These days we take the humble carrot for granted and treat it as a bog-standard, perhaps boring, veg to have with our meat and two veg – particularly beef. In the Sixteenth Century, however, things were obviously very different for us commoners and carrots were a blessing. Europe in 1599 was ravaged with bubonic plague and many people had to live off their own land. Wheat was not something you can grow in large enough amounts to sustain one’s own family and the extent of the poverty in those times meant few could afford it. Therefore people took to growing root vegetables – and the carrot was very popular as it was relatively easy to grow. There is a species of wild carrot that grows in Britain and Europe, but the cultivated carrot actually most likely arrived from Afghanistan.
Just so you know (and to put things into a historical perspective), in 1599 Queen Elizabeth I was on the throne, the first performance of Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare went down well at the Globe Theatre in London and Oliver Cromwell – the future Lord Protector of England – was born.
For this entry, Jane recounts a section from the book Profitable Instructions for the Manuring, Sowing and planting of Kitchin Gardens by Richard Gardiner which was first published in 1499. He essentially makes suggestions as how to make good use of carrots: ‘carrots roots are boiled with [salted] beef…a few carrots do save one quarter of beef in the eating of whole beef…carrots of red colours are desired of many to make dainty salads…[they] make those pottage good, for the use of the common sort…carrots well boiled and buttered is a good dish for hungry or good stomachs’. Carrots also give ‘good nourishment to all people…therefore sow carrots in your gardens, and humbly praise God for them, as for a singular and great blessing’.
I particularly liked the phrase ‘carrots well boiled and buttered is a good dish for hungry or good stomachs’, so that is what I did to go with the jugged hare. It’s good to know that some things don’t change.
#220 Carrots in 1599. I’m not actually going to give a score for this as it’s not really a proper recipe (i.e. a total cop-out). However, I think it really highlights that we take much of our food for granted – not that there is anything wrong with that – and that people in other counties or times past view things in such a different and sometimes inspiring ways.