Tagged ‘asparagus’

Sallet Days, Plain and Simple.

October 26th, 2013 by KM Wall

If it’s Saturday, it must be Sallet -day….

Of Sallets, simple and plain
First then to speak of Sallets, there be some simple, some compounded, some only to furnish out the Table, and some both for use and adornation: your simple Sallets are Chibols pilled, washt clean, and half of the green tops cut clean away, and so served on a fruit dish, or Chives, Scallions, Rhaddish roots, boyled Carrets, Skirrets and Turnips, with such like served up simply: Also, all young Lettuce, Cabbage-Lettuce, Purslane, and divers other herbs which may be served simply without any thing but a little Vinegar, Sallet Oyl and Sugar; Onions boyled; and stript from their rind, and served up with Vinegar, Oyl and Pepper, is a good simple Sallet; so is Camphire, Bean-cods, Sparagus, and Cucumbers, served in likewise with Oyl, Venegar and Pepper, with a world of others, too tedious to nominate.

The English Huswife
Containing the inward and outward Vertues which ought to be in a Compleat Woman…
A Work generally approved, and now the Ninth time much Augmented, Purged, and made most profitable and necessary for all men, and the general good of this NATION.
By G. Markham.
LONDON, Printed for Hannah Sawbridge, at the Sign of the Bible on Ludgate Hill, 1683

  • A simple salad is one main thing, with what we now call dressing. A compound  salad had several different elements. A tossed Garden Salad is a modern example of a compound salad construction. A modern Potato Salad is a simple salad, even if it has hard boiled eggs in it, maybe even especially so.
  • for use or adoration means  – they’re for eating or for looking at – we’re just concerned with the eating ones
  • Chibols are a green onion, scallions and chives, are oniony as well, and, like radishes, are often served right at hand

    Annibale Carracci - The Bean eater

    Annibale Carracci – The Bean eater – notice the green onions by his hand – no plate, not a dish – a spoonful of beans and a bite of oniony goodness.

  • Boil your carrots, turnips and skirrets before eating them (or not, maybe having some by the side of your plate to eat a spoonful of beans and then a crunch of carrot)…..but if you have skirrets, they really are better off cooked before eating

    Turnips lurking in a Pilgrim Village garden - ready for a salad

    Turnips lurking in a Pilgrim Village garden – ready for a salad

  • Assorted little leafy green things served with oil, vinegar and salt….Cabbage-lettuce is headed lettuce, as apposed to loose leaves.
  •   Olive oil, wine or cider vinegar and, well, salt. There’s also ‘sallet oil’ in the 17th century. It’s made from rapeseed; rapes being part of the turnip family. We now call that oil canola oil….
    Rapeseed flowers

    Rapeseed flowers

    Canola seeds

    Canola seeds




  • Onions, boiled, bean cods (what we call ‘green beans’ ) boild; Asparagus (not at this time of year, unless you’re living in Australia) and of, course, cucumbers, are all good with oil vinegar, salt and pepper. Perhaps a pinch of sugar. When in doubt, boil. These days, we’re more likely to try raw, but the 17th century thinking was that cooking improved things for mans body by making it more artificial. Artificial was GOOD, because the hand of man was there. Raw was how the horse and cows ate the garden, and they were looking for a little emotional distance from the barnyard animals.
  • Boil, oil; boil, oil; boil, oil.
  • Simple simple simple simple
A Gentleman buys a Turnip

A Gentleman Buys a Turnip – except they look like radishes and he’s a little skeevy. I think he’s looking for more then salad fixin’s…



Jean-Baptiste Chardin - The Turnip Cleaner - 1738 - it's a little later, and a little French, but I'm pretty sure she's about to make some turnip sallett

Jean-Baptiste Chardin – The Turnip Cleaner – 1738 – it’s a little later, and a little French, but I’m pretty sure she’s about to make some turnip sallet

Gilding the Lily

May 9th, 2013 by KM Wall
Asparagus - formerly family Liliaceae; now Amaryllidaceae

Asparagus – formerly family Liliaceae; now Amaryllidaceae

The alternate title to this post: Drawing Lesson.



Lily, in this case, refers to the plant family that asparagus belongs. Or did belong. Before things were reclassified.  Asparagus, it seems isn’t really a lily.Anymore. Once, like onion and garlic, all part of one big Liliaceace, sperage/sparagus/sparrow-grass/asparagus  is over in the Asparagaceae train, and the onions and garlic are on the Amaryllidaceae bus.

 And what can make that spearage better? Butter!


