Thursday, 4 August 2016

Herbs, Spices and Herbalists – part 2: Early Gardens …



Early gardens in the forests or wooded glades became essential once tribes settled … we can then see the enormous change up to the house-lands of Egypt, where thousands of slaves tended the gardens at Thebes and Luxor, or the parks of the first Emperors of China were landscaped with steps, terraces and walkways.
Early forest garden



We learnt of influences from Persian gardening – the Hanging Gardens of Babylon; the Greeks had gardens; the most influential ancient gardens in the western world were the Ptolemy gardens at Alexandria …





Hand Coloured Engraving .... of the Hanging Gardens



The Romans built extensive villa gardens with water features, topiary, and cultivated roses with shaded arcades … archaeological evidence survives at some sites … Tivoli and at Pompeii.  Byzantium and Moorish Spain developed their own styles ….



English landscape

Finally in Europe gardening came to the fore as a necessary part of civilised life … we needed to feed ourselves and the wealthy needed to show us what could be done with plants.


With exploration came more plants … the world opened up …



Reconstruction of the House of Vettii in
Pompeii

But going back to those early roots - the Roman vegetable garden was an essential … an array of plants used for food, medicines, dyes, perfumes and for religious shrines and ceremonies were appropriately planted.







Plane trees in London - providing shade
We find that the sycamore or plane tree was cultivated to provide shade and stature in a garden, or courtyard … the idea of a tree being useful for nothing - but offering a place to sit in the shade seemed a bit decadent to the conservative Romans – but the Greek philosophers liked nothing better … the agora a central place or square where free-born citizens could gather to converse …





Probably the first cultivated plants were from the Allium family – the leeks, onions and garlics … one of the oldest recipes found on a 4,000 year old Babylonian tablet was for a leek and lamb stew … passed down to the Greeks, the Arabs and the Romans.





Palace de Generalife, Granada,
Spain



Early remedies were written down, some dating back over 5,000 years to the Sumerians, who created lists of plants.  This trend continued with the herbalists, botanists, simplers … who noted, tried and tested what we could eat or what would help us.



Some plants had more than one use and these were noted … we owe a lot to those early ‘tasters’ and plantsmen … who forayed into the wonderful world of plants recording for posterity their ideas and thoughts.


Garden Fresco from Tomb of Nebamun,
Thebes - showing pond in the garden
(1350 BC)



We are so fortunate today … that the scientists and herbalists keep experimenting and trying new ideas to enhance our nutrition, and improve our health …







Sumerian Tablet recording allocations
of beer - about 3000 BC


In many ways gardening is a metaphor for life – we need patience and faith … unless we put the work in, the garden won’t have a chance of flourishing, fresh food will improve our bodieswhile working the soil will make sure we exercise and get that fresh air for our lungs





English allotment


We are fortunate to live in a world where we can help ourselves to a greater or lesser degree … and in being out and about we can help others.



After all that gardening - we'll need a drink




An extra note ... Linda "From Roses to Rainbow" has just written a post about the Greeks, Romans and Beer ... a good mix to add to this post ... 



Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

45 comments:

Lynda R Young said...

I hadn't thought about the history of the garden. A fascinating post! I love the garden as a metaphor for life too.

Elephant's Child said...

You are speaking to my heart today. Gardens provide solace and healing (literally and metaphorically) for me, as they have done for a very, very long time. And my knowledge is not a fraction of some of our forebears...

Suzanne Furness said...

Gardening has certainly evolved over history and it comes in so many forms. I am a fan of the natural garden, not too much structure or form. And of course we mustn't forget the part they play in providing food and medicines. A metaphor for life indeed, Hilary.

Mason Canyon said...

Enjoyed this post, Hilary. There's just something about working in a garden, no matter how hard the work is, that makes it relaxing and re-energizing to me.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

New ideas to enhance our nutrition and improve our health. And yet, with all that information available to people, everyone is eating worse, getting fat, and developing health problems. (At least here in the USA.)

Rhodesia said...

