Wyrtig

For gardeners with a sense of history
 

OE wyrtig, adj: Garden-like, full of plants;
On anum wyrtige hamme, Homl. Skt. ii. 30:312
.

  

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Asparagus. Many thanks to the British Library for providing this image from MS
 Edgerton
747 f. 79v, c. 1300 CE.

In Early Sources

 

Asparagus
Asparagus officinalis

 

 

 

 

Growing asparagus in your garden

Known to the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, asparagus found its way into kitchens and herbals at an early date. It is seen in Egyptian wall art from 3000 BCE. The oldest cookbook, called Apicius and dating to the about 350 CE,  includes three recipes for preparing asparagus. As a medicinal plant, it was used to treat bladder diseases, and its efficacy as a diuretic was recognized in the earliest herbals, including 5th century Herbarium Apuleii Plantonici, and the 10th century Anglo-Saxon Lacnunga.
 

Medieval Names

Ęlfric

Eoržnaflan; aspargi agrestis, eoržnauala

Herbarium Apuleii

Eoržnaflan, eoržnafolan

 Lacnunga

Eoržnafala, miclan eoržnafolan, eoržnafelan; ža readan wudufillan

šis is seo grene sealf
betonica rude iusestice . finol . saluie . ęšelferšincwyrt . savine helde galluc moran slarige merce cearfille hręmnes fot mugwyrt organa melde . quinque folium: valeriane . clate . medewyrt dweorge dwoslan . pipeneale solsequium . biscuppewyrt & hęsel qince . hegeclive: . grundeswilie : . brocminte & ošer mintes cicena mete . gazel . hegehymele : . cost ; . eorš nafala . hnutbeames leaf . lauberge . cymen ele . weax
.

Lacnunga 4, fol 133b

This is the green salve
betony rue lovage . fennel . sage . stitchwort . . savine tansy  comfrey root  sclarea marche chervil ravensfoot mugwort oregano orache . cinqfoil: valerian . burdock . meadwort pennyroyal . pimpernel heliotrope bishopwort & hazel quince . hedgecleave: groundsel . brookmint & other mints  chicken meat . sweetgale . hedge hops: costmary; . asparagus . nut tree leaf . laurelberry . cumin oil . wax
                          
        Lacnunga 4, fol 133b

Wiš utrihte…

…hunig & hwęte smedman & unsylt smeoru & wex wil eall to somne syle etan gelome wyll with šon miclan eoršnafolan & leafan & gyšhrofan & gearwan & eferšon & eofor fearn & mold corn & medewyrt neošewearde drinc gelome scęf efic wiš šonne ol in meolc & šige węrlice & reoš eall tha in meolce & hwilum tha meolc gegefen mid cyslybbe & šige hy.

Lacnunga 18, folia 43a

For diarrhea…

…honey  & wheat flour & unsalted fat  & wax boil all together give to one to eat frequently boil with the great asparagus  & cinqfoil & githrife & yarrow & aeferth  & everfern & dust grain & the nether part of meadwort  drink frequently shave ivy with it then boil in milk  & partake warily & seethe all these in milk & after awhile turn the milk with rennet & eat the curds.

Lacnunga 18, folio 43a

From a 13th century copy of Herbarium Apuleii Plantonici, a woman physician preparing medicinal herbs for a sick woman.

 

Wiš blędran sare genim šas wyrte še man hinnula campana & ošrum naman spere wyrte nemneš & merces sęd & eorš naflan & finules wyrtwalan cnuca tosomne syle šonne wlęc drinkcan scearliche hyt fremaš.                                         Apuleius, XCVII

For bladder soreness, take this plant  inula campana & another name spearwort, & marche seeds & asparagus & fennel root  pound together give then lukewarm drink sharply it benefits

Apulius, XCVII

Wiš blędran sare genim šysse ylcan wyrte še we feniculum nemdun anne gripan swa grene & merces wyrttruman grenne & eorš nafolan wyrtruman grene do on anne niwne croccan & węteres anne sester fulne wil tosomne to feoršan daele . drince šonne fstende seofon dagas ošše ma & he bęšes bruce na swa weah coles . ne he colne wętan šicge butan yldincge węre blęddran sar byš gelišigod.

Apuleius CXXVI, 2

For a sore bladder take of this same plant that we fennel name one handful so green & green wild celery root & asparagus root put into a new crock & add a full sextarius of water boil together to a fourth part . drink then fasting for seven days or more & let one bathe but not become cold  . nor should one taste cold water but without delay will bladder soreness be relieved.

Apuleius CXXVI, 2

Apicius is the title of a Roman cookbook thought to have been compiled in the late 4th or early 5th century CE. It is usually called De re coquinaria, Of Things Culinary. It has been imaginatively attributed to one "Caelius Apicius," due to one version of the manuscript having a heading that reads API CAE. The full text, in Latin and available online, contains three recipes for asparagus. At left is the cover of a 16th century  edition of Apicius.

Asparagos. Asparagos siccabis, rursum in calidam summitas: callosiores reddes

Apicius, Liber Tertius, Cepuros

Asparagus. Dry off the asparagus, cover with hot water: cook until no longer tough.

Apicius, Book III, Foods from the Garden

Aliter Patina de Asparagis Frigida

 Accipies asparagos purgatosin moratrio fricabis aqua suffundes perfricabis per colum colabis Et mittes ficetulas curatas teres in mortario piperis scripulos sex adicies liquamen  fricabis  vini ciatum I passi ciatum I  mittes in caccabus olei uncias III  Illic ferveant  Perungues patina  in ea ova VI cum oenogaro misces  cum suco asparagi impones cineri calido mittes inpensam supra scriptam Tunc ficetulas compones Coques piper asparges et inferes

Liber Quartus  Pandecter

Another Chilled Asparagus Dish

Take clean asparagus mix in a mortar in water to cover rub through a sieve  And add prepared figs blend in mortar with 6 scripulos of pepper add fish sauce  blend in one ciatum wine spread one ciatum with three parts oil in pan   Simmer this  Into this dish rub 6 eggs with fish oil With asparagus liquid place over hot ashes add a little as written above Then a fig mixture Prepare peppered asparagus and serve

Apicius, Book IV,  Various Dishes

Aliter Patina de Asparagis

 

Adicies in mortario asparagorum praecisuras quae proiciuntur teres suffundes vinum colas

Teres piper  ligusticum  coriandrum viridem   satureiam  cepam  vinum  liquamen et oleum Sucum transferes in patellam perunctam Et  si volueris ova dissolves ad ignem ut obliget Piper minutum asparges

Liber Quartus  Pandecter

Another Asparagus Dish

Put in a mortar asparagus  Trim that which is waste  Mash until smooth  cover with wine  strain Rub in pepper  lovage  green coriander  savory  onion  wine  fish sauce  and oil   Put this in a small  well-oiled dish And if an egg is stirred near the fire it will bind a little pepper with the asparagus

Apicius, Book IV,  Various Dishes


Please note:
Many plants have been used in past and present times for medicinal purposes, and as one of the focuses of Wyrtig is the history of gardening, these uses are discussed here. However, common sense requires that you consult your family physician or other health care provider before using any plant materials for medicinal purposes. The old saying that "A doctor who treats him- (or her-) self has a fool for a patient" is no less true in herbal medicine than in any other branch of the healing sciences. Herbal remedies should not be used by the uninformed; medical advice should be sought before using any herbal remedy.

 

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