Discover Health Benefits of Vegetables and Tasty Vegetables
Health Benefits of Vegetables
Introducing Tasty Vegetables
Some of the tasty vegetables we now use every day as part of our meals, were once either shunned as food or used for an entirely different purpose.
For many years after potatoes were introduced into Europe they were not used in the human diet, but fed to livestock. Even then, some people were prejudiced against eating the flesh of the animals which had partaken of potatoes, saying that the vegetables caused leprosy and fevers and that humans could be infected by eating them. One of the first to popularise the potato was King Louis XVI of France, who not only ate them with his meals but had large parts of his gardens planted with them just for the, which he was so attracted to, that he wore a spray every day while they were in bloom.
During the reign of Napoleon Bonaparte the potato was widely used in France to make . . . a love potion. Josephine is said to have drunk it and so did many single ladies at Court who were seeking a husband. They also ate large quantities of potatoes for the same reasons, but it is not recorded whether it helped secure them a husband or made them overweight!
The tomato has a similar history. It was brought to Europe as early as 1596 from South America, but it was not until the eighteenth century that it began to be commonly eaten. Because it belongs to the deadly nightshade family, many members of which have poisonous properties, it was thought that the tomato was also poisonous. So it was grown as an ornamental plant for its flowers, scent and brightly attractive coloured fruits. The brave person who first tasted them is unknown, but afterwards a belief arose that eatingmade a person temporarily passionate and so the fruit was given the name ‘love-apple’.
Rhubarb now classed as a fruit, was used medicinally by the Chinese, as long ago as 2700 B.C. but although often mentioned in old herbals it was not grown in kitchen gardens for culinary purposes until the early nineteenth century. However, many old gardening books list varieties of the Russian and Chinese rhubarb being grown for ornamental purposes, the tall spike of whitish-yellow flowers providing an attractive feature, with the large leaves and rosy-red or green stalks.
Carrots were also grown in the reign of Charles ll not only as a root vegetable but for the delicately cut foliage which young ladies attached to their gowns for personal adornment.
Onions were said to be a cure for all sorts of physical disorders and had many health benefits. Of vegetables such as an onion, cut in half and rubbed on the forehead was claimed as a headache cure, also if the heart was taken out of a roasted onion and put into the ear, as ‘hot as could be borne’, it relieved earache. More likely it was the warmth which did the trick. To cure advancing baldness the juice of a raw onion should be rubbed into the skin or thin patch until the skin is red and feels hot, according to an Oxfordshire remedy. Onions were also hung in doorways to scare off witches. The onion, due to its aroma, could hardly be thought likely to arouse thoughts of love, but according to one old country belief, girls searching for a husband had to eat plenty of raw onions probably because they are blood cleansers, leading to a healthy skin thus improving their appearance.
Surprisingly some of our other every day tasty vegetables are also associated with romance. Nine peas in a pod was considered a very lucky find. If an unmarried girl found one, she nailed it over the door of the house. The first man who same through the doorway after that, excluding her father and male relatives, would become her husband. A pod with nine peas in it was also thought a cure for warts. The nine peas were taken out of the pod one at a time, wrapped in a pea leaf and buried in earth. When the last pea withered the wart would disappear.
If two single people ate the same lettuce, love would blossom between them or so it was claimed. In Medieval times, it would seem there were many health benefits of vegetables and it came about that lettuce juice was also used in love potions and charms. Girls who wanted a husband also ate large quantities of raw lettuce, supposedly to increase their powers of attraction. This may have been true in the sense that lots of salad would cleanse the blood of impurities and improve the complexion. The snag was that the male admirer must also be persuaded to eat quantities of lettuce, and if he did then the power of the charm would be completed and they would be happily married.
Cabbage on the other hand, had a very different use and was far from being the humble vegetable we know today. The Romans thought it so important that it was included in their mythology, being highly praised and revered. This is no wonder, because at their wild orgies large bowls of raw wet cabbage leaves were placed on the tables to eat between the rounds of drinking revelry, the Romans believing that the cabbage leaves absorbed the fumes given off by the wine and so they could return home without any trace of alcohol on their breath. It was also believed that the cabbage would prevent a hangover the following morning.
Many plants, apart from those generally recognized as vegetables can be eaten. These too have health giving qualities as well as providing interesting variety.
Those who use what nature provides, are often looked on with surprise but with the cost of foods in shops steadily rising, a return to the wonderfulof our fathers of old, can do no harm and may well give untold benefits to your pocket and your health. Benefits of vegetables and homegrown produce have long been seen as ‘fruits of the land’.
In Europe in medieval times, soups made from marigold flowers were thought tasty. Weeds such as fat hen, dead nettle, ground elder and samphire were brewed up too, to use as a stock while fresh shoots of bladder campion and seawere considered a delicacy. Wild asparagus can still be found, in some parts of the country and is delicious.
Salads so often based on lettuce, can be made more interesting by using pelargonium, nasturtium, or hollyhock leaves, toadflax, sorrel and the petals of calendula and nasturtium flowers.
Boiled bracken roots and young nettle tops have sometimes been used to replace cabbage. Love-in-the-Mist and nasturtium seeds can be used in place of capers. Berries need to be used with knowledge and care but non-poisonous ones such as berberis, elder and snowberries add variety.
As a change from tea and coffee, dried goosegrass can be brewed or the seeds roasted to make ‘coffee’. Some prefer mixing crushed acorns, broom seeds and beech nuts to make a beverage.
Believe it or not, all of these tasty vegetables are very easy to garden and to grow, and their health benefits are never ending!