When it Isn’t a Potato


I like the idea of planting once and harvesting multiple times and oca fits the bill. As I make long-term plans for a perennial garden, I’m giving serious thought to growing it. In USDA zones 7 through 10, oca (Oxalis tuberosa) can be considered a perennial. Oca has been cultivated for centuries for its tubers, second in popularity to the potato. Underground tubers are crunchy and beautifully colored. Fleshy stems bear green cloverlike leaves that can be eaten in salads and yellow flowers.

Tubers should be planted 2 to 3 inches deep and about 12 inches apart. They will grow in large containers but the tubers will probably be smaller. Oca prefers cool summer nights and winters with late or no frosts for best tuber development. Aging tubers in the open air after digging renders them sweeter.

Ocas and papas (potatoes) were said to be the chief roots for food in the Indies and cultivated by the Incas. – J. de Acosta, 1588-90, quoted in the American Journal of Science. Vol. 125. 1883.

Tubers with a yellow skin (oca blanca) and with a red skin (oca colorada) were the first taken to Europe and Thompson dated their introduction to 1829. While this writer found no other hard evidence to support the exact date of 1829, certainly by the early 1830’s they were known there. – Thompson, Robert. The Gardener’s Assistant. 1878. London.

Oca, or oxalic tuberosa, was commonly found in Peru and Bolivia, and early books note it was cooked in Chili as well. Royle noted it had been introduced into England for its “tubers like small potatoes” by the 1830’s. – Royle, John Forbes. Illustrations of the Botany and Other Branches of the Natural History of the Himalayan Mountains. 1839.

By this early date the plant was not unnoticed in the U.S. either. The New England Farmer and Horticultural Journal told its readership that the “oxalis tuberosa, found in Chili” had a root similar to a potato. – May 1, 1833.

The plant was found in the highlands of Mexico where the “tuberous wood-sorrel” and “eatable-rooted nasturtium” were consumed in place of the yams found in other locales. – The Penny Cyclopaedia of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Information.

“A plant related to our common sheep sorrel, widely cultivated in Peru and Bolivia for the sake of its fleshy rootstocks, which are an important article of food. In some districts ocas are second only to potatoes, while in others ullueus are more important, or at least are sold more generally in the native markets. Ocas are eaten raw as well as cooked, and are also frozen and dried. Ocas prepared in this way are called caya, a term corresponding to…chunyo, the name of the dried potatoes. Raw ocas when first dug have a distinctly acid taste, like sheep sorrel, but this is lost after the tubers have been exposed to the sun. The plant attains a height of 1 foot or more and has the general appearance of a large sheep sorrel. The flowers are yellow and the leaflets are folded at night or in wet weather, the same as sheep sorrel. The varieties are numerous, though much fewer than in the case of the potato. Some are preferred for eating raw and others for the making of caya. The texture of the tubers is very tender, crisp, and juicy. In form, some are nearly cylindrical, while others are slender at the base and strongly thickened at the end. The colors vary from white or light pink through darker pinks or yellows to deep purplish red. The range of colors is much the same as in the ullucu, but no deep-yellow varieties were seen, nor any with spots, except that some have bands of deeper color across the eyes. In addition to the pleasing coloration, the surface of the tubers is smooth and clear, so that the general appearance is very attractive. If the taste should prove acceptable, ocas might become very popular for salads and pickles, if not for other purposes. The nature and habits of the plant indicate that it may be adapted to acid soils, which would be a distinct advantage in some parts of the United States”. – Plant Inventory. 1917.

While many today find the flavor appealing on its own merit, in 1860, the Senate and Department of Agriculture, obviously compared it to the potato when they called the oca, “a scanty substitute for more generous means of nutriment”. The oca obviously did not catch on as well as the potato, but for those who want to experiment with perennials, it may be worth a trial to see how well it works for you. – Report. Dept. of Ag. 1860.

Now that we’ve considered growing it, how do we eat it? Aside from adding leaves to salads, it can be boiled, baked, fried, put into fresh salads, or pickled. Pigs are said to relish both the tubers and leafy tops so even if it doesn’t become a daily staple, one couldn’t really go wrong in establishing it in the perennial garden. Happy Gardening & Blissful Meals, all!

ROSELLE: An Almost Forgotten Plant


, ,


Roselle, or Jamaica Sorrel, was also called the Florida Cranberry, though it is in no sense of the word a cranberry from a horticultural standpoint. It is in reality a Hibiscus (H. Sabdariffa), akin to okra, which is H. Esculentus. In growth it is a strong, tall growing plant from five to seven feet in height and revels in hot weather. For years it has been widely cultivated in the tropics. It does require a long growing period to mature.

“The flowers are solitary, with a red and thick calyx. These calices, when cooked, make an excellent sauce or jelly, almost identical in flavor and color with the better known cranberry of the North. It is this fact that has given it the name of the Florida Cranberry. A few plants in the garden will supply all family needs for pies, sauces, jellies and coloring matter, the same as the cranberry, and at a far lesser cost than that of purchasing the Northern grown product. Unlike the okra, however, the green seed pod is not edible”. (-Bateman, Lee. Florida Trucking for Beginners. 1913).

Bateman spoke of roselle being grown in south to mid-Florida, however, two years prior Kennerly felt it would do well outside that area. It was noted growing in California. “This is an annual plant that has been sufficiently tested to prove it will grow to perfection in this climate. The fruit resembles Scarlet Podded Okra…It is a native of Australia, and great quantities of it are shipped from this point to all parts of Europe every season and net a handsome profit. Any land that will grow okra will grow the Florida cranberry.” – Kennerly, Clarence Hickman. 1911.

