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On the naming of plants

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  • Rebecca Klingbeil
    All of this discussion points to a problem that all re-enactors and researchers face when dealing with period foods - the absence of the use of what we call
    Message 1 of 4 , Jan 1, 2009
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      All of this discussion points to a problem that all re-enactors and researchers face when dealing with period foods - the absence of the use of what we call 'botanical nomenclature'. (Lack of scientific nomenclature can be a problem in other areas as well, but it is particularly fustrating when researching food...) The system we now use is based on the work of Swedish botanist and physician Carolus Linnaeus (1707 – 1778). Though the idea of classifying things and of giving each its own scientific name existed before Linnaeus (for example, the system of the Bauhins family), before his use of it almost no one even attempted to use some kind of systematic way of refering to plants. After, Linnaeus, almost everyone did.

      Which, of course, leaves us poor researchers with the problem of no 'standard' / 'universal' / 'scientific' name was used for plants.

      'Maize' and 'corn' is one modern example of this. In the United States, 'corn' means only maize - while in Britain it means any grain -wheat, barley, oats, etc.

      The discussion on the potato is another. Gerarde's Herball helps by distinguishing what to him was a 'New World' variety of potato by calling it a 'Virginia potato' (even if it didn't come from 'Virginia' really).

      I think one of the most fascinating discussions of the problems this can cause is found in Jean Andrews _Peppers : the domesticated Capsicums_ (Austin : University of Texas Press, 1984 /1995). When the Spanish discovered peppers in the Americas, they hoped they had found something to replace the spice pepper (both black - from the peppercorn - and red). They called the new plant (who are 'capsicums' by the modern nomenclature) by the same name as the spice, and thus it eventually entered the languages of Europe. (Even in Hungarian, 'paprika', which is made from capsicums, is a variation on the word for the spice 'pepper'.)

      Not only that, but distinguishing one variety of pepper from another was hard. The Aztecs are reported to have both hot and mild capsicums; but since most of their food - according to Spanish reports - was spiced with some form of hot peppers - what they considered 'mild' is matter of debate. They seem to have had the ancestors of the modern 'bell peppers' (most of which grown in North America are a modern variety with much older ancestors) but I'm still working on figuring out if Europeans actually ate 'mild' ('bell') peppers or only the hot ones. I have found tantilizing clues to the former; but even the clues to the latter are sketchy at best (as Andrews' discovered when researching her book).

      One fun note though - the capsicum did not enter England's North American colonies from Central America. Rather, the capsicum traveled back with the Spanish and Portuguese explorers, and ended up being planted Portugal's colonies in the Near East. From there, it entered Italy (probably through Venitian traders) and worked its way north to England. From thence it was returned to the New World by being 'imported' to the British islands of the Caribbean and then north to 'Virginia'.

      By the way, any evidence anyone finds of 'sweet' or 'mild' peppers being eaten or considered food in period (or any pepper for that matter - sweet, hot, or even turned into paprika) would be a welcome addition to my continued research on this. [Even though it's not 'period' for me, being much earlier - it's something a friend asked me to look into and now I'm full bore into it and unwilling, like a dog with a bone, to give it up.]

      Leofwynn Marchaunt
      Cleftlands, Midrealm
    • kazoshea@aol.com
      I have seen reference to a Transylvanian cookbook called Tzakacs Tudomany published in 1603, anonymous author, that has a reference to paprika used in
      Message 2 of 4 , Jan 1, 2009
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        I have seen reference to a Transylvanian cookbook called 'Tzakacs
        Tudomany' published in 1603, anonymous author, that has a reference to
        paprika used in Golyas. I have been unable to track down a facsimile
        edition or any other edition of this work.
        In reference to peppers I do seem to recall a part of Castiglione's Il
        Courtier that had a reference to hot peppers. I will try and locate it
        again.

        Iago
      • Rebecca Klingbeil
        I have seen reference to a Transylvanian cookbook called Tzakacs Tudomany published in 1603, anonymous author, that has a reference to paprika used in
        Message 3 of 4 , Jan 1, 2009
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          I have seen reference to a Transylvanian cookbook called 'Tzakacs
          Tudomany' published in 1603, anonymous author, that has a reference to
          paprika used in Golyas. I have been unable to track down a facsimile
          edition or any other edition of this work.
          In reference to peppers I do seem to recall a part of Castiglione' s Il
          Courtier that had a reference to hot peppers. I will try and locate it
          again.

          Iago
           
          +++++++++++++++++++++
           
          Thank you m'lord. Please, anyone, feel free also to email me directly with any hints, pointers, rumors, or what have you. I'm happily looking into all sorts of things.
           
          Leofwynn Marchaunt



          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • quokkaqueen
          Hi, You seem to be more interested in the food side of plant names, but for historical botanical systematics, you could try looking into the writings of
          Message 4 of 4 , Jan 1, 2009
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            Hi,
            You seem to be more interested in the food side of plant names, but
            for historical botanical systematics, you could try looking into the
            writings of Andreas Caesalpinus (d. 1603) and his "De plantis libri
            XVI" since he is if not the first, than the most famous botanist, to
            have come up with the with the idea of grouping plants by their
            physical traits.

            (Genus didn't seem to come onto the scene until the 17th century, with
            Joseph Pitton de Tournefort)

            I must admit, the 16th century invention of the'Hortus siccus' or
            herbarium is what makes me all excited, and for that we can probably
            thank Luca Ghini. The oldest extant herbarium specimen comes from one
            of his pupils, Gherado Cibo.

            I'm having some trouble finding pictures for any of the more famous
            herbaria, but hopefully these will help:
            http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/loan_in/g/giovanni_machion,_plants_from.aspx
            http://www.bgci.org/education/1783/

            And a book from the Internet Archive that may be useful:
            http://www.archive.org/details/herbalstheirorig00arbeuoft

            Hope this helps!
            ~Asfridhr
            (Who, when isn't a Viking, is a botanist hoping to become one day a
            herbarium manager.)
            --- In Authentic_SCA@yahoogroups.com, Rebecca Klingbeil
            <bekkamom2001@...> wrote:
            >
            > All of this discussion points to a problem that all re-enactors and
            researchers face when dealing with period foods - the absence of the
            use of what we call 'botanical nomenclature'. (Lack of scientific
            nomenclature can be a problem in other areas as well, but it is
            particularly fustrating when researching food...) The system we now
            use is based on the work of Swedish botanist and physician Carolus
            Linnaeus (1707 â€" 1778). Though the idea of classifying things and of
            giving each its own scientific name existed before Linnaeus (for
            example, the system of the Bauhins family), before his use of it
            almost no one even attempted to use some kind of systematic way of
            refering to plants. After, Linnaeus, almost everyone did.
            <<snip>>
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