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Wednesday, April 29, 2015


Carolina de la Fuente
with the First Grapes of the Season
Photo by: Lord-Williams
orchard. Castro relates that fruit was so abundant in the province of Murica  that it has been known since the late Middle Ages as “the orchard of Spain.” During this time the province of Guipúzoa was producing walnuts, hazelnuts, bitter Seville orangs, grapefruit, quinces, cherries, plums, acorns, figs, medlars, blackberries, grapes, pears, peaches, limes and melons. Dried fruits included raisins, dried figs and dates.

Guipuzoa produced and abundance of apples, which were eaten raw, baked, stewed or they were made into cider. Chestnuts were so abundant that they were considered the poor people’s dish. Enrique de Villena in his work Arte Cisoria names fruits above consumed during this period as well as citron, cucumbers, pomegranates, grapes, lemons, quinces, acorns, pine kernels and pistachios.

Fruit production was totally seasonal. In spring, therefore, preferable consumption included figs, pears, apricots and cherries, among others. In summer, the most consumed fruits were melon, peaches and apples. In winter oranges and nuts such as hazelnuts, walnuts and acorns were eaten.

Fruits and vegetables, nevertheless, were used to make electuaries and preserves, which were consumed during all seasons of the year. Fruits and dried fruits were generally preserved in honey. The Archpriest of Hita points out that these were made with citrons, quinces, walnuts, carrots, cloves and sandal wood etc in honey, rose honey and all types of sugar including powdered and violet. 

Gázquez relates that a vast majority of fruits and vegetables came from convents, urban areas around castles, landed properties, monasteries and villages. Habitual landscapes contained orchards with fenced in fruit trees.

The production of fruit was normally self-consumed, although there were markets and fairs. In the late Middle Ages, fruit stands expedited the production of fruit growers, in which Jewish and Muslim techniques were learned during their occupation of Iberian territories. In the same way specific regions boasted of their fruit production.

Citrus orchard
Photo from: ladique_99
In the terminus of Seville there was an abundance of honey and figs trees and many fruits. In Al-Andalus under Muslim rule, spring and summer fruits consumed included bananas, almonds, watermelon as well as those mentioned above.

Many of them were considered aphrodisiac. The Archpriest, thus talks about the diacitron, what was a preserve of candied citron rind. This was not the only preserve for citron but there were other electuaries like candied citron peel, candied citron seed cake and sour citron jelly, which was used against the plague. Also there were other preserves like quince jelly or sugar softened with almond oil.          
Fruit was a dessert food that was never lacking in the diet of monasteries and courtesans, while in other social groups it could be lacking as per the circumstances. In certain monastic groups, as St. Benedict, it was indispensable in the diet. In general, the peasants were those who had the most ready access to fruits, as related by the Archpriest in the verses of stanza 1295, when he speaks of the laborers eating ripe grapes and then mature figs from the trees.

Fruits are considered by dietitians as healthy foods and could make the sick healthy; Ibn al Jatib said, in his book of hygiene or book of caring for health, during the seasons of the year said that fruits are:

first grapes and figs which are the lords, the closest to equilibrium, are indicated for the liver, at the same time increase the flesh and the semen; nevertheless, and during digestion, gases are generated; for this it is recommended that the be eaten on an empty stomach. Figs themselves give rise to large quantity of lice. Grape juice can cause the liver illnesses. Dried figs cause humidity, maturing, augmentation and enlargement of the flesh.

Remnant Orchard
Photo from: Joshua Mulligan
The same author indicates that dates that fall to the ground have “high nutritional value increasing the blood and semen.” Quince and pears are astringents but augment the appetite. Generally, Ibn al-Jarib reveals that the different fruits have their affects on the various functions of the organism and indicates not only the benefits but also the benefits of their aromas; thus the peach. “It is recommended to smell the peach in the case of fainting.”
Arnaldo de Vilanova, the Catalan physician, who wrote Regimen santiatis in 1304, best understood the sanitary function of fruits more than as foods. He makes a clear distinction between therapeutic attributes and food:

            Lukewarm bodies should not consume fruit for maintenance and food but as
medicine: it is known to preserve it from harmful accident that concurrent things should be feared. Thus it is necessary to use then with moderation and with odor: paying attention to not consuming them just because but for the benefit to be obtained by eating it. One should not eat for pleasure but for the benefit obtained for it is certain that using fruit alone as a game impedes healthy conservation.

Generally Arnaldo gives his rule for consumption of fruits form a medical point of view as:

Anyone who tries to conserve health should keep these general rules; fruit should never be eaten raw but boiled when the tree has brought it to perfect maturity (if the tree can do this), blackberries should not be eaten when mature for the mature ones turn black for they are spider food and dirty the flesh and putrefy it and generate bubo (inflamtory swelling of a lymph gland). anthrax and landres. In hot and humid regions, during years that there is a great abundance of blackberries, the plague reigns, if it were not for land pockets it would disappear.

What Vilanova published was a tendency of dietitians of his period, following Hippocratic dictates, it is also certain that dietetic philosophy was only on the courtesan level and upper classes as clerics, bourgeoisies or wealthy courtesans. The rest of society had no idea about medical truths and was limited to eating fruit when it was served, for the one and only reason to satisfy hunger.

Orange Almond Milk Sauce
Uniquely Delicious with Chicken
Photo by: Lord-Williams
It was thought that apples were a fruit consecrated by Venus, symbol of love; quinces, were for making a very aromatic wine; sweet, pomegranate, peaches, figs were said to smooth the skin and make wrinkles disappear and lemons from Persia perfumed the Levantine countryside with flowers. Because Hispania was the paradise of fruit, it was a gift from the earth.

[Castro. Alimentación.1996:304-305; Diez 2011:101-102; Gázquez. La Cocina. 2002:247-250; and Hita/Brey. 1965: 1295 1334-1337:201:208]

1 c almonds
½ c white sugar
1/2 c orange juice
1 hen

Chicken with Orange Almond Milk Sauce
Photo by: Lord-Williams

Peel and roast or fry almonds. Grind them in a food processor. Add sugar and continue grinding. Add orange juice.

Authors note: If the almonds are fried, almond butter will result when grinding. It is strong. This can be strong. One half cup wine can be added to mellow the taste or juice from the chicken if desired.

It is a nice accompaniment to spit roasted or baked chicken.

If a sauce for spit roasted chicken is desired, make it as follows: Grind peeled and toasted almonds. Add white sugar and grind together. Temper them with lemon or orange juice. If sugar is not desired, use honey. This can be served also with boiled hens and hens to be chopped. If sugar is not desired, use honey.

[1] Nola gives a recipe for a similar sauce: xxx-4 Salseron Para Volateria Asada (Sauce for Roasted Poultry).

        Si vols ffer salsa a gualines en ast cens boiler, se ffa en aquesta manera: Ages amelles parades he pica-les bé; e quant seran picadas, ages del sucre blanch, e pique’l encamps ab les dites amelles, axí[2] picadas altra volta. E puys destrempa-ho ab such de limons o de taronges. E va salsa per gualines en grasals, e gualines per talladors. E si sucre [203 v.] no y vols mere, ages de bona mel.
[1] Veg Nola f. 23 r. (“Salceró per a perdius o gallines d’ast” ).
[1] A´si; B “axa” errada evident.

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