Great post and it is good we have years of experience to follow up on with edibles. I love my herb garden and it is in daily use for one dish or another. I use herbs instead of salt which never goes into any of our dishes. We other than chips somehow they do not taste the same without salt!!
Keep well and have a good day Diane

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Lynda - I'm going to be posting about various herbs and remedies etc ... so this is a good background to start with ... yes that metaphor for life - rang big bells for me too ..

@ EC - that's wonderful to know ... I love gardens, and always gardened ... just in recent years I haven't had a place to go to ...

... but you're right they do provide solace and healing ... and have done for many a year - my knowledge is a fraction of what my mother's was - she was an excellent gardener ...

@ Suzanne - just in writing the post - made me sit and think about the changes the gardens have gone through over the eras. I too love natural without too much formality ... and when I next have a garden I will have fruits and vegetables growing a-plenty in it ... we heal when we're out working the garden ...

@ Mason - thanks - delighted you enjoyed it. I know you love your garden and are usually out there - tending it ... and as you say it does energise one ...

@ Alex - if only people would learn to cook - I'm horrified at how often people buy 'boxed' food - really poor nutrition. Yes we have our obesity challenges here too - it's something the developed world really needs to change - our bones weren't built for supporting so much weight ...

@ Diane - thanks ... yes I'm so thankful for my upbringing and after the War everyone had vegetable, fruit and herb gardens. I still eat salt - but not masses of it ... but chips it goes on without thinking about: so I agree with you there. I love herbs and am sure if I had a garden I'd be using many more of them ...

Thanks so much for visiting - here's to healthy, fresh fruits and veg from the farm shop or the garden ... enjoy the rewards of summer gardens - cheers Hilary

A Heron's View said...

The one thing I have would never acclaim to be is a gardener in any shape or form. The most I do is to cut the grass and plant a few trees.
As soon as I read about saving the bees and making a safe haven for the small wild animals. Then that became my excuse for not doing anything; although I would really like to have more wild flowers such as
Rosebay Willow Herb and Meadow Sweet whose perfume I really enjoy.

Brian Miller said...

ha. i have to wonder at those guys that tasted everything to see what is good. seriously, what were they thinking with lima beans. evil things. lol.

we grew some peppers and some herb this summer. the deer munch way too much of what is in our yard. nothing we tried will get rid of them.

Out on the prairie said...

Everything I have eaten this week has been out of the garden. Going to stop at a store today to grab a few carrots to feed the horse I will ride all morning.

Jo said...

I read somewhere that the British were healthiest during WWII and the instance of heart attacks decreased during that time.

I too am horrified by how few people are cooking these days. I have even been told that young French women don't bother to cook any more either. What is the world coming to?

Interesting the old Babylonian recipe was for leeks and lamb. Deelicious.

beste barki said...

Hilary, I love your comment that gardening is a metaphor for life. This is so true. Beste

Bish Denham said...

I love gardens, though I don't have much of a green thumb. Luckily my husband does. While in the Netherlands a few years back I got to go to the Hortus, their oldest garden. It is more than 400 years old!

Michael Di Gesu said...

Hi, Hillary,

Another pleasant and INFORMATIVE post. Always love to drop by and learn from your findings.... Gardens are truly wonderful. I adore outdoor space and living in a city, we must APPRECIATE the green space. I saddens and angers me when i visit a city garden that is so beautiful and find trash all over it. People here just don't GET IT!

I am so happy to finally have a terrace... Can't wait to return to Florida in November to create my lovely garden oasis...

Chrys Fey said...

It makes sense that the first cultivated plants were things like onions because they were used in food and for home remedies.

Linda said...

An excellent post on the early/ancient gardens and how they took shape over the years. It is interesting to read about what was eaten and drank so long ago. I love that picture of the hanging gardens. Thanks for the shout out on my beer post!!!

Inger said...

After doing some sort of reverse gardening sinc ethe end of March: clearing weeds, tall at first, short and dry by now, reading this made me miss a colorful garden and the beautiful vegetable garden we used to have.

D.G. Hudson said...

I'm a gardener who used to grow herbs, and all sorts of flowers. I've made dandelion wine which was very good. I would have been a herb wise woman in olden times. (weren't they also called herb witches?)

