Gervase Markham, on Medicinal Apples

Infinit are the sorts and so the names of Apples comming as well of natures owne accord without the helpe of man, as of the skill of man, not being of the race of the former: in everie one of which there is found some speciall qualitie, which others have not: but the best of all the rest, is the short shanked apple, which is marked with spottings, as tasting and smelling more excellently than any of all the other sorts. And the smell of it is so excellent, as that in the time of the plague there is nothing better to cast upon the coales, and to make sweet perfumes of, than the rinde thereof. The short stalked Apple hath yet furthermore one notable qualitie : for the kernells being taken out of it, and the place filled up with Frankincense, and the hole joyned and fast closed together, and so rosted under hot embers as that it burne not, bringeth an after medicine or remedie to serve when all other fayle, to fuch as are sicke of a pleurisie, they having it given to eat : sweet apples doe much good against melancholicke affects and diseases, but especially against the pleurisie : for if you roast a sweet apple under the ashes, and season it with the juice of licorice, starch and sugar, and after give it to eat evening and morning two houres before meat unto one sicke of the pleurisie, you shall helpe him exceedingly.

Various Authors (trans & edited Gervase Markham),
La Maison Rustique, or The Countrey Farme (1616)

La Maison Rustique, or The Countrey Farme is a compilation volume of various works by Estienne, Serres, Vinet, Albyterio, Grilli and others that was “newly reviewed, corrected and augmented with divers large Additions” by Markham. It offers the Jacobean land-owner a general guide to farm and rural household management.

As was usual for the early 17th century there’s a fair bit of magical thinking and folk remedy on display, such as the widely-held belief that the bubonic and other plagues were caused by miasma or ‘bad air’ that could be dispelled or countered with more wholesome scents. And pleurisy is an inflammation of the lining of the chest cavity surrounding the lungs, which doesn’t seem hugely likely to be eased by eating a roasted apple – frankincense-stuffed or not – although the placebo affect of a tasty dessert may have helped.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.