Daily entries from the 17th century London diary
Fans of the diary may have noticed that Pepys rarely refers to vegetables only meat and fish. They did eat vegetables in the 17th century but probably these were less available in central London than in the countryside or on private estates. They were also less fashionable than today. Wealthy houses had kitchen gardens and many of the traditional English vegetables we eat today were grown although there were some suprising omissions - the potato had still to make a significant impact. Some vegetables, like artichokes, were also valued for their medicinal properties.
For anyone interested in the seventeenth century diet, the National Trust is currently restoring the kitchen garden at Ham House (home in the seventeenth century to the Countess of Dysart and her husband the Duke of Lauderdale) using the original plans. The kitchen garden will grow only vegetables eaten in the mid seventeenth century and using the techniques available at the time. This is an opportunity to visit a genuine seventeenth century house and gardens.
Ham House is on the Thames near Richmond in Surrey. The garden is open to the public when the house is open. Head gardener is Peter Clarke.
Ham House is very much worth visiting, and you can then take a 20 penny ferry ride across the Thames and visit Chiswick House as well.
This painting shows the range of vegetables that were grown in English gardens including pumpkins and melons (which surprises me, cherries, apples, etc but not potatoes or tomatoes. So there were a lot of greens (were they really that big?), but as Hazel says the richer you were the more meat you ate and the fewer vegetables:
Latham's Companion on vegetables (pp. 143-44):Vegetables and salads, brought in from the market gardens of Middlesex and Essex, were plentifully available in season to Londoners, and contemporary cookery books make much use of them. The fact that they appear only rarely in the diary
Fruit and vegetables in season.
Let us not forget the importance of the words 'in season'. During the winter months there would only have been a very limited range of vegetables available to the average man; stored root vegetables, dried peas and beans from last season and perhaps some winter cabbage, probably pretty coarse and tough by February/March.
Apples were stored in autumn, but their quality would deteriorate as the year wore on and some varieties would not store at all.
Dried and candied fruit was available at a price, but its use was generally restricted to high days and holidays.
Oranges were certainly imported from Spain/Portugal, but they were regarded as recreational treats. Their quality could also be poor; orange-sellers were periodically accused of soaking and/or boiling their oranges in order to give them the appearance of plump juiciness before sale.
Fruits & Vegetables
They did have all sorts of fruit and vegetables then. In John Tradescant's garden (one of the most eminent botanists and plant collectors in the early 17th c.) were 48 varieties of apples, 45 pears and 33 plums. A great garden would always had an orchard. I think we might underestimate how much one could actually already buy in a city like London...
take a gander at vegetables dejourat: http://website.lineone.net/~stolarczyk/art7.htmland the local greengrocer at http://website.lineone.net/~stolarczyk/art4.html
veggies: "Radishes" get the lead in on May 2 1660 .
here be the salets ; collyflower, drinks et all [turnep]http://www.gutenberg.org/files/15517/15517.txt
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