Tradition & Ecology

Welcome to our page on Tradition and Ecology, a look at mankind’s interaction with the plant kingdom and the timeless truths we have found, stemming from our Genesis-observed obligation to be good stewards of the Earth and all its creatures.  Here tradition will be treated reverently but truthfully and modern natural science will be treated as what it is, the product (and not the conqueror) of traditional ecology.

Click here to go to the Officina, to find our Herbal, a online resource that describes herbs and their culinary/ medicinal/ historical properties. Click here to go to our treatises on herbal traditions and history.  The article on Monastic Herbalism at the bottom is the first.

Above: The Passion Flower (Passiflora) – a symbol of Christ’s passion and crucifixion, including his scourging, crowning with thorns, three nails and five wounds. In the 15th and 16th centuries, Spanish Christian missionaries adopted the unique physical structures of this plant, particularly the numbers of its various flower parts, as symbols of the last days of Jesus and especially his crucifixion:

* The pointed tips of the leaves were taken to represent the Holy Lance.
* The tendrils represent the whips used in the flagellation of Christ.
* The ten petals and sepals represent the ten faithful apostles (less St. Peter the denier and Judas Iscariot the betrayer).
* The flower’s radial filaments, which can number more than a hundred and vary from flower to flower, represent the crown of thorns.
* The chalice-shaped ovary with its receptacle represents a hammer or the Holy Grail
* The 3 stigmata represent the 3 nails and the 5 anthers below them the 5 wounds (four by the nails and one by the lance).
* The blue and white colors of many flowers often represent Heaven and Purity.
The flower has been given names related to this symbolism throughout Europe since that time. In Spain, it is known as espina de Cristo (“Christ’s thorn”). German names include Christus-Krone (“Christ’s crown”), Christus-Strauss (“Christ’s bouquet”), Dorn-Krone (“crown of thorns”), Jesus-Leiden (“Jesus’ passion”), Marter (“passion”) or Muttergottes-Stern (“Mother of God’s star”).




The Medieval Horticulture series of articles seeks to shed light on what was actually being done in the Middle Ages, which were not so “dark” as many think. The simple act of growing of gardens for food and medicine has been pulled in many directions: towards astronomy, toward the idea that plants should treat the organs they look like, towards pagan and new age re-interpretations of medicinal herbs, towards political environmentalism, simple practitioners have been looked down on, looked askance at been declared superstitious. This series of articles seeks to uncover what was really going on in the gardens of the faithful, and what it really meant.

– A. Part One: Monastic Herbalism
– B. Part Two: In The Garden Of Charlemagne
– C. Part Three: In the Garden of Hildegard von Bingen (coming December 2018)


Coming soon.


The Traditian Garden’s fall project will be to try to plant, grow and evaluate over twenty selections from Charlemagne’s list of beneficial plants. The thoughts and research to date are contained in this table. Comments and thoughts are welcome and can be sent to

20+ plants from Charlemagne’s time (~800 A.D.)

Plant x Old School Use Modern benefits Notes

Plants from Chapter 70 of Charlemagne’s Capitulare de Villis in c. 800 A.D.

Britlas” so wild chives (Allium schoenoprasum L.)


– chives were used in water as an antiseptic and around the garden to control insects.
– their medicinal properties are similar to garlic, but weaker; which explains their limited use as a medicinal herb.
-chives are a mild antibiotic and effective antiseptic. They have decent amounts of calcium, phosphorous, sulphur, folic acid, vitamins A and C and are a mild anti-inflammatory. – chives were likely food more than medicine.
– we’ve had garlic/Chinese chives for years, they’re better but are Allium tuberosum not A. schoenoprasum.

Carvitas” so carrot


– believed eating carrots could aid conception.
– treat pleurisy and coughs
– treat bites from poisonous animals and spiders
– heal sores when ground leaves are mixed with honey
– ingredient to treat colic and dysentery as well as glaucoma
– source of beta-carotene, fiber, vitamin K, potassium and antioxidants, linked to lower cholesterol
– weight loss friendly, levels and improved eye health
– the carotene antioxidants in them have also been linked to reduced risk of cancer
– various articles on which colors are oldest but it’s hard to tell if similar modern carrots are from old heirlooms or new hybrids.
– for now we just have a seed tape with multiple colors some which appear older from Latin name.

so chervil


– for fluid retentionm cough
– digestion problems
– was eaten during Lent
– traditional to serve chervil soup Holy Thursday bec. its taste and smell are like myrrh

– diuretic, commonly used in Europe to treat high blood pressure by releasing fluids.

– no modern research has validated any other health claims for chervil

– used in French cooking, good with eggs.
– Roots are poisonous until cooked. Leaves are fine.
– we bought anthriscus cerefolium seeds, heirloom.