1400 This is titled "Making Butter" but she's not. She's making medicine, or maybe pesto, but one does not make butter with a mortar and pestle

1499 This is titled “Making Butter” but she’s not. She’s making medicine, or maybe pesto, but one does not make butter with a mortar and pestle

Buttered Sparagus

Take two hundred of sparagus, scrape the roots clean and wash them, then take the heads of an hundred and lay them even, bind them hard up into a bundle, and so likewise of the other hundred; then take a large skillet of fair water, when it boils put them in, and boil them up quick with some salt; being boil’d drain them, and serve them with beaten butter and salt about the dish, or butter and vinegar.

1678, Robert May. The Accomplist Cook. (4th ed) Falconwood Press:1992. p. 255.

Asparagus with Hollandaise sauce - a butter based sauce...

Asparagus with Hollandaise sauce – a butter based sauce…

Here are several beaten butter/thick butter/drawn butter English sauces:

How to draw your butter thicke.

Put to every pound of butter, sixe spoonfulls of vinegar, a branch of Rosemary, a little whole mace, & a few cloves, put them into an earthen pipkin or a pewter dish, and set them vpon a few coales, and when the butter begins to melt, take a ladle and powre it vp a high till it be melted, and then it will bee as thicke as creame, and serve to butter any fresh fish.

-         Murrell, John. A Booke of Cookerie. London: 1621. Falconwood Press:1990. p. 32.

English butter

English butter

To draw Butter.

Take your butter and cut it into thin slices, put it in a dish, then put it upon the coals where it may melt leasurely, stir it often, and when it is melted put in two or three spoonfuls of water, or Vinegar, which you will, then stir and beat it untill it be thick.

-         1653. W.I. A True Gentlewomans Delight. Falconwood Press (1991) p. 54.


To draw butter of only use in sauces.

Take the butter and cut it into thin slices, put it into a dish, then put it upon the coals where it may melt leisurely, stir it often and when it is melted put in two or three spoonfuls of water or Vinegar, which you please, then stire it and beat it until it be thick. If the colour keep white it is good, but if it look yellow and curdly in boiling it is noght, and not fit to be used to this purpose.

- 1664. Mrs Cromwell’s Cookery Book. (1983) p. 77.

This all sounds an awful lot like Buerre blanc, this melted butter/vinegar/emulsified butter sauce. Buerre blanc also has shallots, and was in theory invented in France in the 20th century ……

And it’s Samuel Pepys who provides the sparrow-grass reference on April 20, 1667:

So home, and having brought home with me from Fenchurch Street a hundred of sparrowgrass,—[A form once so commonly used for asparagus that it has found its way into dictionaries.]—cost 18d. We had them and a little bit of salmon, which my wife had a mind to, cost 3s. So to supper, and my pain being somewhat better in my throat, we to bed.


Lily Tomlin.Birth name - Mary Jean . She didn't used to be a Lily, but is now.

Lily Tomlin.Birth name – Mary Jean . She didn’t used to be a Lily, but is now. Always golden.


Even the Chicken had a Capon*

May 8th, 2013 by KM Wall
Rooster and Hen

Rooster and Hen – these guys might be a little old to be considered chickens.


Chicken, and it’s grown up over-grown soprano brother were been paired with asparagus throughout the 17th century in England.

Chickens and capons are different growth stages of the same bird. We now call them all chicken, but how the birds are raised and how they grow is so different from the 17th to the 21st centuries…think of the Julia Child episode where she had all the little birds lined up – pullets, chickens, fryers, roasters, and the old stewing hen. These are all growth stages, different sizes being better for different usages.

Recipes also have growth stages – persistence as they carry over time, precedence as on come before another, each with clues of flavor profile, status, commonality.

Because it’s not just the food it’s the ways.

To boyle Chickens with Sparagus.

Boyle your Chikens in faire water, with a little whole mace, put into their bellies a little parsley, and a little sweete butter, dish them vpon sippets and powre a little of the same broath vpon it, and take a handfull of  sparagus being boyld, and put them in a ladle full of thicke butter, and stir it together in a dish, and powre it vpon your chickens or pullets, strew on salt, and serve it to the Table hot.

-         1621. John Murrell. A Delightful daily exercise for ladies and Gentlewomen. Falconwood Press: 1990. p. 33.

  1.  A chicken is a young bird, and are often referred to in the plural in recipes. Young would be small, tender, and a little bland by 17th century standards.
  2. Why have we stopped boiling? Roasted birds do look prettier….but boiled chicken sure tastes good.
  3. Parsley in the belly of a bird is always a good thing – take it out, mince it fine, add a little butter and instant sauce, even if you nothing else.
  4. Boil the asparagus separate from the chicken. Boiling it in chicken broth is a nice touch. Chicken takes much longer to cook then asparagus.
  5. Sippets are little sops. If there is broth there is also most always sippets. Or sops.
  6. Thick butter is also know as drawn butter. More on that latter.
The Poultry Dealer (after Cesare Vecellio)

The Poultry Dealer (after Cesare Vecellio)


To boil a Capon or Chicken with Asparagus.