I made a point to learn about herbs, in particular and plants in general in my twenties. I wanted to know which herbs complimented which foods and I also read a book, Maurice Mességué's Herbal books - he had remedies for ailments and used them in soaking infusions. He grew his own herbs or foraged for them

Lovely post, Hilary, which reminds me of the fragrant herbs. . .

DMS said...

What an interesting post! I love tending to my garden. This time of year brings me so much joy as I use herbs, vegetables, and other goodies from my garden. It all tastes so fresh!

Thanks for sharing the history of plants and trees with us. I loved hearing about recipes/ingredients from long, long ago. :)
~Jess

Joanne said...

It is so true that we have plenty to work with, we just need to do it. And there's beer or wine after the hard work. Good stuff

Anabel Marsh said...

I di like that "gardening as a metaphor for life" idea. Oh - and the drink at the end: cheers!

Liz A. said...

I sometimes wonder about those that tried various remedies for the first time. How did they figure out what works?

Shannon Lawrence said...

Interesting to read about the development of gardens! Mine is thriving this year (although we're getting so much unusual moisture that there are mushrooms growing in it, and I doubt they're edible, so I need to figure that out.)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Mel – well you’re keeping the tiny critters happy … and there are some organic meadow seeds you can buy now that should add to your own flowers and then they’ll seed bringing in new flowers.

Rosebay Willowherb and Meadow Sweet – look wonderful ... hope you can get them to take … they look statuesque plants – and I see Meadow Sweet is used as a strewing herb and is used to flavour wine, beer and some vinegars …

@ Brian – I know those samplers were brave – but I guess they followed the logic and saw what the birds and animals ate … then no doubt smelt, and touch tasted … but a risky business – as you mention lima beans - and other pulses …

Deer are a bane – but wonderful to see …

@ Steve – how fantastic … I bet you enjoyed your horse riding … and those carrots will have been happily munched up!

@ Jo – I think we probably were – there wasn’t a lot to eat, we exercised well, we ate from the land (WW2) … so no fast food, not very much fat … I am definitely sure I’m healthy from my upbringing … food from the garden, after the War.

I wish people would learn to cook … while the recipes we’ve inherited down the ages have only been improved upon by the ingredients being improved …

@ Beste – yes gardening certainly keeps us occupied – time for our brains to relax, exercising our bodies and bones … those will keep us going – while the produce helps …

@ Bish – I can believe you’d love gardens – coming from the Virgin Islands … I’m so glad your husband has the green thumb. That’s brilliant seeing the Botanical Garden in Amsterdam … there was a lot of interest in recording, and starting ‘physic’ gardens in the 1600s … many of those early herbalists – Culpeper, Elizabeth Blackwell … grew up on that era and on into the 1700s. We have Linnaeus too – who formalised the naming of plants …

@ Michael – thank you … and I know you love your plants – exactly if we live in a western world city or town we really should protect our green spaces … sadly it’s the same here …

Wonderful you’ve got your terrace working for you in Chicago – and then a creative venture in Florida to come later in the year …

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Chrys – yes as you say those early plants offered the best at the time – and gave options to the populace … the Egyptians certainly used the onion, garlic and leek for feeding the slaves …

@ Linda – thanks so much … the Hanging Gardens looks pretty doesn’t it – this was a coloured illustration … still we can dream what they gardens looked like. Pleasure – people have commented on your beer!

@ Inger – yes your Canyon home does need that clearing – especially for the potential of fire … but then that sadness of missing your wonderful gardens and veggie patches of the past – not easy … but you’re doing what’s right for you now.

@ DG – sounds like you’re an avid gardener … never having owned a garden in England … just gardening for my parents or family over the years … I picked a few things up – but my parents were really good gardeners. I have many books that I’ve had for years … they were standards in the family …

I looked up Maurice Messegue – he’s still alive – and I see his books are available on Amazon … I might look him up via the library. So glad you enjoyed the post and brought back those memories …

@ Jess – gardens are wonderful to go out into and enjoy – and utilise as you’re doing the herbs, veggies and fruits … I’ll try and satisfy your desire for a little more on specific things …

@ Joanne – yes we need to keep up with all things – don’t we … but gardening can give us a spell of relief with some exercise and fresh air.