Cepas” so welsh onions

(allium fistulosum)


so onions

put this in same section.


– onions were used for headaches, snakebites, hair loss. Thought to attract and absorb infectious materials and was thus hung on doors, inside and eaten to prevent illness.

– during plagues, word spread that owners of onion/garlic shops did not catch diseases.

– Also: “End fasts with onions, and you’ll never get sick.”

– welsh onions are good for: eyesight, colds, headaches, heart problems, sores, to reduce fat accumulation and lower serum lipid.

– onions have antioxidants, phytonutrients and sulfur-containing compounds, they are a good source of vitamin B6, vitamin B9, vitamin C, folate, and potassium.

– “Red Welsh Bunching Onion” on Baker Creek webpage looks right for welsh onions. Perennial so that’s cool.
– onions: we’ll get various onion seedlings.

Intubas” so

– a very old crop plant used for centuries as food and medicine.

– the root was widely used as a stomach agent, and many ancient medical books recommend it for dropsy and liver and spleen diseases.

The juice was used for stomach issues, the leaves and flowers were applied on boils and infected wounds, gout.

– Prevents liver damage via its antioxidant properties, enhances digestive function.

– its anthelminthic properties can inhibit the growth of certain parasites and worms.

– antibacterial properties, can prevent fungal growth on the skin or within the body.
High in vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant, and has the highest concentration of inulin of any other plant. Internal: Chicory contains inulin and oligofructoses that support probiotics.

– we’ll order seeds.

Cucumeres” so cucumbers


– early medieval references are likely snake melons. Cucumbers are shown in herbals by 1300 A.D. Snake melons, which did exist, were used to make a liquor.

– cucumbers are high in nutrients, antioxidents and many nutrients including C and K, potassium, magnesium and manganese. May help lower blood sugar.

– easy to plant, a bit harder to grow in hot Florida but plan to get some regular old cucumbers growing if I can’t find snake melons.

Fenicolum” so sweet fennel


– Pliny the Elder of Rome listed the fennel as treating 22 ailments.
– was believed it helped colds and coughs, aided digestion and weight loss.
– Charlemagne required it because of these general healing properties, which spread it throughout Europe.

– its fiber, potassium, folate, vitamin C, vitamin B-6, and phytonutrient content, coupled with its lack of cholesterol, all support heart health.
– contains good fiber which lowers cholesterol in the blood, decreasing the risk of heart disease.
– mmm-mmm. We bought Florence Fennel seeds, Foeniculum vulgare var. azoricum apparently developed to bulb well. Are their two common varieties these days or no?

Febrefugiam”so feverfew

– the aspirin of the middle ages used for pain relief including asthma, coughs, colds, dermatitis, earache, fever, headache, insect bites, psoriasis, spasms, stomach ache, swelling, tinnitus, toothache, vertigo, and worms.

– People take feverfew today for the prevention and treatment of migraine headaches, for fever, arthritis, psoriasis, allergies, asthma, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), dizziness, and nausea.

– Feverfew is appropriately from the Latin febrifugia, for “to drive out fevers.”

Ficus” so fig


– the sixth century Greek author Anthimus prescribed figs for coughs and hoarse throats as did Nicholas Culpeper in his 17th century herbal.
– “Now Isaiah had said, ‘Let them take a cake of figs and apply it to the boil, that he may recover.’” – Isaiah 38:21

– figs contain lectins and antioxidants that seem to improve the human immune response.
– they are rich in minerals including potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron and copper and are a good source of vitamins A, E and K.

– we already have two fig trees that should produce for the first time this coming year. A panache/tiger fig and an LSU purple.

Nasturtium” so garden cress

– antiscorbutic, depurative, stimulant, vermifugal, for insect bites and insect repellent, stimulates appetite, was used for leprosy, garden cress water was used to “purify” hair.
– garden cress’ main use was always as an aromatic, slightly pungent plant, often eaten with butter on bread, or in cheeses.
– When consumed raw, cress is a high-nutrient food containing substantial content of vitamins A, C and K and several dietary minerals.
– These mean cardiovascular benefits, fights inflammation, helps prevent osteoporosis, protects the nervous system, helps fight anemia.
– related to watercress and mustard, sharing a peppery, tangy flavor and aroma.
– added to soups, sandwiches and salads for its tangy flavor.
– it can be eaten as sprouts, fresh or dried seed pods can be used as a peppery seasoning.

mentam” so garden mint


– most potent/soothing mint, aroma was considered a source of strength which would invigorate the spirit.
– has always been believed to have calming effects, was used in baths to comfort and strengthen the nerves.

– peppermint tea was used to treat nausea, diarrhea, heartburn, chills, fever and abdominal cramps. – still believed to have calming effects.
– can help treats digestion issues, colds and flu, depression-related anxiety, muscle and nerve pain, the common cold, indigestion, headaches, skin itching and infections and IBS.
– One study found peppermint oil to be as effective as Tylenol for pain relief.

