The plant species, starting from the wild ones of Prehistory and then moving on to those cultivated later, they made a significant contribution to the diet of ancient peoples and the High Middle Ages. But what were they? the fruits and vegetables that were eaten at the time?
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Fruits and vegetables in prehistory and in the most ancient civilizations
It is documented that i vegetables – roots, tubers and fruits – were already part of man’s diet since Paleolithic. Their relevance strengthened with the transition from the wild to crops. An example of this is the date palm in Mesopotamiawhich offered the ancient peoples a great abundance of fruits, eaten fresh and whole in the summer and dried in winter, or squeezed and used as a sweetener. Even the leaves and sap of the date palm trunk were used for food.
The Egyptians they consumed onions, leeks, garlic, cucumbers, celery, wild parsley and such a large type of lettuce to be consecrated to god of agriculture and fertility Min. As for fruit, they loved watermelons, melons, dates, figs, grapes and the fruit of the sycamore tree, which represented immortality.
Between Phoenicians it was very widespread pomegranatesymbol of fertility due to the large quantity of seeds, while i Indus Valley peoples they favored melons, dates, coconuts, bananas, pomegranates, lemons, and limes, along with a wide variety of vegetables.
Fruits and vegetables of the Greeks, Romans and medieval farmers
I Greeks they were great growers of olive trees, viti and other fruit trees, among which the fig tree stood out, the fruits of which were essential for man of every social class. They also fed on melons, grapes, apples, pears, quinces and more, medlars, pomegranates and almonds. Between garden productswere widespread turnip, leek, watercress, swede (or colza) and aromatic herbssuch as marjoram and thyme.
For i Romani the products of the land – crops – were the most important goods as essential to man’s survival and therefore every Roman desired its own vegetable garden where to grow different types of cabbage (“the first of all” vegetables according to Cato the Censor), but also cardoons, leeks, salads, carrots, garlic and onions. Equally important to the Romans were vineyards and orchards.
if in theHigh Middle age meat assumed more and more importance for the upper classes, the humblest people continued to feed on the earth productsincluding the verdure: turnip, cabbage, onion, leek, garlic and salad first, then carrots, fennel, radishes and aromatic plants. There fruit instead it was less present in the peasant and popular diet of those times.
Not all the fruits and vegetables that were eaten in the ancient world are present on our tables today. It is the case ofatreplicasimilar to chard, used by the Greeks for soups, or of parsnipsa root that resembles the potato, habitually consumed by the Romans.