@ Anabel – that gardening as a metaphor of life – seems to have rung everyone’s bell … while the drink to unwind after all the work – is a necessity.

@ Liz – I’m sure those early peoples would have had ‘samplers’ – to try and test all things … before they became the norm as foods … checking what the birds ate, learning from other peoples, etc etc …

@ Shannon – thank you … it was surprising to see the development – to those we have today.

I wonder if your ‘mushrooms’ aren’t indicative of ‘honey fungus’ … which is not a good thing to have around … good luck with sorting that out …

Cheers to you all – it’s so good to know we have similar interests – love your comments – thank you … Hilary

bazza said...

I believe the Ancient Greeks had a proverb which went along these lines: "It is a mark of a mature civilisation when old men plant trees knowing that they would not live to sit under their shade".
CLICK HERE for Bazza’s fabulous Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

Patsy said...

I picked wild marjoram during our walk the other day and had it on our pizza that night. Think that comes under the heading of helping myself - although perhaps not quite in the way you meant!

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

When I think of Britain, I really do think of gardening. It can be such a comfort...and create such peaceful places!

Mark Noce said...

I love gardening myself, that's why I've got one:) I especially love Mediterranean and New World gardens:)

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

I adore gardens, and would love to have a gorgeous one to admire, afire with breathtaking color, style, and beauty. Unfortunately, the reality is, I'm a slacker when it comes to doing all of the work that's necessary to make it a reality. It gets too darned hot here to make it pleasurable to spend much time out there, covered in sweat, with a myriad of gnats and mosquitoes buzzing around my head. I can't take it anymore. BUT... I must have my herbs every year. There's nothing like cooking with fresh herbs.

May all of the weeds in your garden be wildflowers. :) have a super weekend.

Denise Covey said...

Hello dear Hilary! Lovely post. It would be more than suitable for the WEP GARDENS challenge. Can't wait to see what you'll do for that! I loved how you said 'gardening is a metaphor for life'. So true. If we don't look after ourselves, we can go to seed, LOL!

Cheers!

Denise :-)

Deborah Weber said...

Oh nothing makes me happier than a stroll through some gardens - even if they are virtual via a blog post. You've made my heart happy today Hilary.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Bazza – that’s a great observation from Mr Bazza or those early old men – it always amazes me that we can watch what we plant grow – but will never see the end result …

@ Patsy – how fantastic … lovely to see wild marjoram growing wild and then being able to use a little of it – just enough for that pizza … sounds delicious. Your interpretation is just as good!

@ Elizabeth – we have lots of gardens – sadly many haven’t been looked after – but the parks, large gardens and many houses have lovely areas … we are a nation of shopkeepers and gardeners, I think …

@ Mark –that’s great you can potter around in your own garden – and being able to see others’ gardens and watching them develop – the Mediterranean and New World … interesting choices …

@ Susan – I don’t think I could cope with the heat, mozzies, gnats either … but I’d join you in creating a herb garden: … fresh herbs really add to the delights of a meal – and enhance the flavour of different foods …

Thanks re my weeds … certainly our verges, and meadows on the Downs are full of wonderful wild plants … I love seeing all the plants enjoy each season …

@ Denise – good to see you … I have something else for the WEP Gardens challenge – gosh if we went to seed – what seed would we produce – a worrying thought! But we’ll get to that stage sooner if we don’t look after ourselves – and certainly gardening helps …

@ Deborah – I agree … just being able to switch off – and wander in wonderment through open gardens …

So glad to see you all – the wonder of gardens – how they keep bringing us their joy of life … and we can translate that into giving us easier peaceful minds … have good weekends - Hilary

Annalisa Crawford said...

Fascinating post. My favourite gardens are the walled ones attached to stately homes - the peace and tranquility, I close my eyes and imagine living in the 18th century!

Empty Nest Insider said...