– Need mint.
– Peppermint is a hybrid of spearmint and water mint so this may be right or it may be spearmint in Charlemagne’s time, but peppermint has similar but stronger medicinal properties, so I’m growing that regardless.

Ravacaules” so kohlrabi


– Cabbages (including kohlrabi) were generally considered a food staple since ancient times. While mainly a food in Europe it was believed to help with gout, colic, stomach issues, headache and the juice was drank to counteract the effects of poisons and toxic mushrooms.– Cabbage is nutrient-rich, particularly in vitamins B6, C and K, and minerals thiamin, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium. It may be anti-inflammatory, help improve digestion, heart health, blood pressure, and cholesterol.– Kohlrabi is one of several vegetables which mankind bred from cabbage, which is believed to have been domesticated in Southern Europe. All were food sources, but also considered beneficial in particular ways.

Adripias” so orach

– orach was used both as food and medicine, and it is one of Europe’s oldest kitchen herbs.
– ancient Greece used orach for ailments related to the “glands” and as a remedy for boils and shingles
– in the Middles Ages it was believed that the crushed leaves soaked in honey water could cure jaundice. Its extract was used as a spring tonic and remedy for fatigue and nervous exhaustion.
– externally, the crushed leaves were used as wraps for minor wounds, cuts, and scrapes and to remove warts.
– it has invigorating, diuretic, emetic and laxative properties but is less used today.
– it is a home remedy for sore throat and lung diseases and externally for gout.
– as a vegetable, it is less valuable than spinach but has less oxalic acid. It is used in France, in soups and stews. The young leaves can be eaten raw and used as an addition to salads.
– its small seeds are a good source of vitamin A and can be ground into a flour and used in soups, or mixed with flour in bread making.
– Annual. Member of spinach family.
– it is an easy plant to grow, and it thrives in normal garden soil and full sun. Red orach should be planted in partial shade as the leaves can become scorched. The plant grows rapidly, it can be sowed twice in a season.
– older leaves should preferably be boiled before eaten, as they are a bit rough and bitter. The leaves of the red orach turn green when cooked.

Pastenacas” so parsnip

– Charlemagne’s list was one of the first to distinguish carrots/ carvitas from parsnips.
– Used “against cold rheum (a runny nose), put bags containing hot powder of this herb on the head.”
– Used “against stomachache due to wind or coldness,” strangury, dysuria and kidney stone, against liver and spleen hardness or obstruction, and against excess fluid.
– they contain antioxidants which may potentially have anticancer, anti-inflammatory and antifungal properties.
– the dietary fiber in parsnips is partly soluble and partly the insoluble type and may help prevent constipation and reduce blood cholesterol levels.
– We will buy parsnip seeds and see what we get and compare them to the white carrots we’re growing which are different species though the two were confused..

Pisos Mauriscos” so peas


– in medieval times, field peas, grains, cabbages and beans are mentioned as basic food staples that kept famine at bay. Not much on them as medicinals.– Peas are high in fiber, protein, vitamins A, B6, C, K, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, iron, zinc and lutein.
– planting “sugar snap” and “early perfection.”
– Peas are one of a very few plants that fix nitrogen into the ground.

Pepones” so pumpkin or melon
(Usually peopones is translated as pumpkin but all squash and gourds were undiscovered at this time–it was probably a large melon.)


– Pumpkin: Neither pumpkin nor its seeds were eaten in medieval times by Europeans like Charlemagne.
– Watermelon: The ancient Greeks praised watermelon for its healing properties, Pliny the elder referred to it as an “extremely cooling food.” By the 1300s Europe had paintings of watermelons with the red flesh of today.
– The fiber, potassium, and vitamin C in pumpkin all support heart health, it also has high antioxidant levels.
– Pumpkin seeds have omega-3, selenium, calcium, B vitamins and beta-carotene.
– Waternelon is anti-inflamm-atory, contains heart- and eye-healthy nutrients and vitamins A, B1, B5, B6, C, potassium, magnesium, carotenoids and citrulline.
– nothing fancy, bought modern jack o’ lantern, small sweet pumkin and watermelon seeds for the side yard.
– ironically watermelon is much older and its seeds have been found in Libya from 5,000 years ago, and even in King Tut’s tomb, though they have gotten less bitter and more sweet over the millenia.

Eruca alba” so rocket/arugala


– Used for coughs
– it was used to help with fevers, help sleep, suppress “empty dreams”, helps the stomach.
– was considered an aphrodisiac later in the Middle Ages and forbidden in monastery gardens.
– has high vitamin K and potassium which helps healing bones and muscles.
– has vitamin A and beta carotene which protect eyes
– is anti-inflammatory, has antioxidants and carotenoids, good for fighting cancer, good for eyes and liver; high fiber good for digestion, etc.
Rocket” is the British word for arugala, an Italian leaf plant that came to them via northern Italy and France. In the 1980s it become popular in US which got the word “arugala” more directly from southern Italy. It’s mostly used today as a higher-nutrient lettuce.