Boil your capon or chicken in fair water and some salt, then put in their bellies a little mace, chopped parsley and sweet butter; being boiled, serve them on sippets and put a little of the broth on them; then have a bundle or two of asparagus boiled, put in beaten butter and serve it on your capon or chicken.

-         1654. Mrs Cromwell’s Cookery Book (1983)p. 57.

  1. Now there is an option – little tender chickens or big, also tender capon.
  2. Again, parsly in the belly. Again, mace. Again, butter.
  3. Again, cook the asparagus separately.
  4. Again, sippets.
  5. Beaten butter is another, other name for thick butter or drawn butter.
Day old baby chick

Day old baby chick – a little too little to be called a capon

To boyl a Capon with Asparagus

Boyl your Capon, or Chicken in fair water, and some salt, then put in their bellies a little Mace, chopped Parsley, and sweet Butter; being boyled, serve them on Sippets, and put a little of the Broath on them: Then have a bundle or two of Asparagus boyled, put in beaten butter, and serve it on your Capon, or Chicken.

                        – 1675 Hannah Woolley. The Accomplish’d lady’s delight in preserving, physick, beautifying, and cookery.

  1.  Capon or chicken, boiled again.
  2. Bellies full of mace, parsley and butter.
  3. Sippets.
  4. Boil the asparagus.
  5. Beaten butter.
  6. 54 years of essentially the same recipe.

I found the Hannah Wooley recipe on the Gastronomy Archaeology blog (which is now on the blog-roll, check it out) when I realized that ‘sperage’ and ‘sparagus’ show up in almost as many references as ‘asparagus’….she’s the one who clued me into the Richard Brome play, The Sparagvs Garden which led me to this
website Richard Brome Online .

Asparagus was supposed to be quickly done…..and now there’s butter sauces….

* My Uncle Al couldn’t let a cold day go by without saying,”It’s so cold, even the chicken has a capon.”  When I became a Pilgrim he would also say, “She’s so old, that even this chickie has a cape on.” 

Vaudeville isn’t dead, it just moved to the suburbs.

‘in taste like vnto the greene beane,”

May 7th, 2013 by KM Wall

Travel, travel back in time, to a place where the green bean is as exotic and rare as asparagus, maybe more so. And where asparagus is still unusual enough that it it needs some sort of description of it’s taste. And that both descriptions are meant for the discerning, discriminating, and upper class palate.

Or are they?

Green beans, like unto apsaragus

Green beans, like unto asparagus

Chap 457 Of Spearage, or Asparagus

  1. The first [illustration] being manured, or garden Sperage, hath at his first rising out of the ground thicke tender shoots very soft and brittle. Of the thicknesses of the greatest swans quil, in taste like vnto the greene beane, having at the top a certain scaly soft bud.”

- 1633 John Gerard. The Herbal. Johnson, ed. (Dover) p. 1111.

Chap V


 But in this place I think it necessary to be remembered, that the Sperages require small boiling, for too much or too long boiled, they become corrupt or with delight in eating.

Of which the worthy Emperour Drusus, willing to deomonstrate the speedy success of a matter, was wont to say, the same should be sooner done then the Sperage boiled.

- 1577/1652. Thomas Hill. The Gardener’s Labyrinth. Richard Mabey, ed (1987) p. 136-7.

This isn’t the same Roman Emperor….never mind, the point is – it has ALWAYS been known, even the Romans knew,  that asparagus – or sperage or sparagus – must be cooked quickly.

The Time

The bare naked tender shoots of Spearage spring vp in Aprill, at what time they are eaten in salads; they floure in Iune and Iuly; the fruit is ripe in September.

-1633. John Gerard. The Herbal. Johnson, ed. (Dover). p. 1112.

But also image a time – and place – where the alleged aphrodisiac effects are well known. Well known enough for satire. And not just the ‘bare naked’ part.


Richard Brome, author of the Sparagus Garden, 1630

Richard Brome, author of The Sparagvs Garden, 1635


bare naked shoots

bare naked shoots

bare naked shoots

bare naked shoots

Because, according to the Doctrine of Humours,  being cold and moist, it good for the ladies.….and then there’s the Doctrine of Signatures to consider, gentlemen……



“citius quam asparagi coquintur”

May 6th, 2013 by KM Wall

“quicker than you can cook asparagus”, as according to the Roman emperor Augustus.

