Rhubarb Revisited

Greetings Historical Drinkers,

So I mentioned earlier that I’m working on the MMB (Most Medieval Beer) Project and that there would be some updates of other projects along the way. Well here’s one of them. I FOUND DOCUMENTATION FOR PERIOD RHUBARB BEVERAGES!!!!!!

So a while back we talked about Rhubarb Wine and though for almost 2000 years they used it for everything from clothing dye to a diaretic, but never imbibed or ate the stuff. (2)

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Wool dyed using plant material and medieval methods : barks, fern, madder, rhubarb, woad, walnut, alkanet & many more

It appears the whole time the Mongols, the English, and the Italians were using it for everything else, the Middle Eastern Countries and the Russians were eating and drinking it in large quantity.

  1. The Bagdad Cookery Book calls for the juice extracted from the stalks to flavor meat. (3)
  2. The Wusla il.a Al-Habib uses it as a vegetable serving it with chicken and meat in general. It states that the stems were macerated in those cases. Rhubarb was added to syrups, compotes, pastries and comfits and made into candy.
  3. The 13th C Anon MSS calls for rhubarb in a “Great Drink of Roots” (3)and in a “Cheering Syrup”. (4)
  4. The Archpriest of Hita mentions eating rhubarb with goat liver for lunch.
  5. Villena in the beginning of the 15th C provides instructions on how to carve it.
  6. It appears in the section “Guisos y Manjares” of Calero’s edition of “Arte cisoria” (1) page 114. It states that rhubarb was generally used in sauces and prepared dishes in the Middle Ages. Calero adds that it was used as much as it is in English bake goods today.
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This picture may just be liquorice and saffron since the author of the article mentions rhubarb being brought to England in the 1700’s

Source:

(1)Villena, Enrique de Arag? N. _Arte cisoria treat of the art of cutting of the knife_. Modernized text and notes appendices by Francisco Calero. Introduction by Valentin Moreno.

(2) https://www.secondshistory.com/home/rhubarb-liquorice-saffron-history

(3) Madrid: Guillermo Blásquez. 2002.

(4) The Great Drink of Roots
Take the skin of the stems of fennel, the skin of the stems of celery, the skin of the roots of carrot and …[three words missing]… chicory and Mecca fig,[207] half a ratl each; three handfuls each of halhâl (lavender?), cilantro of the spring [i.e., water source], dawmirân,[208] tamarisk, pennyroyal, ghâfit, chicory, mint, clove basil and citron basil; two ûqiyas each of the seeds of celery, carrot and roses, fennel, and habba hulwa and nânûkha [two names for, or perhaps two varieties of, nigella seed], and half an ûqiya of dodder seed. The bag: half an ûqiya each of cinnamon, flowers of cloves, ginger, Chinese rhubarb, Indian spikenard, mastic, nutmeg and aloe stems, a mithqâl of saffron, six ratls of honey, cleansed of its foam. Cook the herbs and seeds in water that covers them until their force comes out; then take the clean part of it [strain it] and throw it in honey. Put this on the fire, and leave the spices in the bag after they have become mushy, throw them into the drink and macerate them time after time, until their force passes into the drink. Lay it aside and take it from the fire, let it cool, and keep until needed. Drink one ûqiya of this with three of water on arising, and see that the water is hot. Benefits: fortifies the stomach and the liver, opens blockages of the liver and spleen, cleans the stomach, and is beneficial for the rest of the phlegmatic ailments of the body.[209]

(4) The Great Cheering Syrup: Way of Making It
Take half a ratl each of borage, mint, and citron leaves, cook them in water to cover until their strength comes out, then take the clean part and add it to a ratl of sugar. Then put in the bag: a spoonful each of aloe stems, Chinese rhubarb, Chinese cinnamon, cinnamon and clove flowers; pound all these coarsely, place them in a cloth, tie it well, and place it in the kettle, macerate it again and again until its substance passes out, and cook until [the liquid] takes the consistency of syrups. Take one û qiya with three of hot water. Benefits: It profits [preceding two words apparently supplied; in parentheses in printed Arabic text] weak stomachs, fortifies the liver and cheers the heart, digests foods, and lightens the constitution gently, God willing.

(5)

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/299366228_Erika_Monahan_Locating_Rhubarb_Early_Modernity’s_Relevant_Obscurity_in_Early_Modern_Things_Objects_and_their_Histories_1500-1800_ed_Paula_Findlen_London_Routledge_2013_227-51

(6) https://books.google.co.uk/books/about/Rhubarb.html?id=mDMABAAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=kp_read_button&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=east%20india%20company&f=false

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