Tuesday, August 8, 2017

La Maison Rustique - The Potherbs - Beets

From: L'agriculture et maison rustique, Charles Estienne (Rouen, 1658).


The Potherbs

(Chapter 18)

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Beets

White, black, and red poirre, which are otherwise called beets and “Jottes des Tourangeois”, or “Romans des Picards”, are sown in Lent and all other times, especially from December to March, and in August, to always have old and new, and to collect seeds which last for three years. For this purpose it is necessary to replant it with five leaves, and to put a little fresh manure at the roots, and then to loosen the ground around the roots, and clean it thoroughly with grass. It grows well, and returns again when it has been cut, if it is put in rich soil and fumigated well. It has in itself this admirable peculiarity, that it acquires its sole perfection in the third year of its sowing, for that reason I advise the gardener not to collect the seed from the beet to sow, except that brought by the beet in the third year, for this seed will bring fine beets.

If you want to choose beautiful beets, choose more white than black or red, for they are prettier and more tender. To have them very large and white, the roots must be covered in fresh cow manure and split their stalks. As is done with leeks, put a large stone on them, or a tile. If you want to have red beets, water them with the lees of red wine, or put them in a place where they get a lot of heat from the sun.

Beet leaves eaten in soup loosen the belly. The juice of beet leaves drawn through the nose purges the brain. The same juice rubbed on the head causes lice and nits to die. Beet roots cooked among the coals and eaten take away the bad smell of garlic that has been eaten. Beet roots crushed and cast into wine, and three hours later it is converted into vinegar.

Beets are sown in March, and do not need to be left in the soil for a long time if they are planted in well plowed land. They will return the following years without being sown, so it is difficult to reclaim the land from them, and they do not require weeding or pruning.

Beet leaves loosen the belly. The decoction of their boiled roots and leaves kills nits and lice. Their flesh cooked among the coals, or boiled, heals burns. The first boiling of beet leaves, with beef tallow and oil of tartar, removes all spots from clothes without any damage, but place them in warm water immediately after washing.