Thursday, April 26, 2018

La Maison Rustique - Turnips

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

The Potherbs

(Chapter 32)


[Translator's Note: the heading specifies two different plant names: “Naveaux ou Navets”. Cotgrave’s 1611 French-English dictionary gives the following definitions.

Naveau: The navew gentle, French navew, long rape (a savorie root) / Naveau blanc de Jardin: the ordinarie rape, or turnep / Naveau rond: a Turnep.

Navet: The small Navew gentle, the least (and daintiest) kind of the French navew.]

Large and small turnips, called “nappi” in Latin, are two kinds of the same species, however different in flavor, color, and size. The roots are larger on the yellow turnips, and less pleasant tasting. The white turnips are smaller and much more savorous. Both of them are sown in the same fashion in well turned soil, worked, and rendered very soft so that they can lodge well before taking root, or in soil that you want to clear, or in that which has been newly plowed, or between millet and panic [a grain in the genus Panicum], and it is sown in finely powdered soil, for sowing more clearly, and no more than three years old, because after three years it produces cabbages. If the seeds are soaked or mulled in milk, must, or hydromel for two or three days before sowing they will be infinitely better.

If they come in to thickly, they must be cut away for transplanting elsewhere. They must be weeded and spaded, allowing the most beautiful and tall to go to seed, and sow them in August. To sow them one must wait until the soil has been newly watered with rain, because they grow better that way. Above all they must not be sown in shady ground, for the shadows are completely contrary to them, and again the soil must be good and fertile. They are harvested in November, and keep through winter in sands and cellars, for eating throughout winter and Lent. This brings me back to those of Maison and Vau Girard near Paris, who harvest and gather them each year for selling in Paris.

The turnip root is windy and engenders the wind in little children for its sweetness, so you must eat it with mustard. It is true that their seeds resist poison, which is why it is used in antidotes. It also causes worms to die when mixed with the juice of oranges or lemons. And draws out the venom of smallpox, and when shredded with a decoction of maidenhair fern or lentils, provokes urination if it is mixed with an equal quantity of flax seed and given to drink with wine. It induces vomiting of undigested stomach contents when taken with oxymel and warm water. The Egyptians make it into very good oil.

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