Windmill £8.99 (298pp) (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop : 0870 079 8897
Forgotten Fruit, By Christopher Stocks
Friday 01 May 2009
Surveying the cornucopia in our supermarkets, we may think that this is a time of unparalleled choice for fruit and vegetables, but the Victorians would have tutted at the Spartan monotony of our diet.
They grew 42 different types of cabbage, 37 lettuces, 62 peaches, 53 peas... The contraction of cultivars came about through a combination of disease, commercial requirements and crackpot legislation. It costs £2,665 to register a single variety for two years on the EU's National List of legally certified seeds.
Christopher Stocks's splendid book offers a tempting glimpse of the wealth of delights that we are dnied in our straitened age. They include the Golden Jelly turnip ("it has sweet, tender, delicate yellow flesh, whose lack of fibre gives it an almost jelly-like consistency when boiled"), the "distinctly nutty and sweet" Blenheim Orange apple ("possibly the only apple whose taste has been described as addictive") and the Warwickshire Drooper plum. It was used to make an alcoholic refreshment called Plum Jerkum that had the effect of "leaving the head clear while paralysing the legs".
Stocks provides fascinating histories for the 26 fruits and vegetables covered here. Developed into tiny nibbles such as Scarlet Globe, Icicle and Black Spanish Round, the radish started out as a large root that the ancient Greeks utilised for rhaphanidosis (translated as "radishment"), which was an "extremely uncomfortable" punishment for adultery.
Arts & Ents blogs
St Patrick’s Day 2014: The worst Irish accents in film history
Under The Skin, film review: Scarlett Johansson is full-blooded as femme fatale alien
Best films on Netflix: 32 movies that will put an end to your scrolling
Lord of the Flies is still a blueprint for savagery
Game of Thrones star Sibel Kekilli wants more male nudity in the show
Katie Hopkins continues campaign to become Britain's most hated talking head with poorly timed Bob Crow tweet
No EU referendum under Labour: Ed Miliband to reveal that vote on membership is ‘unlikely’ in next Parliament if party wins power
Grace Dent: Who cares if she spells it Barraco Barner? Gemma Worrall is more employable than some bookish arts graduate
The rise of Ukip: Study warns Labour that Eurosceptic party's electoral base now 'more working class than any of the main parties'
Europeans have ‘got whiter’ due to natural selection in past 5,000 years, scientists say
Fracking is turning the US into a bigger oil producer than Saudi Arabia
- 1 Is your name now 'banned' in Saudi Arabia?
- 2 Exclusive: World’s most pristine waters are polluted by US Navy human waste
- 3 Gender-specific books demean all our children. So the Independent on Sunday will no longer review anything marketed to exclude either sex
- 4 Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370: Jet ‘hijacking’ began soon after take-off
- 5 'Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 plane found in Bermuda Triangle!' Viral Facebook links are profiting hackers