Its history is rooted in the Old World Tropics and it was introduced to the West Indies and elsewhere in tropical America. Hans Sloane, reported on it being grown in Jamaica as early as 1707. He found it in most gardens there and said of it, “The capsular leaves are made use of for making Tarts, Gellies, and Wine, to be used in fevers and hot distempers, to allay heat and quench thirst”. – Yearbook of Agriculture.

The first improved strain was named Victor, however, the author has found no source for Victor today. P. J. Wester, Special Agent in the bureau of Plant Industry, is credited with tweaking it from wild strains. In 1904, he began collecting seed from plants bearing the largest calyces and which showed the most desirable characteristics. By 1906, the second generation of plants under his care possessed the qualities he sought and the strain continued from those plants. He described it as a slow-maturing plant. In fact, if planted in February or March it may not produce until around October.

A late Victorian writer said the flowers on the plant open at sunrise and close about noon. The flowers are beautiful and look like hibiscus flowers. In addition to pies, sauce, and jelly he claimed the fruit made good wine and “temperance drinks”. – The Florida Agriculturist. Vol. 25. 1898.

Making it even more versatile in the kitchen, a writer informed us in 1909 that a salad could be made of stems, leaves and calices “just as turnip salad… A syrup that can be used for coloring purposes can be made of calices or stems and leaves. This may be boiled in the ordinary way and sealed in bottles for future use.” – Transactions of the Florida State Horticultural Society. 1909.

In that vein, The Country Gentleman told its readers that the bottled juice makes a superb drink and can be used in punches. – April 29, 1916.

Some In addition to its uses in the kitchen, in some parts of the world the plant is used for fiber. China and Thailand are the largest producers today. Thai Red roselle can be purchased from the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. It is said to be the earliest variety to begin flowering in trials in Virginia for the Seed Exchange.

Pick the pods that grow at the junction of each leaf, boil them and strain through a cloth or sieve, add a pint of sugar to each pint of juice, and boil again until it thickens and set aside to cool, when it will form a perfect jelly.” – Kennerly. 1911.

Pick and wash the roselle berries, trim off the tip ends that seem withered. Cut off stems close up around the calyx. Then split open one side, thus letting the center part drop out. The outside part of the berry is the only edible portion. Now wash them again and put two cupfuls in a saucepan, add one-half cupful of cold water and a scant half-cupful of sugar. Cook, stirring constantly, about five minutes, or until soft. Then turn out in earthen bowl and eat cold with turkey or chicken. They are less sour and bitter than the cranberry and have a delicious flavor. – The Florida Tropical Cookbook. 1912.

Trim and wash the roselles. Take the centers out. Fill crust, add one-quarter cupful of sugar, two or three tablespoonfuls of water, a sifting of flour and some tiny pieces of lemon. Put on upper crust and bake fifteen minutes in hot oven. – The Florida Tropical Cookbook.

Growing my Own

Our fourth of July tradition is somewhat different from most Southerners in that we have roast turkey instead of BBQ.  We didn’t set out to create a holiday tradition, somehow it just evolved because we like turkey and usually have some in the freezer that need to be cooked about now.  After this year we expect to be eating turkeys produced right here at home – beginning with our Thanksgiving dinner.  Our turkeys have had no hormones or medicated feed and have enjoyed fresh grass, greens, clover, etc, whenever we could gather it.

Dinner today is turkey cooked in the rotisserie with a mixture of butter, chopped sage and rosemary, onion powder, salt and pepper stuffed under the skin.  Fixings are fresh from the garden – Yukon gold potatoes, sauteed Swiss chard, fried okra and eggplant with sliced tomatoes.  Dessert is a dreamy pie I made from Hubbard squash from the garden and eggs from our hens.  No nasty preservatives in this food!

The ingredients for our dinner and the methods of cookery are much the same as one would have found in decades or even centuries past.  I routinely consult my collection of gardening treatises and cookbooks when planting, harvesting, and cooking.

Growing my squash

Growing my squash

Eggplant in the garden

Eggplant in the garden

Bourbon red turkeys

Bourbon red turkeys

Swiss Chard grown on my patio.

Swiss Chard grown on my patio.  The wire is to keep the geese out.  They ate my kale, roots and all.

Pemmican: It Wasn’t Just for Native Americans



I love the idea of any food that is billed as coming from the wilds of North America.  Pemmican was just such a survival food.  “The word is from Cree pĭmĭkân, manufactured grease”, or one who makes grease.  “The word is cognate with Abnaki pĕmĭkân.   It was made from whatever meat was the most abundant in a particular region.  In the northernmost areas reindeer was used, in milder climates buffalo was usually specified as being prevalent although deer and other animals were used.

The process was pretty much the same regardless of the type of meat used. After removing fat and gristle the meat was sliced, hung to dry, perhaps smoked as it dried, and then pounded to a powder.  The meat powder was mixed with fat, many accounts specify the fat came from marrow in the bones of the animal, and dried fruit was sometimes incorporated.  Once well mixed the mass was packed into skin bags and the bags sewn shut.  It kept several years as long as it was stored away from excess moisture.  Natives also stored it away in woven baskets.


An account published in 1860 stated that the pemmican was packed tightly into tin canisters leaving a little space at the top, and allowed to cool after which the tin was filled to the brim with hot melted lard.  A lid was then soldered onto the canister sealing in the pemmican.  – The Household Monthly.  March 1860.

Any berries that were available were probably added to sweeten the pemmican, but a few of the fruits I was able to document as an ingredient included June Berry (also called pemmican berry because it was frequently used in that manner), choke cherry, Saskatoon, Service berries, cranberries, Manzanita, blueberries, Juniper berries, currants, etc.

