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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Wyrtig - In early sources

Turnip. Many thanks to the British Library for providing this image from Edgerton 747 f. 87.


In Early Sources...



The Brassicas: Cabbage, Kale,
                     Kohlrabi, Turnip

Brassica spp.


Growing Brassicas in your garden


Medieval Names


Caula caul; caula magudaris, cawul; brassice siluatice, caul wude; caula caul

Capitulare de Villis

Ravacaulos [kohlrabi], caulos [cabbage]

Herbarium Apuleii

Caul, caules, cawel; e man brassicam siluaticam 7 orum naman caul nemne


Cawelleaf, cawel sd, cawlic; ngliscne np [turnip]


Cawel, caules, caulices;  bradan cawel [kohlrabi]

St. Gaul


Perhaps the oldest of cultivated plants, Brassicas have been part of the human diet for more than 4000 years. Today we cultivate a wide variety of Brassicas, all of which are the result of hybridization among three closely related species, Brassica rapa (turnip), B. nigra (Black mustard), and B. oleracea (kales and cabbages).

Brassica est quae omnibus holeribus antistat...

 Marcus Cato, De Agri Cultura, 156

"Brassica [cabbage or kale] surpasses all other vegetables ...It helps digestion remarkably and is a fine laxative... before a meal, eat as much fresh cabbage as you want, seasoned with vinegar, and after dinner eat about six leaves; this makes you feel as if you haven't eaten, and you can drink as much as you want."                                  

Cato the Elder, On Agriculture, 156


Wi ealle geswell genim isse wyrte croppes e man brassicam siluaticam 7 orum naman caul nemne . cnuca mid ealdan rysle gemencg onne swylce u clyan wyrce do on ane icne linenne cla lege to am sare.

Herbarium of Apuleius, CXXX

For all swelling, take the head of this plant, the one [called] wild [or wood] cabbage and by others named kale. Pound it with old fat and mingle then as if you worked a salve; put it on a thick linen cloth and lay on the sore.

Herbarium of Apuleius, 130

Wi wre geolwan adle... Sele him etan  gewyrtodne henfugol 7 gesodenne cawel on goum broe.

Leechbook III, XII

For the yellow disease (jaundice), give him to eat a spiced hen and cabbage, cooked in good broth. 

Leechbook III, 12

Wi lusum sele him etan gesodenne cawel on neaht nestig gelome he bi lusum bewere.

Leechbook III, xliii

For lice, have him eat boiled cabbage at night, fasting; he will be protected from lice.

Leechbook III, 43

XIV Docce

Wi cyrnlu e on gewealde wexe, genim as wyrte lapatium 7 cnuca hy mid ealdum rysle... befeald on caules leaf 7 berec on hatum  ahsum 7 onne hit sy lege ofer a cyrnlu 7 gewri aerto ys is selest wi cyrnlu.

Herbarium of Apuleius, XIV

XIV Dock

For swellings that grow in the groin, take this plant, dock, and pound it with old fat ...fold it in the leaf of a cabbage and place on hot ashes and then lay it over the nodules and bind it there. This is best for swellings.

Herbarium of Apuleius, XIV

The turnip
rates "directly after cereals or perhaps after the bean, as its usefulness surpasses that of any other plant."       

Pliny, Natural History

...wi eallum lifer adlum... healde hine onne wi eced . Wi b  wi pisan 7 beana . 7 nps . 7 wi a ing e windigne wm on men wryrcen.

Leechbook  II, xxiv

...for all liver disorders... then let him avoid vinegar. Avoid baths; avoid peas and beans and turnips. And avoid things that wreak windy bowels in one.

Leechbook II, xxiv

To wensealve nim elenan 7 rdic . cyrfillan . 7 hrmnes fot . ngliscne np . 7 fenul . & saluian . 7 sutherne wuda . 7 cnuca to somne...

Lacnunga, 12

For an impetigo salve take helena and radish and chervil and ravensfoot, turnip and fennel and salvia and southernwood. And pound together...

Lacnunga, 12



Volumus quod in horto omnes herbas habeant id [est]... ravacaulos, caulos...
We desire that in gardens they have all these plants, that is: ...kohlrabi, cabbages...

                                                                           Charlemagne, Capitulare  de Villis


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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F.D. Drewitt


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