By Anne Ophelia Dowden
An creation to herbs, their heritage, features, and their many makes use of.
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Extra info for A Chronicle of Herbs: This Noble Harvest
The pomander was originally an orange stuffed with spices. Cardinal Wolsey carried one in which the pulp had been replaced by a sponge wet with vinegar and "other confections" and which he "smelt unto" whenever he went into a crowded room. Later, in the seventeenth century, sponges soaked in vinegar were enclosed in pomander cases or in the hollow heads of canes. Anything that could be washed with soap and water was kept clean, though the soaps of those days would seem inadequate to a modern housewife.
C. were colored with a red purple from the madder plant and a blue from indigo. C. were dyed blue with either indigo or woad; and at nearly the same time, the Egyptians were using safflower for yellows and reds. Pliny writes of the dye recipes of his day and mentions skilled dyers in Gaul who used vegetable pigments. All the life and color of the Middle Ages came from plant dyes, which tinted the wools of the intricately pictured tapestries as well as the bright fabrics of clothing and tournament banners.
Because 60,000 crocus flowers produce only one pound of saffron, it was always expensive, but in England (and other places as well), enormous amounts were used. In the time of Henry VIII, court ladies dyed their hair with saffron and used genista, so much none of of it that the king forbade the practice, fearing that his favorite herb would be left to flavor his food.