Middle Ages Food – Vegetables
The term “vegetable” was used only rarely during the era of the Middle Ages. Instead the term “herb” covered all green plants, roots and herbs. Food items which came from the ground were only are considered fit for the poor. Only vegetables such as rape, onions, garlic and leeks would have graced a Noble’s table. Fresh and dried vegetables were the ordinary food of the population. Vegetables were never considered as being capable of forming solid nutriment, since they were almost exclusively used by monastic communities when under vows of extreme abstinence.
Pottage is the most common way of eating vegetables
Pottage was the daily staple for everyone in medieval times. Essentially it was a broth in which meat and/or vegetables were boiled, then chopped meat, herbs and pulses added. The most common vegetables used in making pottage were onions, leeks, celery, white cabbage, garden peas. Saffron strands were sometimes used in making pottage to add color and extra flavor but generally only the wealthy could afford saffron. The following is a recipe for Pottage of Turnips:
Pre-cooking the turnips for this simple vegetable soup reduces the natural bite of the turnips and keeps them from being too strong, leaving a pleasant, warming flavor.
4 – 5 turnips, cut into half-inch cubes
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. powder douce
Put turnips into a pot with enough water to cover them. Bring to a boil, and allow to simmer until they start to soften – about 10 minutes. Drain and add remaining ingredients. Return to boil, reduce heat, and continue to cook until done. Serve hot. (makes about 4 cups).
A seed catalog from 1677 lists common plants sold in London “att the Naked Boy near Strand Bridg”.