Salads, or sallats/sallets, are lovely and usually really healthy, and the information we have from the late 1600s showed their increasing popularity upon the Restoration table. The most rudimentary study of the history salads would lead one to John Evelyn’s Acetaria, which was first published in 1699. This was an extraordinary book, pretty much the first of its kind. It’s interesting to think about how different the food was in the late Stuart courts in comparison to that consumed by the Tudors (meat heavy)!
From page 175 of Kate Colquhoun’s “Taste”:
“Unlike Pepys, the courtly horticultural Evelyn was so enamoured of the salads now playing a fashionable role at the table that he published the first book devoted just to them….as well as being a purist, Evelyn was slender, as intellectuals were supposed to be, and favoured simple mixtures of leaves and herbs, picking out the tiniest leaves, potatoes or roots and mixing them so that each fell “into their places like the notes in music.”
In the Bible of 17th Century household management, The English Housewife by Gervase Markham:
First then to speak of sallats, there be some simple, and some compounded; some only to furnish out the table, and some both for use and adornation: your simply sallats are chibols peeled, washed clean, and half of the green tops cut clean away, so served on a fruit dish; or chives, scallions, radish roots, boiled carrots, skirrets, and turnips, with such like served up simply; also, all young lettuce, cabbage lettuce, purslane, and divers other herbs which may be served simply without anything but a little vinegar, sallat oil and sugar; onions boiled, and stripped from their rind and served up with vinegar, oil, and pepper is a good simple sallat; so is samphire, bean cods, asparagus, and cucumbers, served in likewise with oil, vinegar, and pepper, with a world of others, too tedious to nominate.
Preserving of sallats:
Your preserved sallats are of two kinds, either pickled, as are cucumbers, samphire, purslane, broom, and such like, or preserved with vinegar as violets, primrose, cowslips, gillyflowers of all kinds, broom flowers, and for the most part any wholesome flower whatsoever.
Markham also wrote about “Sallats for show only” :
Now for sallats for show only, and the adorning and setting out of a table with numbers of dishes, they be those which are made of carrot roots of sundry colours well boiled, and cut out into many shapes and proportions, as some in knots, some in the manner of scutcheons and arms, some like birds, and some like wild beasts, according to the art and cunning of the workmen.
Back to Evelyn’s Aceteria, where he launches into how he loathed garlic:
Whilſt we abſolutely forbid it entrance into our Salleting, by reaſon of its intolerable Rankneſs, and which made it ſo deteſted of old; that the eating of it was (as we read) part of the Puniſhment for ſuch as had committed the horrid’ſt Crimes. To be ſure, ’tis not for Ladies Palats, nor thoſe who court them, farther than to permit a light touch on the Diſh, with a Clove thereof, much better ſupply’d by the gentler Roccombo.
I must say, I completely disagree with him on that. I love garlic- and use it as often as possible. 😉
Well, I hope this gives you all a better idea of what was used in salads in the 17th century!