Thomas Tusser, on Fruit to Plant in January

Frontispiece to ‘A New Orchard and Garden’ by William Lawson, 1618

Of trees or fruites to be set or remooved.

1 Apple trées of all sorts.
2 Apricocks.
3 Barberies.
4 Boollesse, black & white .
5 Cheries, red and black.
6 Chestnuts.
7 Cornet plums.
8 Damsens, white & black.
9 Filbeards, red and white.
10 Goose beries.
11 Grapes, white and red.
12 Gréene or grasse plums.
13 Hurtillberies.
14 Medlars or marles.
15 Mulberie.
16 Peaches, white and red.
17 Peares of all sorts.
18 Perareplums, black yelow.
19 Quince trées.
20 Respis.
21 Reisons.
22 Small nuts.
23 Strawberies, red and white .
24 Service trées.
25 Walnuts.
26 Wardens, white and red.
27 Wheat plums.

Thomas Tusser, Five Hundred Pointes of Good Husbandrie, 1580

Some re-identification needed here and there, I think:

‘Boollesse’ would be a bullace plum.

‘Cornet’ plums – the glossary of the 1878 edition of Five Hundred Pointes to the rescue: cornel plums, a.k.a. cornel cherries, a.k.a. cornelian cherry, a.k.a. Cornus mas.

‘Filbeards’ are filberts, or hazelnuts.

I expect ‘Gréene’ plums are greengages. It’s the first time I’ve heard ‘grasse’ plums, which is rather charming, as an alternative name.

Hurtillberies are hurtleberries, a.k.a. whortleberries, a.k.a. bilberries.

‘Perareplums’ – no idea again, but “black and yelow” suggests regular dessert plums? The glossary admits defeat as well: “some variety of plum either lost or unknown (if not a misprint)” whilst the notes and illustrations section (again, o the 1878 edition) suggets it should be ‘peareplums’ or ‘pear plums’, which were apparently popular as rootstock.

‘Respis’ is raspberry.

‘Reisons’ is a tricky one. Sounds like raisins, but raisins are just dried grapes, so unless Tusser didn’t know that and thought they grew on trees, it’s unlikely. Something similar-looking, like a blackcurrant? I’ve seen currants referred to as ‘corrance’ elsewhere, and they are the only distinct type of fruit missing from the list… yep, the glossary says currants as well.

‘Service tree’ is the Sorbus.

‘Small nuts’ (or ‘smalnut’ on the previous page in the text) – I think it’s unlikely to be almonds, as they were important enough to the cuisine of the time that they’d most likely have been mentioned by name. A smaller type of hazelnut than a Filbeard? The glossary concurs.

‘Wardens’ are large cooking pears and I read somewhere that they were such an important crop in their own right that were classed as being a separate category of fruit to dessert pears. (We grow ‘Black Worcester’ at Ordsall Hall, which is considered to be one of the oldest and original Wardens.)

‘Wheat plums’ – According to the glossary: “a large fleshy plum, sometimes called the bastard Orleans plum.”
(R. V. Roger sells a ‘wheat plum’, which from the photos looks like a type of greengage. There’s no mention of the history of the variety / cultivar though.)

If anyone can shed any more light on any of the above, please do leave a comment. I’d love to know more.

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