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My Medieval Herb Garden

My herb garden with medieval herbs and flowers! A new project for July 2020.
Organic gardening, medieval plants and flowers, what they were used for in the medieval period
and what I'm using them for. Images from my own garden. Notes updated as I harvest.

Currently planted: wormwood, chamomile, feverfew, oregano, rue, parsley, lemon geranium, nasturtiam, chives, garlic, onions, strawberries, violets, roses, rosemary, sweet william, elder, salvia, catmint, borage, comfrey, soapwort, sage, evening primrose, mustard, peas, lavender, aloe vera, raspberry, lavender, basil, coriander, ivy, lady's mantle, mint.

To get: fennel (Tacuinum Sanitatis, useful for menstruation)

 

 
Aloe
Aloe vera

Current Status:
established

Uses:
As a remedy for worms:

Take lime and twice as much chalk and with wine or water, make a thin cement. Apply with 5 days with a feather to the area where the worm is. On the fifth day, take aloe and a third as much myrrh, crush and with fresh wax, prepare a plaster. Use hemp cloth and tie on for 12 days.

 

 


Basil

Current Status:
small plant

Uses:

 

 


Borage


Current Status: self-seeded from last season, flowering

Uses:

 


Catmint

Current Status: established.

Uses:

 

 


Chamomile


Current Status:
seedling

Uses:
- Le Menagier de Paris says:

To make water for washing hands at table: Boil sage, then strain the water and cool it until it is a little more than lukewarm. Or use chamomile, marjoram, or rosemary boiled with orange peel. Bay leaves are also good.

 


Chives

Current Status: established

Uses:

 

 

 


Comfrey

Current Status: small plant

Uses:

 

 

 


Coriander

Current Status: small plant, reseeded

Uses:

 


Elder
Sambucus nigra

Current Status: several small trees

Uses:
- Dwarf Elder water distilled banishes freckles.

- Elderflower water was used as a popular skin tonic.

- German Innsbruck Manuscript from 1330.

One should take elder and boil it in alumwater, that makes a green color and also a black, if one mixes it with a bit of black color.

Take the leaves of a dwarf elder and mash them and take indigo and add thereto and grind it together and let them dry together for a long time and take lime water and let it seethe together and then take alum and grind it thereto while it's all hot. Paint it on white fabric, and it will become a good blue.

 

 


Evening Primrose

Current status: seeds

Uses:

 

 

 


Fennell

Current status: seeds

Uses:

- Trotula de Ruggiero, a woman physician from the 11th century, wrote in De Ornatu Mulierum (About Women’s Cosmetics)-

The woman should wash her mouth after dinner with very good wine. Then she ought to dry very well and wipe with a new white cloth. Finally, let her chew each day fennel or lovage or parsley, which is better to chew because it gives off a good smell and cleans good gums and makes the teeth very white.


Feverfew

Current Status: established

Uses:

 

 


Garlic
Allium sativum

Current Status:
small plant/established

Uses:
- Garlic takes away blemishes of the skin.
- It was eaten whole like a vegetable.
- Warm and dried, it was given against poisons
- also to kill worms

Wel loved he garleek, oynons, and eek lekes, And for to drynken strong wyn, reed as blood- Chaucer

 


Geranium

Current Status: small plant, flowering

Uses:

 

 


Ivy

Current Status: small plant

Uses:
- to soothe injuries, burns and insect bites.

 

 

 


Lady's Mantle
Alchemilla vulgaris

Current Status: Flowered profusely, then died back.

Uses:
- The astringent leaves of Lady's Mantle were helpful with profuse menstruation.

 

 


Lavender
Lavendula vera

Current Status:
died. Needs replacing.

Uses:

Medieval linens were also scented with lavender, Lavendula vera, by being stored with it or rinsed in lavender water.

 

 


Lemon geranium

Current Status: medium plant

Uses:

 

 


Mint

Current Status: Tiny shoots found in garden! Also cuttings in water on the windowsill

Used:

 

 

 


Mustard

Current Status: seed

Uses:

 

 


Nasturtium

Current Status: plant

Uses:

 

 


Onions
Allium cepa

Current Status:
small plant

Uses:
- Used with vinegar, onion takes away all blemishes and spots.
- steeped all night in springwater kills worms if taken after morning fasting.
- Facillitates coitus.