Ros Marinum” so rosemary


– rosemary was used to help alleviate muscle pain, improve memory, boost the immune and circulatory system, and promote hair growth.
– more generally it has been known since ancient Rome to help with memory.
– anti-inflammartory, anti-oxidant, a good source of iron, calcium, and vitamins B-6 and E.
– can help protect immune system, improve blood circ., promote eye health.
– it improves memory and strengthens joints/cartilage
– have three rosemary plants, will try to clean out/ weed during summer.
– rosemary tinctures have personally helped us with headaches.

so sage


– longtime remedy for tooth, throat and mouth inflammation and as a common tooth polish, gargle.
– to reduce perspiration.
– for coughs and hoarseness, muscle aches, nervousness, and as a general tonic for fatigue.
– stimulant, astringent, diuretic, expectorant, nervine, anxiolytic, anti-inflammatory, memory boosting, anti-microbial, and antioxidant, battles infection on all fronts.
– reduces perspiration, a tonic for nerves, fatigue.
– have a sage plant, will try to keep it alive during Florida summer.
– Bought some broadleaf sage seeds, same species.

Spinacea” so wild spinach


– since modern spinach didn’t reach Europe until centuries after 800 A.D. This is almost certainly a reference to wild spinach (spinacia tetrandra) and information on what medievals considered it good for is scarce. References to help with digestive issues are mentioned here and there.
– in any list of highly nutritious foods “dark leafy greens” are at or near the top, and spinach is one.
– it is high in nutrients and antioxidants, may benefit eye health, reduce oxidative stress, help prevent cancer and reduce blood pressure.
– we are likely to just plant spinach. Whatever nutrition there may have been in wild spinach is likely higher in modern spinach, but not will be learned as they do seem different.
– is in the amaranth family, related to beets and quinoa.

so summer savory


– for stomachs, throats, muscle inflammation

– now known for helping with coughs, sore throat, and digestion/intestinal issues and loss of appetite.– a peppery herb used in French cooking esp. in herbes de provence. Bought seeds: Satureja hortensis.

Dragantea” so tarragon

– a culinary herb that had limited medical use but was used by some to preserve food, calm the nerves, increase appetite, help with colic and to relieve rheumatism, toothaches and fatigue and generally calm the nerves.

– now known to have high antioxidant content which accounts for its help in preserving meats, it has proven anesthetic properties and likely did help toothaches and inflammation.
– tarragon is used to aid digestion, as a mild sedative, and as a heart disease prevention aid. tarragon tea is still used for insomnia.

– an aromatic perennial used for its licorice flavor. In Latin, dracunculus, means “little dragon” which aided a late medieval/ Enlightenment belief that it should treat snake bites (its roots appear serpentine). The flawed idea at this later period was that the shape of a plant reflected its use (the discredited “Doctrine of Signatures”.)

Sinape” so white mustard


– while always considered a culinary condiment, white mustard has also been long believed to be an aphrodisiac, it being the spicier cousin to brown mustard, and was often mixed with sweet wine.
By the 13th century culinary merchants in France sold mustard among their daily sauces. Pope John XXII of Avignon loved mustard so much that he created a Vatican position “Grand Moutardier du Pape” (Grand Mustard-Maker to the Pope), and gave the job to a nephew near Dijon. Dijon soon became the mustard center of the world.

– the seed is antibacterial, antifungal, carminative, digestive, diuretic, emetic, expectorant, rubefacient and stimulant. The seed is seldom used internally as a medicine in the west. Externally it is usually made into mustard plasters (using the ground seed), poultices or added to the bath water. It is used in the treatment of respiratory infections, arthritic joints and skin eruptions etc. At a ratio of 1:3, the seed has an inhibitory action on fungus growth but can be an irritant to the skin.

– We have Florida broadleaf mustard seeds, Brassica juncea. Turns out these are brown mustard seeds. Need to get white mustard seeds.


Coming soon.


The Medieval Horticulture series of articles seeks to shed light on what was actually being done in the Middle Ages, which were not so “dark” as many think. The simple act of growing of gardens for food and medicine has been pulled in many directions: towards astronomy, toward the idea that plants should treat the organs they look like, towards pagan and new age re-interpretations of medicinal herbs, towards political environmentalism, simple practitioners have been looked down on, looked askance at been declared superstitious. This series of articles seeks to uncover what was really going on in the gardens of the faithful, and what it really meant.

Link to Herbalism page

%d bloggers like this: