Of imperial lands and imperial courts

Capitulary of Charlemagne

Translator: Jean-Marc Bulit

Around the year AD 800, Charlemagne enacted a charter (capitulary), in chapter 70 of which appears a list of 90 plants and fruit trees recommended to cultivate in the gardens of the empire.

Hereafter is the list in Medieval Latin for the vegetables and aromatic plants. We have added in parenthesis the supposed translation of the Latin terms. Botanists and historians have no certainty about them: radices can mean turnip, radish or horseradish; pepones is often translated by pumpkin (squash and pumpkins are native American plants) while they were probably a kind of melon. Fasolium, translated by bean is not the common green bean (also native to the America continent) but a variety called black-eyed peas, also mongette, fagiole or fasiole in the Middle Ages.

Michel Chauvet, a researcher at the INRA in Montpellier, observes that the Empire of Charlemagne spread across a good part of Europe, from the North to the Mediterranean, and the scholars leaned on the authors of Antiquity, which were all Mediterranean. The list is therefore only indicative: in practice, some vegetables were easier to grow in Southern France (cucumber, melon, fennel…) than in the vicinity of Aachen.

De villis vel curtis imperialibus (Of imperial lands and imperial courts)

Volumus quod in horto omnes herbas habeant, id est (We want that in the garden they have all sorts of plants, that is):

Lilium (lily)
Rosas (roses)
Fenigrecum (fenugreek or methi)
Costum (costmary)
Salviam (sage)
Rutam (rue)
Abrotanum (southernwood)
Cucumeres (cucumbers)
Pepones (big melons)
Cucurbitas (European gourd)
Fasiolum (bean) = black-eyed pea
Ciminum (cumin)
Rosmarinum (rosemary)
Careium (caraway)
Cicerum italicum (chickpea)
Squillum (squill)
Gladiolum (gladiolus)
Dragantea (dragon arum)
Anesum (aniseed)
Coloquentidas (colocynth)
Solsequiam (heliotrope)
Ameum (meum athamanticum)
Silum (seseli)
Lactucas (lettuces)
Git (black cumin = nigella)
Eruca alba (aragula or rocket salad)
Nastursium (garden cress)
Parduna (burdock)
Peledium (pennyroyal)
Olisatum (alexanders)
Petresilinum (parsley)
Apium (celery)
Levisticum (lovage)
Savinam (savin juniper)
Anetum (dill)
Fenicolum (fennel)
Intubas (chicory)
Diptamnum (dittany of Crete or hop marjoram)
Sinape (mustard)
Satureium (savory)
Sisimbrium (water mint)
Mentam (corn mint)
Mentastrum (apple mint)
Tanazitam (tansy)
Neptam népite (nepeta) = catmint
Febrefugiam (common centaury)
Papaver (poppy)
Betas (Swiss chard)
Vulgigina (European wild ginger)
Mismalvas (marshmallows)
Malvas (lavateras) = malvas
Carvitas (carrots)
Pastenacas (parsnips)
Adripias (garden orache)
Blidas (purple amaranth)
Ravacaulos (kohlrabi)
Uniones (onions)
Britlas (perennial garlic)
Porros (leeks)
Radices (turnips or radishes)
Ascalonicas (shallots)
Cepas (Welsh onions)
Alia (garlic)
Warentiam (madder)
Cardones (fuller’s teasel)
Fabas majores (broad beans)
Pisos mauriscos (green peas)
Coriandrum (coriander)
Cerfolium (chervil)
Lacteridas (caper spurge)
Sclareiam (clary sage)

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Capitulaire de Charlemagne