Culinary gleanings from

John Gerard's

Herball or General Historie of Plantes

There are several references to food preparation scattered throughout the more than 1600 pages of Gerard's Herball; but unlike his medicinal cures, his culinary notes are not indexed in the book. I've made a list of their pertinent texts on the following pages, and have included the original page numbers so that you may look up the complete text and illustrations. Apart from substituting 's' for the 'long s' used in the original, I have kept the original spelling. For the most part, I've also kept Gerard's plant names as he listed them, although I may have abbreviated somewhat, especially if he listed several related plants under one heading. Only those plants for which he gave specific culinary applications have been listed here.

John Gerard's Herball was first published in 1597. (Clicking on the link above will take you to a facsimile of this edition.)
Gerard's Herball relies heavily on previously published texts, most notably Dodoens' Latin herbal of 1583, and Tabernaemontanus' Neuw Kreuterbuch of 1588. I used the 1633 edition of Gerard's Herball, edited by Thomas Johnson. (Johnson not only corrected Gerard's text, but he also added about 800 more plants, and 700 more illustrations.)

Gerard's Herball appeared at a time of incredible explorations, when new lands, plants, and animals were being discovered by Europeans. Each new discovery was compared with what was known, and was assigned a "temperature" and "vertues" according to the humoral theory and doctrine of signatures still in use at the time. Gerard also shows us the beginnings of scientific thought in those instances when he dismisses information given by his ancient Authorities, and discusses what he himself has found to be true by experimentation. Nevertheless, he includes enough spurious information to make the whole work very amusing.

Gerard's Herball is valuable to the culinary historian not only to prove that certain plants were known and used during this time period, but also to see how they were used. Oftentimes a plant we eat today was prepared in a completely different manner in Elizabethan times. For example, the sweet potato, originally brought from the Americas, was eaten as a sop in wine. Aromatic seeds (many considered to be aphrodesiacs) were candied for 'comfits' and were served with wine as a dainty dish at the end of a meal. Elizabethans were as addicted to sugary dishes as we are to chocolate; you will find many plants listed here that were prepared with sugary syrups or candy coatings.  (I have made a page devoted to Elizabethan recipes here.)

I hope you enjoy exploring Gerard's work as much as I have.

Go to Plant List - A to L:

Alehoof, Alexanders, Alkanet, Almonds, Anacardium, Apple, Apricot, Archangel, Aromaticall Reeds, Artichoke, Asparagus, Avens or Herbe Bennet

Banana/Plantain, Barberry, Barley, Bastard Parsley, Bay, Beets, Bell-Flowers, Betle, Black Brionie, Bladder Nut, Blites, Brook-lime, Broome, Borage, Buckthorn, Buckwheat, Bugloss, Burdock, Burnet

Cactus, Cammocke Furze, Capers, Caraway, Carob, Carrot, Cherry, Chervil, Chestnut, Citrull Cucumber, Citrus Fruit, Clary, Cleavers, Clove Gillyflowers, Coconut, Coriander, Corne-Marigold, Costmary, Cow Parsnips, Cowslips of Jerusalem, Cress, Crow-Garlic and Ramsons, Cucumber


Earth-nut, Elder, Elecampane

Fennell Gyant, Fenugreeke, Figs, Filberts, Flax

Ginger, Ginnie Pepper, Goats Beard, Goats Rue, Good King Henry, Gooseberry, Gourds, Guayaua

Hares Eares, Hemp, Hops, Horseradish, Houseleek

Jerusalem Artichoke

Kermes (see Scarlet Oak 1, below), Kidney Beans

Ladies Bedstraw, Lambs Lettuce, Lettuce, Liquorice, Lovage, Lupine

Go to Plant list - M to R:

Mad Apples, Maize, Mandrake, Marigold, Marjoram, Medlar, Melons or Pompions, Mint, Miscellaneous fruits, Molli, Mulberry, Musk Rose, Mustard

Oats, Oister-greene, Oke of Jerusalem and Oke of Cappadoccia, Olive, Onions, Orach, Our Ladies Thistle

Panicke, Paper Reed/Papyrus, Parsley, Parsneps, Peach, Pear, Peas, Pease Earth-nut, Peppers, Plum, Pine tree, Pinks, Pistachio, Pomegranate, Poppy, Potato, Pulse, Purslane


Radish, Ramme, Rampions, Rape-Cole, Rice, Rocket, Rose, Rosemary

Go to Plant list - S to Z:

Saffron, Sage, Sampier, Sandalwood, Sauce Alone, Saxifrage, Scallions, Scarlet Oak 1 (kermes), Scarlet Oak 2, Sea Holly, Sea Lentill, Sea Purslane, Sesame, Skirrets, Sorrell, Sorrowfull tree, Sow Thistle, Spanish Nut, Spelt, Spinach, Star of Bethlehem, Succory, Sugar Cane, Summer Savory, Sun-dew, Sunflower, Sweet Cullions, Sweet Honesty, Sweet Potato, Sycomore tree

Tamarind, Tansy, Tarragon, Thistle, Tomato, Tooth-pick Chervil, Tulip, Turky Cresses, Turky Millet, Turnip, Turnsole

Violets, Vipers Grasse

Water Docks, Water Saligot, White Endive, Wild Chervil, Wild Clary, Wild Date, Wild Garlic, Wild Radish, Wild Rose, Wild Succory, Wild Turnips, Wood Sorrel,Wortleberries

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This page was last modified on October 2, 2006