nuts.


With full-scale plunder of laser for Roman gourmets the herb became

increasingly scarce. For some decades it appeared to have died out,

but then one more plant was found. Rather than leave it alone in the

hope it might propagate itself, it was picked and sent to Rome, where

it was given to Nero. The last laser plant vanished into the fat

emperor's belly.


From that point on the Romans fell back on substitutes. Silphium

parthicum grew in Persia and Armenia. Pliny suggests that this variety

was greatly inferior. It still exists, known as ferula asafoetida. An

extract is made from the root juices and can be bought from Indian

grocers as a liquid, paste or powder under the name asafoetida or

heeng. It is a popular ingredient in India, Afghanistan and the Middle

East, but its strong, garlicky aroma has never appealed to northern

European palates.


Asafoetida - which means 'stink root' - has a penetrating flavour. The

tiniest amount enriches a dish, while too much makes it inedible. It

is not used in Italy, where it failed to become an accepted substitute

for the real thing. Modern Italians use garlic where Apicius called

for laser. In a way garlic has always been a laser substitute. Even

when laser was still available, it was too expensive for the poor, who

used garlic (Plin, N.H. XIX-xv).




I have never taken a poll regarding what people thought about the

accuracy of this source. It does not have a bibliography, but

frequently cites sources within the text (as seen above). Most of the

things that he discusses and addresses seems to jive with the other

sources that I have read - so I am inclined to give it weight.


I have some Asafoetida sitting on my shelf, but have not had the

opportunity to play with it yet. It appears to me, that if you cannot

get it then garlic is a perfectly appropriate substitute.


It also would not surprise me if it is indeed making a comeback from

some lost lonely plant that survived out in the wild. Where did you

see info regarding that Bear?


--Serena da Riva



Date: Sun, 11 Dec 2005 12:21:49 -0500

From: Kerri Martinsen <kerrimart at mindspring.com>

Subject: [Sca-cooks] Satury

To: SCA Cooks <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>


Does anyone know what Satury (satureiam) is  (besides a spice) and what

would be a fair substitute?


Reference: (Apicius)


{399} Leporem farsum: nucleos integros, amygdala, nuces siue glandes

concisas, piperis grana solida, pulpam de ipso lepore. et ouis fractis

obligatur, de omento porcino in furno. sic iterum impensam facies: rutam,

piper satis, cepam, SATUREIAM, dactylos, liquamen, caroenum uel conditum,

diu combulliat donec spisset, et sic perfunditur. sed lepus in piperato

liquamine et lasere maneat.





Date: Sun, 11 Dec 2005 20:45:49 +0100

From: Volker Bach <carlton_bach at yahoo.de>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Satury

To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>


Am Sonntag, 11. Dezember 2005 18:21 schrieb Kerri Martinsen:

> Does anyone know what Satury (satureiam) is  (besides a spice) and  

> what would be a fair substitute?


It's a garden herb (Satureia hortensis aka S. brachiata, S. laxiflora, S.

officinarum, S. pachyphylla, S. viminea, Thymus cunila). In German, ist is

also known as 'Bohnenkraut' (bean herb) or 'Gartenquendel'. Kind of bushy,

witrh green-leafed twigs, sensitive to cold.


I can't really think of a substitute, but thyme might do the trick.





Date: Sun, 11 Dec 2005 11:14:21 -0800

From: lilinah at earthlink.net

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Satury

To: sca-cooks at ansteorra.org


Vitha wrote:

> Does anyone know what Satury (satureiam) is (besides a spice) and what

> would be a fair substitute?


> Reference: (Apicius)


The translations i own say it is Savory, which is an herb.


Urtatim (that's err-tah-TEEM)

the persona formerly known as Anahita



Date: Mon, 12 Dec 2005 04:11:23 -0600

From: "otsisto" <otsisto at socket.net>

Subject: RE: [Sca-cooks] Satury

To: "Cooks within the SCA" <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>


My source says Winter Savory and that it tastes somewhat like Thyme.  

So your suggestion of Thyme as a substitution would work.




-----Original Message-----

It's a garden herb (Satureia hortensis aka S. brachiata, S. laxiflora, S.

officinarum, S. pachyphylla, S. viminea, Thymus cunila). In German, ist is

also known as 'Bohnenkraut' (bean herb) or 'Gartenquendel'. Kind of bushy,

witrh green-leafed twigs, sensitive to cold.


I can't really think of a substitute, but thyme might do the trick.





Date: Tue, 6 Mar 2007 18:26:07 +0100

From: Volker Bach <carlton_bach at yahoo.de>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] BertramKraut

To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org>


Am Dienstag, 6. M?rz 2007 17:13 schrieb ranvaig at columbus.rr.com:

> I've been looking for the translation of BertramKraut or Pertrumkraut.


> http://www.uni-graz.at/~katzer/germ/Arte_dra.html

> says Tarragon in German is "f?lschlich Bertram"

> or false Bertam.  "The German name Bertram is

> sometimes misapplied to tarragon, but should be

> reserved for Anacyclus pyrethrum (Asteraceae). It

> is an adaptation of the Greek plant name

> pyrethron".


> Tarragon seems more likely for use in cooking.

> Does anyone have more information on this?


I'd trust Gernot Katzer on this one. Bertram is definitely not tarragon. It is

still used in traditional South German cookery and German spicers sell

tarragon (Estragon) and Bertram as separate herbs. They certainly taste



I've never had fresh Bertram, actually... the dried stuff is good  

with cheese.




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