“Sweet pemmican is a superior kind of pemmican in which the fat used is obtained from marrow by boiling broken bones in water.  Fish pemmican is a pemmican made by the Indians of the remote regions of the N. W. by pounding dried fish and mixing the product with sturgeon oil.  The Eskimo of Alaska make a pemmican by mixing chewed deer meat with deer suet and seal-oil.”

Pemmican was made into soup by hunters, trappers, arctic explorers, etc. called Robbiboe, or by the Canadian French rababou.  To make it the pemmican was mixed with a little flour and water and boiled.

Sir Alexander Mackenzie can be consulted for an idea of the weight of the packs of pemmican.  For a journey from Montreal south on the St. Lawrence River he noted the party carried four bags and a half of pemmican, weighing from eighty-five to ninety pounds each in addition to other supplies.  – Mackenzie, Alexander, Sir.  Voyages from Montreal, on the River St. Laurence Through the Continent of North America, to the Frozen and Pacific Oceans in the Years 1789 and 1793.  1814.  New York.

Robert Huish wrote of a party that carried along an amazing sixty bags each weighing ninety pounds.  Gould tells us that, “one bison cow in good condition furnished dried meat and fat enough to make a bag of pemmican weighing ninety pounds”.  Given that, it becomes clear how much less the meat weighed after processing having removed the bones, skin, etc. and through evaporation in the drying process.

A Narrative of the Voyages and Travels of Captain Beechey:  To the Pacific and Behring’s Straits and The Travels of Capt. Back, R. N. to the Great Fish River and Arctic Seas.  1836.  London.  Gould, Augustus Addison.  The Naturalist’s Library:  Containing Scientific and Popular Descriptions of Natural History.  1833.  Massachusetts.

Hamilton reckoned one pound of pemmican was equal to five pounds of meat.  – Hamilton, William.  My Sixty Years on the Plains.  1905.  NY.

The following recipe came from Frances Owens’s book, Mrs. Owens’ Cook Book, 1903“Pemmican is made of the lean portions of venison, buffalo, etc.  The Indian method is to remove the fat from the lean, dry the lean in the sun; then make a bag of the skin of the animal, and put the lean pieces in loosely.  To this must be added the fat of the animal, rendered into tallow, and poured in quite hot.  This will cause the spaces to be filled.  When cold, put away for future use.  In civilized life, a jar can be used in place of the bag.  Pemmican may be cooked same as sausage, or eaten as dried beef.  It is invaluable in long land explorations, and is of great use in sea voyages.”

For those who prefer more of an actual recipe than a method summary, Mrs. Saray Tyson Rorer offered one, although it varied in method.  ¼ pound of lean beef put twice through a meat chopper, ¼ pound of marrow from the leg or shin bone of an ox.

Chop the marrow with a silver knife and remove the fibre.  Mix the beef and marrow thoroughly, a half saltspoonful of salt and stand at once in a cold place.  – Mrs. Rorer’s Diet for the Sick.  1914.

Blissful meals, yall.  – thehistoricfoodie.wordpress.com©

See:  Hodge, Frederick Webb.  Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico.  Washington Government Printing Office.  1912.

Witch Hazel, a True North American Plant


“Witch hazel is a shrub that everybody in New England, who goes into the woodland, knows by sight.  Its botanical term is Hamamelis Virginica, given it many years ago in honor of the early settlers of Virginia, who, before ascertaining the medical worth of the leaves and bark, used the twigs with success as divining rods”.  Witch hazel was described as growing from eight to fifteen feet by the age of five or six years.   It was not to be confused with a much shorter shrub (rarely more than five feet tall) by the name of hazel – the latter was the nut-bearing hazelnut.  The two are not related although witch hazel seeds/nuts are also edible.


The plant goes by several other names including spotted alder, striped alder, tobacco-wood, winter-bloom, snapping-hazel, and, of course, Southern witch-hazel.

The latter was not thought to possess any of the qualities of the true witch hazel though that writer noted that unscrupulous gatherers of the witch-hazel leaves and bark did often try to pass of the one for the other.  “…the fraud is detected at once by the taste.  There is a similarity in appearance of the leaves and bark, but the flavor is almost as different as chalk from cheese.”

About November witch hazel trees have tiny yellow flowers emerge that expand throughout winter.  There are “nubbins”, one might refer to as nuts or seeds, which are interspersed amongst the blooms.

Witch hazel has a rather unusual way of dispersing its seed.   The seeds are kept over winter and ripen them the next fall when its flowers are expanding… “when the pod bursts open, snapping them several feet away.  If the branches are gathered before the seeds are scattered the pods will open in the house and throw their seeds across the room.”  Most sources noted seeds being flung 10 to 20 feet, but Gibson claimed he’d seen them thrown up to 45 feet away from the host shrub.  – Dowd, Mary Alice.  Our Common Wild Flowers at Springtime and Autumn.  1906.  Boston.


After an encounter with it William Hamilton Gibson said of witch hazel:  “I had been attracted by a bush which showed an unusual profusion of bloom and while standing close beside it in admiration I was suddenly stung on the cheek by some missile and the next instant shot in the eye by another, the mysterious marksman having apparently let go both barrels of his little gun directly in my face.  I soon discovered him, an army of them,–in fact a saucy legion, all grinning with open mouths and white teeth exposed and their double-barreled guns loaded to the muzzle ready to shoot whenever the whim should take them”.  – The Nature Study Review.  Nov. 1919.