Good advice for the asparagus,  no matter what the century – cook that sperage quickly. No mushiness allowed. Just the taste of green -  and a little butter, perhaps.


About Asparagus.

Asparagus are just boiled, not too well done, and then eaten with Oil, Vinegar, and Pepper or otherwise with melted Butter and grated nutmegs.
- 1661. The Sensible Cook, Rose ed. p. 48.

And now in the original Dutch:

Van Aspergies.

Aspergies worden flechts ghekoockt/ niet al te murruw/en dan gegeten met Olie/ Azijn/ en Peper/ of anders met gesmolten Boter en geraspte Notemuskaten.
- (p. 63 . fasc page)

Ortus sanitatus. Moguntiae: J. Mayenbach, 1491. Leaf: 27 x 20 cm.; Illus.: 10.5 x 6.5 cm. Woodcut Wangensteen Historical Library of Medicine and Biology

Ortus sanitatus.
Moguntiae: J. Mayenbach, 1491.
Leaf: 27 x 20 cm.; Illus.: 10.5 x 6.5 cm.
Wangensteen Historical Library of Medicine and Biology

illustration from  University of Minnesota Libraries.

Age of Asparagus

May 5th, 2013 by KM Wall
Tip of the spearage

Tip of the sperage


“The first sprouts or naked tender shoots hereof be oftentimes sodden* in flesh broth and eaten, or boyled in faire water, and seasoned with oyle, vinegar, salt and pepper, then are served at mens tables for a sallad; they are pleasant to the taste, easily concocted, and gently loose the belly.”

John Gerard. The Herbal.1633 ‘Johnson on Gerard’ edition.  p.1110.


Loise Moillon - Fruit Basket with asparagus - 1630

Louise Moillon – Fruit Basket with asparagus – 1630

Louise Moillon was a French painter who worked for King Charles I of England, no doubt on the recommendation of his wife the French Princess Henrietta Maria.

Back to asparagus…….

Adriaen Coorte loved to paint the stuff:


with red currants…..










with a butterfly (and a cherry)

with a butterfly (and a cherry)

by its beautiful spearage self

by its beautiful sperage self




Two Turtledoves

December 27th, 2012 by KM Wall

Two European Turtle Doves (Streptopelia turtur)


To bake Pigeons wild or tame, Stock-Doves, Turtle-Doves, Quails, Rails, & c. to be eaten cold.

Take six pigeons, pull, truss, and draw them, wash and wipe them dry, and season them with nutmeg, pepper, and salt, the quantity of two ounces of the foresaid spices, and as much of the one as the other, then lay some butter in the bottom of the pye, lay on the pigeons, and put all the seasonings on them in the pye, put butter to it, close it up and bake it, being baked and cold, fill it up with clarified butter.

Make the paste of a pottle of fine flour, and a quarter of a pound of butter boil’d in fair water made up quick and stiff.

If you will bake them to be eaten hot, leave out half the seasoning: Bake them in dish, pie, or patty-pan, and make cold paste of a pottle of flour, six yolks of raw eggs, and a pound of butter, work into flour dry, and being well wrought into it, make it up stiff with a little fair water.

Being bakes to be eaten hot, put into yolks of hard eggs, sweet breads, lamb-stones, sparagus, or bottoms of artichokes, chestnuts, grapes or gooseberries.

Sometimes for variety make a lear of butter, verjuyce, sugar, some sweet marjoram chopped and boil’d up in the liquor, put them in the pye when you serve it up, and  dissolve the yolk of an egg into it: then cut up the pye or dish, and put some slic’t lemon, shake it well together, and serve it up hot.

In this mode or fashion you bake larks, black-birds, thrushes, veldifers, sparrows or wheat-ears.

- 1678. Robert May. The Accomplist Cook. Falconwood Press ed. p. 124.

Red Alert!

April 22nd, 2012 by Carolyn


As some of you may be aware Plymouth County has been on a red alert for wildfires going on at least two weeks, but luckily as of this second, we are finally getting some rain. The plants and pilgrims couldn’t be happier. I thought this would be a good time to post some pictures I’ve promised, and some great new activity going on in the village.








The Alden house before it’s recent renovation; notice, no window.















Master Alden did a pretty nice job, and the house is still standing! I call that a success. When asked he said it was for more light….but we think he just wanted to bump up his real estate value with a sea-veiw window.











Ready to eat asparagus in the Winslow garden this past week, Susanna Winslow said it was wonderous good.




A few months back we started posting about our new clome oven in the village and our multiple test bakes. After a month of once a week pilgrim use it’s looking pretty broken in.








Be ready for next week’s photo post including…….. corn planting, goat walking and more!

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