ACETARIA: A Diſcourse of Sallets -Proper Seasons

Farther Directions concerning the proper Seaſons for the Gathering, Compoſing, and Dreſſing of a Sallet.


And Firſt, as to the Seaſon both Plants and Roots are then properly to be Gather’d, and in prime, when moſt they abound with Juice and in Vigour: Some in the Spring, or a little anticipating it before they Bloſſom, or are in full Flower: Some in the Autumnal Months; which later Seaſon many prefer, the Sap of the Herb, tho’ not in ſuch exuberance, yet as being then better concocted, and ſo render’d fit forSalleting, ’till the Spring begins a freſh to put forth new, and tender Shoots and Leaves.

This, indeed, as to the Root, newly taken out of the Ground is true; and therefore ſhould ſuch have their Germination ſtopt the ſooner: The approaching and prevailing Cold, both Maturing and Impregnating them; as does Heat the contrary, which now would but exhauſt them: But for thoſe other Eſculents and Herbs imploy’d in our Compoſition of Sallets, the early Spring, and enſuing Months (till they begin to mount, and prepare to Seed) is certainly the moſt natural, and kindly Seaſon to collect and accommodate them for the Table. Let none then conſult Culpeper, or the Figure-flingers, to inform them when the governing Planet is in its Exaltation; but look upon the Plants themſelves, and judge of their Vertues by their own Complexions.

Moreover, in Gathering, Reſpect is to be had to their Proportions, as provided for in the Table under that Head, be the Quality whatſoever: For tho’ there is indeed nothing more wholſome than Lettuce andMuſtard for the Head and Eyes; yet either of them eaten in exceſs, were highly prejudicial to them both: Too much of the firſt extreamly debilitating and weakning the Ventricle, and haſtning the further decay of ſickly Teeth; and of the ſecond the Optic Nerves, and Sight it ſelf; the like may be ſaid of all the reſt. I conceive therefore, a Prudent Perſon, well acquainted with the Nature and Properties of Sallet-Herbs, &c. to be both the fitteſt Gatherer and Compoſer too; which yet will require no great Cunning, after once he is acquainted with our Table and Catalogue.

We purpoſely, and in tranſitu only, take notice here of the Pickl’d, Muriated, or otherwiſe prepared Herbs; excepting ſome ſuch Plants, and Proportions of them, as are of hard digeſtion, and not fit to be eaten altogether Crude, (of which in the Appendix) and among which I reckon Aſh-keys, Broom-buds and Pods, Haricos, Gurkems, Olives, Capers, the Buds and Seeds of Naſturtia, Young Wall-nuts, Pine-apples,Eringo, Cherries, Cornelians, Berberries, &c. together with ſeveral Stalks, Roots, and Fruits; Ordinary Pot-herbs, Anis, Ciſtus Hortorum, Horminum, Pulegium, Satureia, Thyme; the intire Family of Pulſe andLegumena; or other Sauces, Pies, Tarts, Omlets, Tanſie, Farces, &c. Condites and Preſerves with Sugar by the Hand of Ladies; tho’ they are all of them the genuine Production of the Garden, and mention’d in our Kalendar, together with their Culture; whilſt we confine our ſelves to ſuch Plants and Eſculenta as we find at hand; delight our ſelves to gather, and are eaſily prepar’d for an Extemporary Collation, or to Uſher in, and Accompany other (more Solid, tho’ haply not more Agreeable) Diſhes, as the Cuſtom is.

But there now ſtarts up a Queſtion, Whether it were better, or more proper, to Begin with Sallets, or End and Conclude with them? Some think the harder Meats ſhould firſt be eaten for better Concoction; others, thoſe of eaſiest Digeſtion, to make way, and prevent Obſtruction; and this makes for our Sallets, Horarii, and Fugaces Fructus (as they call ’em) to be eaten firſt of all, as agreeable to the general Opinion of the great Hippocrates, and Galen, and of Celſus before him. And therefore the French do well, to begin with their Herbaceous Pottage, and for the Cruder, a Reason is given:

Prima tibi dabitur Ventri Lactuca movendo

Utilis, & Poris fila refecta ſuis.

And tho’ this Cuſtom came in about Domitian’s time, ο μ αρκαιοι, they anciently did quite the contrary,

Gratáque nobilium Lactuca ciborum.

But of later Times, they were conſtant at the Ante-cœnia, eating plentifully of Sallet, eſpecially of Lettuce, and more refrigerating Herbs. Nor without Cauſe: For drinking liberally they were found to expell, and allay the Fumes and Vapors of the genial Compotation, the ſpirituous Liquor gently conciliating Sleep: Beſides, that being of a crude nature, more diſpos’d, and apt to fluctuate, corrupt, and diſturb a ſurcharg’d Stomach; they thought convenient to begin with Sallets, and innovate the ancient Uſage.

——Nam Lactuca innatat acri

Poſt Vinum Stomacho——

For if on drinking Wine you Lettuce eat,

It floats upon the Stomach——

The Spaniards, notwithſtanding, eat but ſparingly of Herbs at Dinner, eſpecially Lettuce, beginning with Fruit, even before the Olio and Hot-Meats come to the Table; drinking their Wine pure, and eating the beſt Bread in the World; ſo as it ſeems the Queſtion ſtill remains undecided with them,

Claudere quae cœnas Lactuca ſolebat avorum

Dic mihi cur noſtras inchoat illa dapes?

The Sallet, which of old came in at laſt,

Why now with it begin we our Repaſt?

And now ſince we mention’d Fruit, there riſes another Scruple: Whether Apples, Pears, Abricots, Cherries, Plums, and other Tree, and Ort-yard-Fruit, are to be reckon’d among Salleting; and when likewiſe moſt ſeaſonably to be eaten? But as none of theſe do properly belong to our Catalogue of Herbs and Plants, to which this Diſcourſe is confin’d (beſsides what we may occaſionally ſpeak of hereafter) there is a very uſeful Treatiſe on that Subject already publiſh’d. We haſten then in the next place to the Dreſſing, and Compoſing of our Sallet: For by this time, our Scholar may long to ſee the Rules reduc’d to Practice, and Refreſh himſelf with what he finds growing among his own Lactuceta and other Beds of the Kitchin-Garden.