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Museum News

Whether you know it as a sallett, a salade, or a salad, it has an interesting history.

By 12 June 2021No Comments
Fiona

After being fashionable and popular in the 14th and early 15th centuries, salads went through a stage of being considered as “food more meet for hogs and savage beasts to feed upon than mankind”.
Beware of green sallettes and raw fruytes for they will make your soverayne seke”, advised Wynkyn de Worde in 1508. (Boke of Kervnge)

This surprised Catherine of Aragon who demanded the services of a Dutch gardener to produce the salads that she has been used to. Perhaps with the help of her influence, attitudes began to change.
By the 1540s, Sir Thomas Elyot Castel of Helth was recommending herbs such as rocket, savory, borage, purslane, onions and the imported capers.

The growing popularity of salads led the cooks to develop ways of pickling and preserving the summer produce for winter months. E.g. laying down broom buds in layers of salt, topping up with wine vinegar or verjuice. Alternately pickled in a brine made of 2tsp sea salt to 1pintr white wine vinegar or verjuice. Cowslip, violet, marigold, bugloss and borage flowers, sprouts of young elder bushes, mushrooms and samphire were also considered candidates for preservation.

By the end of the century, In 1597, John Gerrard was saying that salad was being served first before meat, but if eaten after supper “keepeth away drunkenness which commeth with the wine”, and that sallets “not only resumed among the poor commons” but were also “fed upon as dainty dishes at the table to delicate merchants, gentlemen and the nobility who make their provisions yearly for new seeds out of strange countries”