“Medicinally, witch hazel is an astringent.  Both bark and leaves contain tannic acid in large quantities, but the greater percentage is in the bark.”  The bark was stripped off and distilled for its oil.  It was used for treating acute derangements of the stomach.  How often was it taken?  “People do not buy it by the four or eight-ounce bottle now, but by the quart or gallon, and every medicine chest is not properly equipped unless it has a liberal supply…”.  – Good Housekeeping.  Aug. 1894.


North American witch hazel was named for its resemblance to the English and Scottish Witch or Wych elm which produced a rather large, though seldom straight tree.  The Witch elm was used for bent-wood work, boat frames, etc.  The wych-elm or Eurasian elm Ulmus glabra, has large rough leaves, grows primarily in woodlands or near flowing water.   It has clusters of flowers and winged fruits.  The old English prefix wych, or witch meant “bend”)so named because the tree had pliant branches.

There are accounts of hazel and witch hazel being used for fishing rods or poles, and it is difficult to know from many accounts whether the writer meant the hazel [hazelnut], the witch hazel, or the wych-elm that was used in olden times in England.  While witch hazel is native to North America (with versions also native to Japan and China) it put in an appearance across the pond early on.

Hamamelis virginiana was one of the first New World plants to be adopted for ornamental use by European horticulturists. As early as the mid-17th century, the plant was growing in private botanical collections in London. And it’s been a perennial favorite ever since.”  – The Brooklyn Botanic Garden website.  http://www.bbg.org/gardening/article/winsome_witch-hazel.

The Positive Medicine web site in the UK noted a collaborative effort between John Bartram  and an English gardener to distribute witch hazel in England.  Peter Collinson, an English cloth trader and avid gardener bought various plants and seeds from America and distributed them to English botanical gardens.

“The Father of Fishing, Izaac Walton, can be consulted for an account of making rods.  By Walton’s time  hazel as in hazelnut, witch hazel, and the wych elm for which the North American witch hazel is named were all growing in England.

An account of rod-making in England from April 22, 1870 may be of interest.  “I have been told, very good fly rods may be made of mountain ash, also of wych elm and of hazel…”.  – English Mechanic and Mirror of Science.

An American writer thought witch hazel wasn’t of much interest to the professional rod maker or fisherman, but that, “many a witch hazel fish-pole has augmented the truant boy’s strong of forbidden fruit down the creek bank in the first warm days of spring.  Down South where witch hazel is scarce and scrubby, its cousin, the famous red gum, is cut short in its career and lifts fish from the ‘Swanee’ river and other southern streams famous in song and story.”  – Hardwood Record.  June 10, 1917.

Another American wrote, “He had a witch-hazel pole which he had cut in the winter and from which he had scraped the bark, to make it look nice.  He kept it on the rafters of the woodshed…”.  Munn, Charles Clark.  Boyhood Days on the Farm:  A Story for Young and Old Boys.  1907.  Boston.

Because the forked branches were thought to possess magical powers of pointing to hidden streams or veins of metal [gold, silver, coal] they were used as divining rods by well diggers and would-be miners.  It was sometimes referred to as the witch of the woods because it bloomed out of cycle with most other plants and shrubs.

By the turn of the century infusions of witch hazel were being combined with alcohol to make an astringent lotion for external inflammations.  An advertisement in the Index of Diseases and Remedies claimed it was the best preparation for use in sprains, bruises, prevention of ecchymosis, leucorrhea, etc.  “It [miscible with water] may be used internally in the same doses as the fluid extract.”

Native Americans, “put great faith in it as a sedative and application to external hurts and inflammations.  They still the leaves and bark, and bathe sprained joints and muscles.  They apply it for all their burns, bruises, and aches.  It quickly takes out the smart and sting and allays the inflammation, lessening the swelling and restoring the hurt to a normal condition.  Likewise I have seen them use it for weak and sore eyes, sores in the ear, nose, throat, or mouth, and for sore throat too.  As a relief to the bites of insects most of us are familiar with it, while many of us have used it with good results for our lame backs and rheumatism…”.  The penner of those lines noted Indian women mixed it with oil and used it as a beauty product for the skin.  – Life and Health Magazine.  April 1912.

The following description may help interested parties to find the bush in the wild or to know when purchasing if they are indeed purchasing true witch hazel.  “The witch hazel leaf is nearly as broad as it is long, bluntly pointed at its tip, with a stem generally less than one-half inch in length.  The sides are unequal in size and shape and the edges are roughly scalloped.”.

Witch hazel tea may be purchased as can the dried leaves.  Leaves can be gathered from nature and stored away to make tea and poultices as needed.  It’s hard to beat a plant that can supply you with medicine, fishing poles, and winter blooms.  Blissful meals yall, – thehistoricfoodie©

What Surprises are Lurking in the Milk in Your Fridge?




Have you ever considered there could be anything other than fresh natural milk in the milk product you offer your children?

In 1994 artificial growth hormones made their way into our milk supply and with the exception of some organic milk hormone-laced milk became pretty much standard within 2 or 3 years.  How can this be and more importantly WHY?

It seems that cows injected with recombinant bovine somatropine (rBST) and recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) tend to produce approximately one gallon per day more milk than cows not treated with it – at least for a while.  If we were a starving third world nation boosting quantity might take precedence over health concerns but as we’ll see, using it seems to benefit only one faction – the company that produces the hormones.

First, from a farmer’s perspective, a little research shows that the hormones aren’t good for the cows and they certainly aren’t good for people.  Cows have more problems with cystic ovaries and uterine disorders, lower birth weight and shorter periods of gestation, and a greater risk of clinical mastitis (an udder infection) that requires antibiotics.

What does such an inflammation mean for our milk supply?  “The most obvious symptoms of clinical mastitis are abnormalities in:  The udder such as swelling, heat, hardness, redness, or pain; and the milk such as a watery appearance, flakes, clots, or pus”.  Yum.

