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Page:Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management.djvu/912

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found either seed or plants quoted. Apples, and sometimes pears, are mentioned as part of the orchard produce, but we read of no plums except once of damsons. A regular part of the produce of the orchard was cider, and its low price seems to suggest that it was made in considerable quantities. Crabs were collected in order to manufacture verjuice—an important item in mediaeval cookery. Bees, though honey was dear, and wax very high priced, do not seem to have been commonly kept.

"Scurvy in its most violent forms, and leprosy, modified perhaps by the climate, were common disorders, for, as has often been said, the people lived on salt meat half the year, and not only were they without potatoes, but they do not appear to have had other roots now in common use, as carrots and parsnips. Onions and cabbage appear to have been the only esculent vegetables. It will be found that nettles (if we can identify those with urticae) were sold from the garden. Spices, the cheapest of which was pepper, were quite out of their reach. Sugar was a very costly luxury, and our forefathers do not appear, judging from the rarity of the notices, to have been skilful in their management of bees."

Value of Vegetable Food.—If potatoes are watery, most of the roots and tubers we have now to consider are even more so. Out of every 100 lbs. of potatoes, 75 lbs. are water; out of every 100 lbs. of carrot, 89 lbs.; of turnips, 92 lbs.; of the artichoke, 80 lbs.; of onion, 91 lbs.; of the 8 or 10 lb. that remain, there is sometimes starch, sometimes an analogous substance known as inulin, and there are 1 or 2 lbs. of albuminoids. In all, too, there is a considerable amount of cellulose and woody fibre, both of which are indigestible. We must ascribe their chief value to the salts they contain and to the value of variety in food. They also introduce into the system some water, necessary for digestion and assimilation. It is much to be regretted that, by the manner of cooking vegetables that prevails in this country, a great part of these salts is dissolved in water and thrown away, only the vegetable itself being eaten. All vegetables are best when they are grown quickly, in which case they have less woody fibre. Sometimes light is excluded, for light leads to the development of chlorophyll, and also of the characteristic principle of the plant, which is often unpleasantly pungent and occasionally unwholesome.

Fresh Vegetables.—All green vegetables should be as fresh as possible. A large number of those sold in towns are plucked days before, full of sap, and stacked in heaps under circumstances the most favourable to fermentation, and sufficiently accounts for the unpleasant results often experienced after eating cabbages, etc., in such a state.

Dried Vegetables.—Many vegetables are now sold dried and compressed. Sliced carrots, turnips, cauliflowers, etc., suitable for julienne soups, or stews, are often useful to the housewife when such vegetables are out of season and dear, and also when economy of time is necessary,