Posts Tagged ‘yarrow’

Friday, July 8, 2011

Welcome to the Beer Garden

Humulus lupulus Tanacetum balsamita

Hops (Humulus lupulus), considered today to be crucial to beer brewing, were not commonly used until the fifteenth century. Before that time, brewers added different herbs, such as alecost (Tanacetum balsamita), to their beer to improve its flavor. Several of these medieval brewing herbs can be found in Bonnefont garden.

Ale is made of malte and water; and they the which do put any other thynge to ale then is rehersed, except yest, barme, or godesgood, doth sofystical theyr ale.

—Andrew Borde, The fyrst boke of the introduction of knowledge, 1452

Beer was a staple drink for medieval Europeans, as it provided much-needed calories to the often undernourished population and was cleaner and safer to drink than water. Then, as now, beer was made by brewing malted barley in boiling water to make sugars more available for yeasts to consume (see an image of Jorg Prewmaister tending his brew in a page from a fifteenth-century German manuscript, Amb. 317.2). This sugary, malty potion, known as “wort,” eventually becomes beer after the yeasts eat the sugars, releasing carbon dioxide and alcohol as byproducts of fermentation. On its own, wort is fairly flat in flavor, so brewers add additional ingredients, such as hops and spices, to enliven a beer’s taste.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Midsomer Magick

St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) Achillea millefolium Sempervivum tectorum

Above from left to right: St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum), chief among the magical herbs of midsummer; yarrow (Achillea millefolium), used apotropaically and in love divination; houseleek (Sempervivum tectorum) kept lightning from the roof.

Then doth the iouyful feast of John the Baptist take his turne,
When bonfires great with loftie flame, in every towne doe burne:
And yong men round about with maides, doe daunce in every streete,
With garlandes wrought of Motherwort, or else with Vervaine sweete
And many other flowres faire, with Violets in their hands,
Whereas they all doe fondly thinke, that whosoever standes,
And thorow the flowres beholds the flame, his eyes shall feel no paine.

The Popish Kingdom or Reigne of Antichrist written in Latin Verse by Thos. Naogeorgus and Englyshed by Barnaby Googe, 1570

Naogeorgus (Thomas Kirchmeyer), a Protestant pastor and polemicist, goes on to describe fully the paganistic rites proper to midsummer’s eve in sixteenth-century Catholic Germany: leaping through bonfires, casting herbs and flowers into the flames, solemnly invoking that all ills be consumed in the conflagration until the circle of the year comes round again, and rolling flaming wheels down mountainsides in imitation of the sun, in the hope that all mischief, harm, and danger is likewise thrown down to hell. Read more »