Radishes: Medieval Grow Your Own

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Looking for grow your own tips? These ones are between one and two thousand years old, passed on from the ancient Greeks, Romans and Persians. They were collated in 1306 by an Italian called Pietro Crescenzi in his book, the Ruralia Commoda. These tips have been translated into modern day English from Latin and Italian exclusively for Grow Like Grandad. If you’d like to know more about the background to this translation project see here.
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Radishes (De Radiche)

De Radice (Radish)

De Radice (Radish)

Radish is a herb, whose root carries the same name. It grows well in areas that are prone to fog and not too windy [low lying, near rivers], although it takes root and is born [germinates] in any kind of environment. It loves earth that is fat [clay] and free of impediments [stones], and that has been worked and turned over for a long period, with extractions that have occurred deeply [well cultivated]. It loathes grass and gravel.

In temperate areas, it must be sowed during the month of July or around the end of June; in hot and dry areas during August and September [In Italy…]. They must be sowed in big spaces that are deeply dug, and they are even better in sand. They can be also sowed after new rain, unless they can be watered [by hand], and they immediately need to be slightly covered through hoeing.

Manure should be avoided [this causes forking of the roots]: use hay instead, because otherwise they will become full of mushrooms [possibly due to excess high nitrogen in manure]. If watered often with salted water they will become more delicious [salt on soil is not recommended!]

Those radishes that are less strong, and that have wider and more verdant leaves, are said to be the female ones, so we will take their seeds [not roots]. It is also believed that, if we take out their leaves, and we leave them with only a small leaf, the roots will grow bigger; since they are planted in the ruts [rows] in an optimal way, they can be covered with much ground, so that the earth can be gathered around them more. And in case you want to make sweets out of the ones that are too strong, you will macerate [soften by soaking] its roots in honey for one day and one night.

Medicinal Radish Uses:

Radish is hot and dry in the second degree [Thins – Dissolves Obstructions], and provides less nourishment than the turnip. The way it nourishes the stomach is heavy and hard, and is noxious for the digestion. If taken as food, it is not good for the eyes, the teeth, and all types of wounds and pains. But if taken as medicine it is purgative for the kidneys and for the big bodily humors’ bladder. It causes urine, and, if eaten, it breaks the kidney stone.

If eaten cooked, it is good against coughs, whether these have happened for a cold or humid cause. If eaten as food it causes twisting and inflammation, and becomes harmful for the stomach, a fact that is evident by the extremely smelly belch that the radish causes, especially when taken before eating; the radish given to those fasting makes the food go up [indigestion], and prevents it going down to the place where it is cooked [digested]; so it becomes a cause for digestive stiffness and provokes vomit, especially in those that naturally have wind in their stomach.

However, if taken after eating, it creates less wind, and thanks to its heaviness it goes down and helps the food where it is cooked [digested], and digestion happens properly. Still, those who want to use it in order to provoke vomit, must take it before eating. Its virtue is similar to that of the horse radish, it should be given in the same way to address the aforementioned issues, however, it is not as effective.

The four degrees of ancient medical herbalism – click to enlarge

That concludes this translation of Latin and old Italian text from the Ruralia CommodaStay tuned for the forthcoming herb and vegetable translations over the coming days and keep an eye on #MedievalGrowYourOwn on Twitter.

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About Author

Matt Peskett is GrowLikeGrandad (if you want to know why read 'About the Editor). He has a few 'heavy clay' allotments and is Chairman of the Dorking Allotment Holders Association (DAHA). Matt also has a medium sized 'sandy soil' hillside garden (Italian terrace designed) and enjoys photography - especially nature. Matt takes inspiration from gardens like Hidcote and Great Dixter and enjoys watching anything on TV presented by Monty Don or Louis Theroux.

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