Treated cows may begin to have reduced milk yield, increased body temperature, lack of appetite, sunken eyes, diarrhea and dehydration, and reduction in mobility due to pain in the udder or lethargy.  The UK study from which this information came says also that while the overall protein content in the milk may be unaffected, changes in the types of protein present may be affected by the leaching of low-quality blood serum proteins into the milk.  Casein, an important protein, can be significantly reduced and casein is closely linked to calcium levels in the milk.

Milk with pus in it sure sounds tasty on my cereal or in the ice cream we go through by the gallon.  Think it doesn’t make it into your Turtle Tracks?  Then why did Breyer’s Ice Cream recently announce that it is going to stop making ice cream from milk impregnated with growth hormones due to consumer demand?

Canada, the European Union (some 27 countries), Japan, Australia, and New Zealand have had bans in place on rBGH, yet the U.S. has no restrictions and Monsanto, the producer of the hormones, filed a lawsuit against a dairy that advertised their milk contained no growth hormones. It seems pointing out that a brand of milk comes from hormone-free cows causes consumers to wonder what is in other brands then start to wonder how consumption of it affects them.

The potential for health endangerment from these dairy products varies greatly from one source to another, and like many situations it comes down to the consumer making an educated decision on whether or not they’re willing to chance it.

The www.cancer.org website downplays the risk of increased Insulin-like Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1) levels in milk produced by cows that have received growth hormone but concludes its report with, “The evidence for potential harm to humans is inconclusive.”  They also conclude that the increased use of antibiotics necessary to clear up rBGH induced mastitis in cows does promote the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, but the extent of harm in humans is unclear.  Really?  We’re being told not to over-use antibiotics because it may have the same affect, but it’s OK to pass on antibiotics to our children through the milk they drink?

What is IGF-1?  “An elevated content of IGF-1 has been suggested to have adverse implications for human health and cancer frequency”.

Milk from rBGH-treated cows does have much higher levels of IGF-1 according to www.responsibletechnology.org, and puts consumers at, “a high risk factor for breast, prostate, colon, lung, and other cancers.”  They feel that levels of IGF-1 can be up to 10% higher than in milk from un-treated cows.  Their studies indicated that milk from rBGH-treated cows with increased IGF-1 levels may increase the rate of fraternal twin births in humans.  In the U.S. the number of fraternal twins was said to have grown at twice the rate as the UK where rBGH is banned.

Is the danger being downplayed for economic reasons?  The Responsible Technology website, notes that after being sued by Monsanto in 2003 Maine’s Oakhurst Dairy’s farmers’ pledge, “No Artificial Growth Hormones”, had a sentence appended which stated that according to the FDA no significant difference has been shown between milk derived from treated and untreated cows.

Responsible Technology says the studies showed milk from treated cows did contain increased IGF-1 levels and, “higher amounts of pus and antibiotic residues”, and claim further that the additional wording added to the Oakhurst label was written by the FDA’s deputy commissioner of policy, Michael Taylor, previously Monsanto’s outside attorney who, after running policy at the FDA, became vice president of Monsanto.

How do these situations come about?  Perhaps because consumers have been too complacent and let big business decide what goes into our food.  Doesn’t some agency control the safety of food additives?  Let’s look at both sides of that coin.

Oct. 25, 1998, Phil Angell, Director of Corporate Communications for Monsanto was quoted by the New York Times Magazine saying, “Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food…Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible.  Assuring its safety is the FDA’s job”.  The FDA, however, issued this statement, Federal Register, Vol. 57, No. 104 (1992):  “Ultimately, it is the food producer who is responsible for assuring safety”.  It would appear that no one is on watch.

Concerned consumers should definitely read the entire Responsibility Technology report for themselves found at http://www.responsibletechnology.org/gmo-dangers/gm-hormones-in-dairy.  Be sure to follow the links to fact sheets on rBGH, and to reports from such credible sources as the Oregon Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility.

Certified organic milk is supposed to be free of rBGH residues.   It is hard to compile a list of non-organic brands which claim to be rBGH free because the list changes as companies such as Breyers agree to use milk from untreated cows.  Read labels and do the online research, beginning with these brands:  Alda Dena, Albertson’s, Alpenrose, Andersen, Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, Breyers Ice Cream (recent change), Brown Cow Farm, Crowley Cheese of Vermont, Dannon, Darigold, Eberhard’s, Franklin County Cheese, Fred Meyer/Mountain Dairy, Grafton Village Cheese, Great Value, Great Hill Dairy, Horizon, Kirkland, LACTAID, Lifetime Dairy, Lochmead, Mallories, Market of Choice, New Seasons, Noris, Pacific Village, Safeway, Stonyfield Farms, Stremick’s Heritage, Sunshine, Trader Joe’s, Umpqua, and Yoplait yogurts.

RBGH free regional brands include:  (West coast) Alpenrose Dairy, Berkeley Farms, Clover Stornetta Farms, Joseph Farms Cheese, Sunshine Dairy Foods, Tillamook cheese (cheese only, they do not make all their products – for example their butter is made by Land O’ Lakes and packaged by Tillamook), Western Family, and Wilcox Family Farms.  (Midwest) Chippewa Valley Cheese, Erivan Dairy Yogurt, Promised Land Dairy, Westby Cooperative Creamery.  (East coast) Blythedale Farm Cheese, Crescent Creamery, Derle Farms (only products bearing a ‘no rbST label), Erivan Dairy Yogurt, Farmland Dairies, Oakhurst Dairy, Wilcox Dairy (only products with labels indicating rbST-free).

