Bottle gourds

Lagenaria siceraria – Bottle gourds or calabash


This year we grew these interesting shaped gourds for the first time. An annual, they originate from Africa and some form of gourd was grown and added to soups, pottage and pies in medieval and Tudor times.

Oldcook : Vegetables in Medieval Europe - Gourd Tacuinum sanitatis

They require a warm sunny spot and the walled garden was perfect for that despite the summer we have had. Gourds require a lot of space to grow and the space beside the gardener’s shelter was ideal.

Alexander Neckam (1157-1217), an English scholar, scientist, teacher, theologian and the abbot of Cirencester, wrote extensively about natural history, including gardens. He described a ‘proper’ garden like this:

“It should be ornamented with roses and lilies, the heliotrope, violets and mandrakes. One should have also parsley, cost, fennel, southernwood, coriander, sage, savory, hyssop, mint, rue, dittany, celery, pyrethrum, cress and peonies. There should also be made beds for onions, leeks, garlic, pumpkins and shallots. . .”

Given that pumpkins were not introduced into Europe until  Columbus bought back seeds in the 15th Century, I am speculating that the pumpkin Neckham was describing is a gourd just like ours!

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