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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.



avens (also: auance, herb bennet) : Avens (Geum urbanum). A member of the rose family common to England and much of Europe. Has medicinal as well as culinary uses.





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

AVENS, called also COLEWORT, and HERB BENNET. - (Geum Herbanum).

Descrip. - The ordinary avens have many long, rough, dark green winged leaves rising from the root, every one made of many leaves set on each side of the middle rib, the largest three whereof grow at the end, and are snipped or dented round about the edges; the other being small pieces, sometimes two and sometimes more, standing on each side of the middle rib underneath them: among which do rise up divers rough or hairy stalks, about two feet high, branching forth with leaves at every joint, not so long as those below, but almost as much cut in on the edges, some into three, some into more. On the tops of the branches stand small, pale yellow flowers, consisting of five leaves, like the flowers of cinque-foil, but large, in the middle whereof standeth a small green herb, which when the flower is fallen, groweth to be sound, being made of many long purple seeds like grains, which will stick upon your clothes. the root consists of many brownish strings of fibres, smelling somewhat like unto cloves, especially those which grow in the higher, hotter, and drier grounds, and in free and clear air.

Place. - They grow wild in many places under hedges' sides, and by the path-way in fields; yet they rather delight to grow in shadowy than in sunny places.

Time. - They flower in May and June for the most part, and their seed is ripe in July at the farthest.

Government and Virtues. - It is governed by Jupiter, and that gives hope of a wholesome, healthful herb. It is good for the diseases of the chest or breast, for pains and stitches in the side, and to expel crude and raw humours from the belly and stomach, by the sweet savour and warming quality. It dissolves the inward congealed blood happening by falls or bruises, and the spitting of blood, if the roots, either green or dry, be boiled in wine and drunk: as also all manner of inward wounds or outward, if washed or bathed therewith. The decoction also being drunk, comforts the heart, and strengthens the stomach and a cold brain, and therefore is good in the springtime to open obstructions of the liver, and helpeth the wind colic: it also helps those that have fluxes, or are bursten, or have a rupture: it taketh away spots or marks in the face being washed therewith. The juice of the fresh root, or powder of the dried root, have the same effect as the decoction. The root in the spring-time, steeped in wine, doth give it a delicate flavor and taste, and being drunk fasting every morning, comforteth the heart, and is a good preservative against the plague or any other poison. It helpeth digestion, warmeth a cold stomach, and openeth obstructions of the liver and spleen.

It is very safe; you need have no dose prescribed; and is very fit to be kept in every body's house.



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