A Gathering of information on two pre-1601 soft fruits, or, I bet you thought I’d given this up, eh?

Nope. Still here, just egregiously busy. Today, however, I am laid up with pain, so I am doing some catching up with all the many personal projects I have meant to share since I have this unexpected time. As long as I don’t have to move, I’m good.

I’m putting in soft fruits on the slope in my front yard this year. It’s a semi-shade area and so I need things that can tolerate shade and not be too attractive to neighbor kids–something that won’t be so tasty out of hand that the little urchins will strip the bushes (I already put up with enough of that crap from squirrels and rabbits). And, of course, pre-1600 fruits are best.

And so the slope will consist of gooseberry and lingonberry for now. There is one gooseberry already planted there, placed last year to test the area for potential. Since it made it through the winter and is now fruiting, I’d say the test proved successful. Unfortunately, the darn rabbits ate the branches they could reach, so I also learned that I will have to fence the plants off for the winter.

Unfortunately, I just could not get the camera to focus on the fruit

Just for shits and giggles (and complete obsessive curiosity), I decided to look up lingonberry in Gerard’s Herbal. Because I love this soft, tart, prized-in-Scandinavian-cookery berry, I would have grown it anyway, but while I was ordering the plants, I made sure to chose European strains rather than American strains, because, you know, Laurel. I’d not bothered to look up a reference, but I would have been shocked (shocked, I say!) if there was no reference to it as a useful plant. Well, it’s there, in the chapter titled “Of Whortleberries.” And if I can find a reference in Gerard’s Herbal–which really is a pretty low hanging fruit for pre-1601 plants*–I can be pretty sure I can find it elsewhere.

Here is the description from Gerard:

Lingonberry, Gerard's Herbal
Red wortle, known generally as lingonberry today.

Red Wortle, is like the former [ed: Black Whortleberry] in the manner of growing, but that the leaues are greater and harder, almoft like the leaues of the Box tree, abiding greene all the Winter long : among which come forth fmall carnation floures, long and round, growing in clutters at the top of the branches : after which succeed fmall berries, in fhew and bignesse like the former, but that they are of an excellent red colour and full of juyce, of fo orient and beautifull a purple to limme with-all, that Indian Lacca is not to be compared thereunto, efpccially when this juyce is prepared and dressed with Allom according to art, as my felfe haue proued by experience: the tafte is rough and aftringent : the root is of a wooddy fubftance.

And, bonus, an excerpt regarding gooseberries:

Gerard's gooseberry
The gooseberry, as presented in Gerard’s HerbalThe Kindes.

There be diuers forts of the Goofe-berries, fome greater,others lesse : fome round, others long; and fome of a red colour : the figure of one shall ferue for the reft. I will not much infift vpon diuerfities of fruits, becaufe my kinde friend Mt. Iohn Parkinfon hath fufficiently in his late Worke difcourfed vpon that fubjeft ; onely becaufe I iudge many will be defirous to know their names, and where to get them, I will briefely name the chiefe varieties our Kingdome affords and fuch as are defirous of them may finde them with Mt. Iohn Millen liuing in Old-ftreet.

The forts of Goofe-berries are thefe : the long greene, the great yellowifh, the blew, the great round red, the long red,and the prickly Goofe-berry.

The above is from the text version at Archive.org, which is full of weird scanning errors. It has scanned all the long-s’s like f’s, and scanned all the double long-s’s is all sorts of weird combinations. As you can see, I left most of the early modern spelling and f-instead-of-long-s in place, but I did clean up and modernize that which scanning had made illegible.**

I’m still waiting for the rest of the plants. I would have ordered them earlier had I known the place that sells them would take so long to ship, but they are on their way. UPS says so.

*I’m so punny. Also, the plants I look for are also in the 1597 version. I just have easy online access to the above-cited printing.
**The complete Whortleberry entry, from the 1597 printing, with modernized type, is here. A young lady’s introduction to gooseberry on Plimouth Plantation is here. And Cindy Renfrow’s list of edibles in Gerard’s Herbal is here.

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