Stores carrying these brands can be found online but well-known ones include Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Walmart, Sam’s Club, Costco, Albertson’s, etc.  Most stores carry Lactaid brand.  Be aware that while a brand of milk may be hormone-free, other products bearing the same brand name such as butter, ice cream, cheese, or yogurt may not be, as in the case of Tillamook.

See:  www.dairyco.org.uk

HANNAH GLASSE: Stolen Identity During the Eighteenth Century ©


How could the authoress of one of history’s best known cookery books not only have stories spread that she was not the author of the work, but that she’d never existed at all?  Such was the case with Hannah Glasse.  The rumors that she was not a real person and that her book, The Art of Cookery was penned by a scoundrel named John Hill seems to have been the work of publisher, Edward Dilly.

Whatever would prompt someone to discredit one’s authorship to the extent of trying to erase their very existence?  Greed most likely played a large role and the fact that later Mrs. Glasse, then a widow, suffered such financial setbacks that she declared bankruptcy, sold the rights to her ever-popular book to try and rectify her situation, and still ended up in debtor’s prison probably made it easy for Dilly to discredit her and be believed.

I became acquainted with what Paul Harvey would call the rest of Hannah’s story by reading an article by Charles Cooper in Table Talk, April 1914.  The rumor started when Dilly remarked at a party that Mrs. Glasse’s Cookery was written by Dr. John Hill and that, “Half the trade knows this.”  Fortunately for Mrs. Glasse none other than the writer and dictionary author, Dr. Samuel Johnson and Boswell, his partner, were present and Johnson would have none of it.  He countered the claim by saying he’d looked at the book himself and found it impossible to believe that a doctor would have written as though salt petre and sal prunella were different substances when in fact the latter was just salt petre burnt on charcoal.   “Hill could not be ignorant of this”, but he allowed as how the error could have been one of transcription.



By way of explanation for those non-historians reading these notes, not attaching her own name to the book and instead saying it was written by, “A Lady”, made it possible for others to claim her work, though doing so was fairly common in a time when women were expected to remain in the background and men were the movers and shakers.  Perhaps Mrs. Glasse suffered the indignity of having her work and life discredited because her book was such a phenomenal success and there were those willing to go to great lengths to profit from it.

It wasn’t until a subsequent edition that Glasse attached her name to the book.  Again, unfortunately for Mrs. Glass, whether at her wish or the actions of others, later editions of the book reverted to listing the author by the simple appellation, A Lady, making it easy for unscrupulous people to claim it as their own work.   Her full name was again given as author only after her death.

Cooper described Dr. Hill as having much ability, more impudence, and no principle and outlined his many efforts in business, none of which were very successful and all of which were somewhat shady in circumstance.   His character and career can be summarized by saying his life’s goal of being received into the Royal Society was never realized and he received at least one public horsewhipping from a gentleman he’d insulted.

Another who championed the cause for Glasse was George Augustus Sala who carried on a lively debate acknowledging her presence in the London press just before the turn of the century.

When Cooper wrote his article for Table Talk in 1914 he still did not know if Hannah Glasse was an actual person or a pen name and debated the pros and cons of the matter in the article.  It wasn’t until 1938 that it was finally proven that Mrs. Glasse was indeed real and the circumstances of her life were revealed.

Perhaps the best evidence that Glasse was indeed real was the 68 page attack on her that was penned by Ann Cook who published a book, Professed Cookery, in 1760.  Cook claimed Hannah Glasse’s half-brother Lancelot Algood, tried to ruin the reputations of she and her husband and lashed out at Algood through a poison-pen account of Glasse and her book.

Glasse’s story isn’t a particularly happy one.  She was the illegitimate daughter of Isaac Algood who brought her up in his household with his legitimate children and with his wife who apparently raised Hannah as her own.  Hannah’s birth mother was described in very unflattering terms by Hannah in extant letters.  After his death, Hannah’s mother was involved in a lawsuit over Isaac Algood’s property which was not resolved until Hannah’s half-brother, Lancelot Algood (later Sir Lancelot Algood), settled the case in 1740.  The annual allotment Hanna was to receive from her father’s estate wasn’t received by her until the settlement was reached.

Hannah married at age 16 and had three sons and five daughers, some of whom died in infancy.  At least three of the daughters worked with Glasse in a shop which was named in the fourth edition of The Art of Cookery.   Hannah identified herself as “Habit Maker to Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales, in Tavistock Street, Covent Garden”.  Her success was short-lived, however, and Glasse was declared bankrupt on May 27, 1754.  Later that year (Oct. 29) she sold the copyright to The Art of Cookery to Andrew Miller and partners so that she could pay the debt.  She was discharged from the bankruptcy on January 11, 1755 only to continue her downward spiral by being sent to debtor’s prison on June 22, 1757.  She was released later that year.

Fleet Prison

Fleet Prison

Marshalcea Prison

Marshalcea Prison

Glasse wrote two more books, The Servants Directory [1757] and The Compleat Confectioner [1760] which probably brought in enough money to keep the wolves from the door, but neither was anywhere near as successful as that first book.  Hannah Glasse died on September 1, 1770.  She was 62 years of age.  A death notice was published in the London Gazette and picked up for copy in the Newcastle Currant in which she was referred to as the sister of Lancelot Allgood.