Hi Hilary! How fascinating that leek and lamb stew was one of the first recipes! So much can be learned from gardening. I knew an older couple who attributed their good health to eating peppers, while others swear by the benefits of garlic. A neighboring town hosts a festival in which someone will be honored as Garlic Queen. I also liked your metaphor about the garden of life. Thanks Hilary!

Julie

Ann Best said...

Hi, Hilary. This is a stunning post. I love gardens (who doesn't?) and these pictures are a visual feast. And Egypt...this is a civilization I need/want to study. So long ago in college that I took world history, a requirement. Just so many interesting historical things that you continue to share with us. Thanks!

Julie Flanders said...

What a perfect metaphor! Couldn't be more true.

One of my favorite things we visited in France was the garden at Versailles. Just amazing.

Kathleen Valentine said...

Gardening is something I have not done a lot of in my life and now that I am quite a bit older, I wish I had. There is an old historic cemetery behind my house and over the years a lot of people have added plants--rhodondron bushes, perennial herbs, and flowers. Two ladies are out there now transplanting raspberry bushes. It is so lovely.

TexWisGirl said...

we, as humans, have forgotten so much of the 'natural way' to heal and season and live, i think.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Until the last few years, I was an avid gardener. Sadly, my gardens are on hills, making it almost impossible to work. I constructed them this way when I was in my 40s. Another thing that bothers me is in North America, we refer to our lawns and gardens as a yard. That is such a blah name. I much prefer garden. Which is where we plant plants, not lawns and trees.

Fil said...

I love herbs - it's fascinating to know a bit of the history of them - lovely post and lovely to catch up with you again Hilary - have a great weekend
Fil
Fil’s Place - Old songs and Memories

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Annalisa – I agree they are so well tended and so delightful to walk through … the peace and tranquillity one can find … as long as there aren’t too many visitors!

@ Julie – I guess it was straggly mutton – but still! The herbs and leeks too … but they were experimenting for which we’re grateful today. Garlic and Peppers are known for their health qualities … I’ll go into those aspects in my later postings …
Your Garlic festival sounds fun … we have them here – people love visiting and enjoying the feasts and crafts etc

@ Ann – many thanks … so glad you enjoyed them and it’s reminded you of your earlier studies and wish to learn more about the Egyptian era …

@ Julie – thanks .. oh yes Versailles is amazing isn’t it – and the central parks and gardens of Paris … so glad you had such an amazing time.

@ Kathleen – I feel the same way – I gardened in South Africa, but here not so much – other than help out. Your historic cemetery sounds a wonderful hive of activity – what a great idea … and with raspberries growing – amazing! I bet it’s lovely …

@ Theresa – as you live on the land with your horses, you’ll understand this aspect of life – humans are rapidly losing the fact that we are part of nature … and are most definitely not special …

@ Joylene – I gathered your garden was on a hill or hills – being by the lake – I’m not surprised. My aunt and uncle had a house similarly on a hill – hard work …

I know I’ve always wondered about the word ‘yard’ – I struggle to relate to the fact that it is ‘a garden’ as part of the house … the use of words as we have travelled has altered quite considerably – also different cultures – Europeans would name things differently to English immigrants … it is fascinating how words get adopted in other parts of the world …

@ Fil – you love your garden and your green land … thanks for coming by – your post is awaiting my attention shortly! Herbs are a delight to use in dishes …

Thanks so much for your visit – now I’ll move on to different herbs and their health benefits with some of their history … cheers Hilary

Dianne K. Salerni said...

I have always wondered how the very earliest herbalists experimented with plants to determine their uses. And who they experimented on ... ;)

Lynn said...

That is so interesting, Hilary - and it's lovely to nurture plants, isn't it? I'm sometimes amazed that my plants thrive as well as they do.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Dianne - tested their lives after watching nature, but also experimenting ... nature doesn't always offer us things that won't poison us. We still do it to a point ... if we gather without fore knowledge ...

@ Lynn - I love plants too - and always enjoy seeing your balcony home - well you have a good neighbour to offer advice, and you care for them - they will thrive with some love ... and yours do ...

Cheers to you both - Hilary