Thursday, October 12, 2017

La Maison Rustique - The Potherbs - Orach and Spinach

From: L'agriculture et maison rustique, Charles Estienne (Rouen, 1658).

The Potherbs

(Chapter 19)


Orach and Spinach

Orach (in Latin called Atriplex), both white, red, and green, come naturally to ground manured with horse’s dung, or where it was pitched, and will become as red as a pear in a place that is over rich or manured. If not they are sown in February, March, and April, and are to be sown liberally, but not thick, and watered often. Don’t seed in December for harvesting in winter. They do not wish to be transplanted in any way, but weeded often, and watered and manured with good dung. Crop them often with an iron instrument so they don’t convert all their energy into leaves. On the turn when their seed is spread on the earth, they must be immediately covered with soil and sown as quickly as possible, so that they may become more beautiful, and in less than a fortnight they are ready to eat. The Italians make a sort of tart from orach. They finely mince the leaves, mix it with cheese, fresh butter, and egg yolks, then put it into a crust and bake in the oven.

Spinach are said to be of two kinds, one male and the other female. The female does not bear any seed. Both are sown in August, September, and October for Lent, and in December, January, and February for summer. They endure the importunity of the weather enough, such as frosts, cold, and snow. They grow in all soil provided it is well tilled and somewhat damp. In order for it to become beautiful and sprout well, it should be watered in the evenings, covered with stubble or whips, and weeded as required. Sometimes when mown it becomes more beautiful. And whoever wishes them to last a long time, it is necessary to cut half the stem at one time and the other half at the other time. Similarly, whoever wants them to grow without being sown every year must sow well nourished seed the first year, for in subsequent years they will return without being sown. How much seed they produce in the second year will be somewhat reduced. To protect them from frost they must be covered with walnut leaves before they fall in a jumble in any way.

The Parisians know enough how useful spinach is for food during Lent, and how it is expertly made into various dishes for their banquets. Now they are fried with butter and verjuice. Now they are stewed with butter over a little fire in earthen pots. Now they are made into pies and cooked in many other ways. The use of spinach is good for those who have voice or breathing that is hindered, or have frequent coughing, especially if in the morning they drink a broth of spinach cooked with fresh butter, or sweet almond oil. It loosens the stomach. Their juices are good for the stings of scorpions and spiders, either drunk or applied externally.