Not much is known about Hannah and John Glasse’s children other than Isaac moved to Bombay and died there in 1754; George served in the Royal Navy and drowned off Pondicherry [India] in 1761 when his ship, the HMS Sunderland sank in a storm.  Isaac was associated with the East India Company and, as such, signed as witness to a document on the ship Edgecote in 1756.  Margaret, Hannah, and Catherine were the daughters who worked with their mother in the dress shop.  Margaret, the eldest child, died sometime in the 1760’s in Jamaica.  Catherine supposedly married a Mr. Hart, and nothing further was found on Hannah.  Of the children, Lancelot, Isaac, George, Eliza, and Elizabeth Mary are known to have been christened in St. Andrews Church, Holborn, London (1736, 1738, 1740, 1741, and 1743 respectively].

– Thehistoricfoodie.wordpress.com  ©

For further reading:

Dictonary of National Biography.  Pages 420, 421.  1890.  London.

Cooper, Charles.  Some Old Cookbooks and their Authors, published in Table Talk.  April 1914.

Pennell, Elizabeth Robins.  My Cookery Books.  The Atlantic.  Aug. 1902.



Dodds, Madeline Hope.  Archaeologia Aeliana.  Vol. 15.  “The Rival Cooks:  Hannah Glasse and Ann Cook”.


The Independent.  Sat. June 24, 2006.

Various editions of The Art of Cookery.

Gravy Boat or Chamber Pot?©

Auktionshaus Bergmann

We constantly research items and customs and have seen some pretty strange situations where someone has bought an item or is trying to sell an item and has absolutely no idea what it is.  The owner of an antiques store I used to frequent told me she was selling chamber pots like gangbusters because “upwardly mobile” women caught up in the antiques movement thought they were soup tureens.  When I asked if she told them what they were she said no, their money was green and when they left the store she didn’t care what they used them for.  I still laugh every time I see one and the “one-handled soup tureen” is a running joke with us as we shop.

Equally bizarre was an antique store proprietress who had a Victorian body basket (coffin) in her shop for sale labeled as a vegetable basket.  A 6-foot-long vegetable basket with handles down each side?  Even after I explained to her what it was she went on to tell us she puts it on her dining room table at Easter with flowers, Easter eggs, and pastries in it, but that’s fodder for another post.

Riding the same train of thought as the chamber pot-soup tureen we recently wondered how many 18th century female urinals are locked away in china cabinets or gracing holiday tables under the guise of a gravy boat.  The urinals were used in days when there were no public toilets, read here, “no rooms designated just for relieving one’s self”.  Women would lift the layers of petticoats, work around panniers or other foundation support, and let go, perhaps in a dark corner or behind a screen, the thought of which makes me shudder today.

The urinals were made of faience or porcelain, silver, glass, pottery, creamware, leather, or earthenware and were priced for sale according to their quality and extravagance.  They were made in English factories and also in China for export.  Often they came with box or a leather case for carrying and storage.  Increasing the likelihood that they may be thought gravy boats is the fact that they sometimes came in the same patterns as dinnerware.

he urinals were known by other names such as coach pot, carriage pot, slipper, traveling chamber pot, and multiple spellings of bordaloo (bordalou, Bourdaloue, etc.) or in France pots de chambre.  Legend has it the vessels were called a bordaloo because ladies attending the long-winded sermons of Bourdeloue often needed to relieve themselves before the end of services.

They have a ring handle on one end, the other end open, they may or may not have had a lid, and in many cases with antiques the lids may have been broken at some point in the piece’s history.  The open end is usually slightly, sometimes very slightly, in-turned at the tip rather than turned outward more like a pouring spout.

The pieces were used throughout the 18th and into the 19th century.  I leave you with a smile and a gentle reminder that a little research goes a long way.  Good day, all.  – Thehistoricfoodie.wordpress.com.  ©


bordaloos, English auction site

bordalou (1)


Christies auction


decorative pot de chambre

pots de chambre

Sworders auctions, uk, bordalou

gilt bordaloo

FRUITS AND VEGETABLES: Pretty isn’t always better.


Several years ago I was ushered into an area in back of Sam’s club to wait for an item I’d purchased to be disassembled.  I saw buggy after buggy of food put into the incinerator.  The amount of it was unbelievable and that was just from one day at one store.  They destroyed hundreds of pounds of perfectly good food on a weekly basis without donating it to a shelter, needy families, or even a farmer that could have fed it to poultry, pigs, etc.

There was milk, potatoes, onions, carrots, celery, apples, bananas, and other produce, sinful amounts of bread and baked goods, cartons of eggs, etc.  Anything stamped with an approaching date was destroyed.

When I asked about it they gave me the customary answer that if they donated it and someone got sick they could be sued, but I recently discovered that is absolutely not true.  In 1996, Bill Clinton signed the federal Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act which protects a donor or recipient agency against liability, except in cases of gross negligence or malicious misconduct.  Gross negligence is defined as:  “voluntary and conscious conduct (including a failure to act) by a person with knowledge (at the time of conduct) that the conduct is likely to be harmful to the health or well-being of another person.”

Over 14 billion [billion with a B] pounds of food end up in landfills annually when that food could be provided to shelters and needy Americans reducing the burden placed on the American taxpayer to feed underprivileged citizens, and the old “fearful of a lawsuit” response doesn’t hold water.

A few years ago I worked an event in Florida and stayed over for a few weeks to visit with friends.  While there, her friend who is a strawberry farmer near Plant City, gave her permission to pick strawberries from his field.  He said the first and largest of the berries had been picked and it would no longer be profitable for him to have the berries picked and taken to market.

We picked only a quarter of two rows and had her van completely filled with boxes and crates of strawberries.  When you consider that this field covered several acres we’re talking about a massive amount of fresh strawberries that were going to be plowed up because the owner said American shoppers would only buy the largest and prettiest of the berries.  I was appalled.  What about the hundreds of jars of jam that could have been made from that many berries?  I spent 3 days making jam which my friend and I split (over 50 quarts) from just a fraction of two rows of berries.

