‘Sallets’ – how to eat healthy the 1600s style


When we think of the food of yesteryear, it is often images of Henry VIII with a table moaning with meat dishes that come to mind.

But our ancestors knew more about the health benefits of eating salads – normally considered a cold dish of herbs or vegetables – than we realize.

Thinking back to the sustainable self-sufficiency of the past, we discover that we can learn a lot about the historic salad dish variety, which costs next to nothing, has no carbon footprints, and may even be beneficial to our health. .

Columnist, writer and gardener John Evelyn (1620-1706) continued his interest in salads from the mid to late 17th century. His model both defined the dish very broadly and showed how one could live all year round with house salads.

For Evelyn, the ideal vegetable garden was full of vegetables and fruits that could be grown simply and in great variety. Evelyn even published a comprehensive guide to growing and preparing salads, Acetaria, A Discourse on Sallets in 1699. The words “sallet” came into English from the French “salade” in the 1300s and were in common use in the 1600s.

In Austria, Evelyn promotes a low meat diet, insisting that those who live on herbs and roots live to old age.

He cites classical philosophy to back up his arguments on “the integrity of the herb-diet” – citing Plato and Pythagoras as examples of great thinkers who banished “flesh” from their tables.

Evelyn was not interested in converting people to vegetarianism as such, saying: “But that’s none of my business, more than showing how possible it is, by so many examples and examples, to live on healthy vegetables, both for a long time and happily “.

Over the past year or so, gardening and vegetable growing has seen a resurgence as a family outdoor pastime that can also help allay concerns about food shortages.

While he’s unlikely to become self-sufficient, Evelyn’s Acetaria has a few tips the green-fingered grower can use to feed his family, and tips that might help his crops expand in unlikely ways.

The Year of the Gardener The central place of salads in the diet in Evelyn’s manifesto is supported by the verse from Acetaria: “Bread, wine and healthy plates you can buy, which nature adds in more is luxury ”.

While the rhyme refers to buying salads, Evelyn points out that these plants are easy to grow, do not need fuel in their preparation, are on hand and most importantly, easy to digest.

And nature helps with all kinds of things, as Evelyn’s other book Directions for the Gardener, written about her garden in Sayes Court, south-east London, points out.

This book contained useful tips and tricks for growing products for the kitchen table. It’s not just the expected salad items such as cucumber and lettuce that Evelyn notices, however.

It offers daisies, dandelions, and docks as part of the premium, as well as primroses (a type of primrose). These plants and many others that bloom even in compost heaps and vacant lots could help the gardener be more self-sufficient – and at no real cost.

Most “weeds” need to be picked at the optimum time, and sometimes the roots and stems are boiled to remove bitterness. In any case, the early moderns were wary of raw vegetables because it was believed that if consumed in too large quantities, they could disturb the body.

But the key point is that it has a much broader definition of what could be included in the salad family, such as the kind of forage plants that are making a comeback in some high-end restaurants.

Some of Evelyn’s recommendations were new versions of familiar ingredients. So why not marinate the radish pods to make an attractive addition to your salad dish rather than just using the root? Or cook the stems of a turnip (before it goes to seed) and eat them boiled and covered in butter, like asparagus.

A salad “worthy of a City Feast” This is a flamboyant recipe that Evelyn offers us that upsets our vision of what a salad can be.

Ingredients: Blanched almonds sliced ​​and soaked in cold water Pickled cucumbers; Olives; Carnelians (a sort of cherry that Evelyn claims can pass for an olive when marinated); Capers; Berries (barberry); Beetroot (beet); Nasturtium buds; Broom; stems of purslane; salicornia; ash keys; Nuts; Marinated Mushrooms; Grapes of the Sun; lemon and orange zest; Corinth (currants) well cleaned and dried.

Method Chop all these ingredients, add a few roasted chestnuts (chestnuts), pistachios, pine nuts, many more almonds, and decorate with candied flowers, and sprinkle with rose water. Serve with a side of flowers marinated in vinegar.

The message of Evelyn’s book is to use what nature provides. The medicinal garden (called an apothecary or physical garden) brought out the beneficial properties of various plants, which they believed to be able to cure all kinds of ailments.

Evelyn would have been proud to see a nation of gardeners and cooks today embrace that self-sufficiency that was so natural to her in the 1600s. Something to reflect on as we enter a new year.

(This story was not edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)