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Historical Veggie Facts

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We hope you’ve enjoyed reading our historical veggie facts over the last few days. Many of these were taken from the 1831 edition of The Companion for the Vegetable garden by Henry Phillips. We have so many wonderful books and other items in our archives and this is just one of the ones that we hope will be of interest.

Here’s some historical veggie facts taken from the book:

onion setsOnions
We may think that companion planting is relatively new but ancient Greeks believed onions “prosper better when savory is sown with them.” Moving forward in time, Lord Bacon wrote “the rose will be the sweeter if planted in a bed of onions.”
Greek physicians made poultices of onions believing that onions cleared the sight by the tears they drew.
William Shakespeare recommended the use of onions:

“If the boy have not a woman’s gift
To rain a shower of commanded tears,
An onion will do well.”

Anyone concerned about the dreaded “onion breath” need not worry. A few parsley leaves after will “evectually overcome the scent and cause the onions to sit more easy on the stomach.”

The romans fed garlic to their slaves to strengthen them and to soldiers believing it would give them courage. Along similar lines they fed garlic to game birds prior to a fight to make them fight more bravely.
In medicine garlic was used as both an expectorant and a diuretic and was given to those suffering from exposure as a way of warming them.
Boiled garlic was fed to chickens as a natural wormer and this practise still holds good today.
Eating baked beetroot was considered the best breath sweetener for anyone having eaten garlic.


Garden parsley as we know it today was first cultivated in England in the reign of Edward VI, 1548. It was considered to be “delightful to the taste and agreeable to the stomacke.”
When sown parsley seed “never appears in less than forty days, nor does it often exceed fifty.”
Sheep used to be fed huge amounts of parsley as a prevention against foot rot and throwing parsley into ponds was believed to cure sickly fish.

Ancient Greeks spoke of the aphrodisiac properties of parsnip but also rubbed it on their teeth to stop them aching.
Parsnip is a sweet vegetable and was often used as a sugar substitute with evaporated parsnip juice being spread on bread in place of honey. Convalescents were fed a parsnip marmalade to help build their strength.
Cows and sheep were fed parsnips to encourage milk production.

These vegetables can all be grown now so, whether you have sickly fish, onion breath or want a sweet sugar-free treat now is the time to get growing! And if you want more historical veggie facts then just let us know. We’ve got a shed full of them!

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