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A Dictionary of
Middle-English
Cooking Terms



The index below covers a range of Middle-English terms used in medieval English cooking texts. Included are some of the more unusual spelling variants for modern words, English words still in use but considered archaic or old fashioned, and words common to England that may be unknown elsewhere (e.g. the names of English river fish).

Currently listed are terms used in Forme of Cury and Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery Books.



alkanet (also: alkenet, bugloss) : Dyer's Bugloss (Alkanna tinctoria) or possibly Common Bugloss (Anchusa officinalis). A member of the Borage family. A red colorant.





Entry from Culpeper's Complete Herbal (England, 1652)

ALKANET. (Anchusa Tinctoria).

Besides the common name, it is called orchanet, and Spanish bugloss, and by apothecaries, euchusa.

Descrip. - Of the many sorts of this herb, there is but one known to grow commonly in this nation; of which one takes this description: - It hath a great and thick root of a reddish colour; long, narrow, hairy leaves, green like the leaves of bugloss, which lie very thick upon the ground; the stalks rise up compassed round about, thick with leaves, which are lesser and narrower than the former; they are tender, and slender, the flowers are hollow, small, and of a reddish colour.

Place. - It grows in Kent, near Rochester, and in many places in the west country, both in Devonshire and Cornwall.

Time. - They flower in July and beginning of August, and the seed is ripe soon after, but the root is in its prime, as carrots and parsnips are, before the herb runs up to stalk.

Government and Virtues. - It is an herb under the dominion of Venus, and indeed one of her darlings, though somewhat hard to come by. It helps old ulcers, hot inflammations, burnings by common fire and St. Anthony's fire, by antipathy to Mars; for these uses your best way is to make it into an ointment; also if you make a vinegar of it, as you make vinegar of roses, it helps the morphy and leprosy; if you apply the herb to the privities, it draws forth the dead child. It helps the yellow jaundice, spleen, and gravel in the kidneys. Dioscorides saith, it helps such as are bitten by venomous beasts, whether it be taken inwardly or applied to the wound; nay, he saith further, if any that hath newly eaten it do but spit into the mouth of a serpent, the serpent instantly dies. It stays the flux of the belly, kills worms, helps the fits of the mother. Its decoction made in wine, and drank, strengthends the back, and easeth the pains thereof. It helps bruises and falls, and is as gallant a remedy to drive out the small pox and measels as any is: an ointment made of it is excellent for green wounds, pricks or thrusts.



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