 

 


Oregano

Current Status: established

Uses:

 

 


Parsley

Petroselinum crispum

Current Status: established

Uses: Repels head lice

 


Peas

Current Status: seedling

Uses: Food

 

 

 


Raspberry

Current status: near death but with new buds

Uses: berries for eating

 


Rose

Rosa

Current Status: established

Uses:
- Menagier de Paris gave directions for drying roses to put among clothes:

"Roses from Provence are the best to put in clothing, but they should be dried, and in mid-August sift them over a screen so that the worms fall through the screen, and then spread them in your clothes."

- Trotula gives the following recipe for a scented powder to brush into the hair:

"But when she combs her hair, let her have this powder. Take some dried roses, clove, nutmeg, watercress and galangal. Let all these, powdered, be mixed with rose water. With this water let her sprinkle her hair and comb it with a comb dipped in this same water so that [her hair] will smell better. And let her make furrows in her hair and sprinkle on the above-mentioned powder, and it will smell marvelously."


Rosemary
Rosmarinus officinalis

Current Status:
established

Uses:
- mixed with white wine made the face beautiful. Banckes' Herbal written in 1525 suggests Rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis as a medieval antiseptic writing:

boil the leaves in white wine and wash thy face therewith, thy beard and thy brows, and there shall no corns grow out, but thou shall have a fair face.


- Symbolic of memory and fidelity, was used in wreaths for funerals.

- Sage with rosemary and mallow is suggested to help with soreness of the mouth

- Le Menagier de Paris says:

To make water for washing hands at table: Boil sage, then strain the water and cool it until it is a little more than lukewarm. Or use chamomile, marjoram, or rosemary boiled with orange peel. Bay leaves are also good.


Rue

Ruta graveolens


Current Status:
seed

Uses:
- Rue ruta graveolens when bruised and added to myrtle leaves and being made up with wax, helps with pimples.

- Rue ruta graveolens also known as the Herb o' grace o' Sundays was used in linens to keep away bugs and noxious odors.

- Rue encourages urine and the menses.


Sage

Salvia officinalis

Current Status:
seedling

Uses:
- Sage, along with rosemary and mallows, is suggested to help alleviate gangrene and, soreness of the mouth and along with salt and vinegar to help deal with mouth cancer.

- A preparation of sage was used to stop perspiration.

- Le Menagier de Paris says:

To make water for washing hands at table: Boil sage, then strain the water and cool it until it is a little more than lukewarm. Or use chamomile, marjoram, or rosemary boiled with orange peel. Bay leaves are also good.

- Both Hortus Sanitatis and Dioscorides claimed that sage tea, dyes the hair black, although the Tacuinum Sanitatis indicated that sage removes dark colour from the hair.


Salvia


Current Status:
established

Uses:

 

 

 


Soapwort

Saponaria officinalis.
Also known as bruisewort, dog cloves, fuller's herb, latherwort

Current Status: seed

Uses:
- Soapwort was a herb used for cleaning cloth and clothing.

- soapwort grew originally in northern Europe until its introduction to England by Franciscan and Dominican monks.


Strawberry


Current Status:
established

Uses: Strawberry juice or water takes away the redness in the face or spots or deformities of the skin and make it clear and smooth.

 

 


Sweet William
Dianthus


Current Status:
established

Uses:

 

 

 


Violets


Current Status:
established

Uses:
The Goodman of Paris speaks to his young wife about her girlish passtimes which he feels are entirely suitable for her position in society. He says:

Know that I take delight rather than displeasure in your cultivating rose bushes, caring for violets and making chaplets, and also in your dancing and singing; I wish you to continue to do so among our friends and peers, for it is only right and just that you should thus pass the days of your maidenly youth.


Wormwood

Artemesia absynthum

Current Status:
small plant

Uses:
- The most common element cited in recipes to protect medieval clothing from damage whilst in storage. It was often placed among woolen cloths to prevent and destroy moths.

- A mixture of wormwood, southernwood, the leaves of a cedar tree and valerian mixed together and put wherever clothes were stored was thought to help repel moths and other vermin.

 

Copyright © Rosalie Gilbert
All text & photographs within this site are the property of Rosalie Gilbert unless stated.
Art & artifact images remain the property of the owner.
Images and text may not be copied and used without permission.