The world can sustain only so many people and as the number rises, so does the danger of food shortages.  We can no longer afford such wastefulness.  We don’t have to grow more, we just have to waste less.

Multiply the strawberry scenario by thousands of fields of fruits, berries, and vegetables and one can begin to comprehend the level of negligence in destroying such nourishing food.  Most Americans have grown up with hybrid produce that was grown to look pretty, no matter how badly the flavor suffered in the process, and refuse to buy anything but perfectly shaped and colored fruit.

When I was a kid my grandparents had an apple tree which produced lots of apples but in drying them we sometimes needed to discard a small portion of an apple because of a blemish.  The rest of the apple was perfectly good as I can attest having eaten more than my fair share of fried apple pies.  The same is true of tomatoes, beans, peas, etc. that we canned or froze for winter use.

Why do we think a piece of fruit has to be flawless in appearance or identical in size to the others in the basket to be consumed?  I like to think that most farm families know that once it is peeled, dried or made into a pie a spot on the peel doesn’t matter one bit.  Hopefully large growers will come to the same realization.



, ,


For those who haven’t studied historic foods, a bubbly-jock is a turkey – that traditional bird of the holiday table. To be precise, it is a turkey-cock, and it has been found on Scottish tables since the 17th century, and probably before. A meal served in the presence of King James I while on his way to Scotland included roast turkey in 1617. In the Calendar of State Papers as related to Scotland and Mary Queen of Scotts, is found mention of “turkey cockis”.

References are found in early Scottish publications to a person acting as a bubbly-jock. Such is to ridicule someone whose behavior resembles the strutting and noisy displays of a male turkey. For those who have seen a male turkey drop his wings, fan out his tail, ruffle his feathers, and make his drumming sound, the reference will be abundantly clear.

The term bubbly-jock dates from at least as early as the 1700’s. Earlier references from the Scottish Historical Review talk about a “twrkie” [1671] or “turkie cock” [1688], therefore, Outlander fans may wisely choose to serve a, “roastit bubbly-jock” for Christmas dinner this year.

For an idea what was served with the roastit bubbly-jock we look to Susanna MacIver [1789]. She operated a cooking school from her home in Edinburgh during the 18th century. Her “Cookery and Pastry” as taught and practiced by Mrs. MacIver was first published in 1773. She claimed to have frequently made every dish in the book. Not much else is known about her except Florence White said in “Good Things in England” that her father was an impoverished Highland laird. She sold the book from her home for use by the middle and upper classes. The Bills of Fare were added after the first edition at the request of her students and were mere suggestions of what one might find in a dinner served in courses.

In one Bill of Fare she suggested boiled pork, roast turkey, greens, soup, and pease pudding. For a more elaborate dinner with roast turkey she advised potatoes, pickles, and stewed celery along with jugged hare, saddle of mutton, and a variety of tarts and puddings.

Vegetables she included in her Bills of Fare with other meats, and which many a maid or housewife may have served up with turkey as well, included kidney beans, broccoli, spinach, peas, carrots, salad, cauliflower, mushrooms, stewed lettuce and peas, asparagus, artichokes, and sorrel with poached eggs. In her list of garden fare she listed additionally coleworts, sprouts, cardoons, parsnips, turnips, endive, leeks, cresses, mustard, onions, beets, salsify, scorzonera, Jerusalem artichokes, purslane, radishes, cucumbers, cabbages, skirrets, “all sorts of small salad”, and a long list of pot herbs.

Before one might enjoy, “a bubbly-jock garnished with links of sausages”, the cook might boldly ask, “have ye killed the auld bubbly-jock, as ye threatened this morning?” Once the bird has been dispatched and cleaned it would have been prepared as follows or it was often boiled, especially if the turkey was older and tougher than might be desired.

Mary Eaton instructed her readers to stuff the turkey with sausage meat unless sausages were to be served separately in a dish in which case it could be stuffed with bread stuffing. “As this makes a large addition to the size of the fowl, observe that the heat of the fire is constantly to that part for the breast is often not done enough. A little strip of paper should be put on the bone, to prevent its being scorched while the other parts are roasting. Baste it well…serve with gravy in the dish and plenty of bread sauce in a sauce tureen. Add a few crumbs and a beaten egg to the stuffing of sausage meat.”

TO ROAST TURKEY POU[L]TS. Mary Smith. “The Complete House-keeper”. 1772. Newcastle.
Take young turkeys, rather larger than a half-grown fowl, scald and draw them clean, skewer them with their heads down to their sides, spit them, and lay them down to a clear fire for twenty minutes; baste them well with butter, and dust them with flour, let them be plump, and of a nice brown, lay them in a dish, with some brown gravy under them, and serve them up hot for a second course, with some bread sauce in a boat.

Put the crumbs of a halfpenny roll into a sauce-pan with some water and some peppercorns, one onion cut in slices, two ounces of butter, let it boil ‘till the bread is soft, beat it up, and add three spoonfuls of thick cream to make it white, let it just simmer, pour it in a boat, and serve it up. This is a proper sauce for roast turkey, pheasant, or partridge.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, & may God Bless.
– TheHistoricFoodie is a copyrighted site.©

Galt, John. “The Last of the Laird”. 1826. Edinburgh.
“Tait’s Edinburgh Matazine. Oct. 1834.
Whittle, Peter. “A Topographical, Statistical, & Historical Account of the Borough of Preston”. 1821. Preston.
Eaton, Mary. “The Cook and Housekeeper’s Complete and Universal Dictionary”. 1822. Bungay.
MacIver, Susannah. “Cookery and Pastry”. 1789. London.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 392 other followers