[Sca-cooks] Probably OOP cucumber questions

Johnna Holloway johnnae at mac.com
Tue Jul 7 06:06:26 PDT 2009

Here's a 17th century recipe from
The cook's guide: or, Rare receipts for cookery. By Hannah Wolley. 1664

To pickle Cucumbers to look very green.

TAke those that you mean to pickle, and lay them in water and salt three
or four daies; then take a good many great Cucumbers and cut the
out|sides of them into water, for the insides will be too pappy, then
boyle them in that water with Dill seeds and Fennel seeds, and when it
is cold put to it some salt and as much vineger as will make it a strong
pickle, then take them out of that water and salt and pour that over
them in your vessel, then let them stand close covered for a fortnight
or three weeks, then Pour the liquor from them and new boyle it, putting
in some whole pepper, cloves and mace, and when it is cold adde to it
some more vineger, and a little salt, then pour it on them again, and
let them stand a month longer, then boyle it again, and when it is cold
put some more vineger, and pour it on them again, then let them stand a
longer time, and as you see occasion boyle it over again, and alwaies
put your seeds and pieces of Cucumber on the top; be sure your pickle be
cold when you pour it over.

Another 17th century recipe from A choice manual of rare and select
secrets in physick and chyrurgery collected and practised by the Right
Honorable, the Countesse of Kent, late deceased ; as also most exquisite
ways of preserving, conserving, candying, &c. ; published by W.I., Gent.
by Elizabeth Grey, Countess of Kent (1581-1651). and W. J. 1653

To pickle Cowcombers.

Take the Cowcombers, and wash them clean, and dry them clean in a cloth,
then take some Water, and Vinegar, and Salt, and some Dill tops, and
some Fennel tops, and a little Mace, make it fast enough, and sharp
enough to the taste, then boyle it a while, and then take it off, and
let it stand and be cold, and then put in the Cowcombers, and lay a
board on the top to keep them down, and tye them close, and with|in a
week they will be fit to eat.

One of the problems is trying to determine what to search under because
you are just as likely to find "Cowcombers" as you are to find cucumbers.
The closet of the eminently learned Sir Kenelme Digbie Kt includes them
in pottages under at least two different spellings.

OED mentions a number of spellings and there's a mention that they
should be yellow.

1551 Turner /Herbal/ i. (1568) M iv b,
The fruyte of the cucumbre is for the most part yelow and long.

C. 1400 /Lanfranc's Cirurg./ 275
Of erbis he schal ete fenel..melones, cucumeris.

1535 Coverdale /2 Kings/ iv. 39
Then went there one in to the felde..& gathered wylde Cucumbers;

1582 N. Lichefield tr. /Castanheda's Conq. E. Ind./ 61 a,
[They] brought to sell many gourds and cowcombers.

And there were other plants that were also called cucumbers.

1548 Turner /Names of Herbes/ 32
/Cucumis sylvestris../maye be called in englyshe wylde cucummer or 
leapyng cucumer.

1578 Lyte /Dodoens/ iii. xl. 372
Of the wilde spirting Cucumbre..This Cucumber is called..in Englishe 
Wilde Cucumber, or leaping Cucumber.

Here's more in terms of dietary advice from
Butts, Henry. Dyets dry dinner consisting of eight seuerall courses. 1599.

Citrull Cucumbers

Choice. LOng: thicke: best ripe: yellow, like a ripe Orenge.

Vse. Excéedingly cooleth an hote stomacke: quencheth thirst: appeaseth

Hurt. Is hard of digestion: engendreth flearue & clammy humours, which
soone after proue virulent, but in a stomacke hote aboue measure: poison
to a cold stomacke.

Correction. Eate it with Onions, Oraggon wort, Mint, Rewe, Pepper, and
such other very hot things.

Degree. Colde in the ende of the second; moist in the end of the third.

Season. Age. Constitution. Bad nourishment, for any season, age, or

Cucumis citrulus.
Storie for Table-talke.

THe best vse of Citrull Cucumber is this. Pare off the rinde, and cut
the Cucumer into this broad sliees, & lay them in water. Then apply them
to the tongue of one sicke of a burning ague: it shall do him great
case. If you seeth them first with sugar, all the better; for by this
means they quench his thirst, mitigate the scalding heate of the feauer:
and in place of siccitie or continually instilla verie gratefull liquor,
with which the tongue, palate, throate, and drie soule of the patient,
is wondrously suppled and refreshed.


This plant, which is a variety of cucumber(?) is described by John
Gerald as follows:

THe Citrull Cucumber hath many long, flexible, and tender stalkes
trailing vpon the ground, branched like vnto the Vine, set with certaine
great leaues deeply cut, and very much iagged: among which come forth
long clasping tendrels, and also tender footstalkes, on the ends whereof
do grow floures of a gold yellow colour: the fruit is somewhat round,
straked or rib|bed with certaine deepe furrowes alongst the same, of a
green colour aboue, and vnderneath on that side that lyeth vpon the
ground something white: the outward skin whereof is very smooth; the
meat within is indifferent hard, more like to that of the Pompion than
of the Cucumber or Muske melon: the pulpe wherein the seed lieth, is
spungie, and of a slimie substance: the seed is long, flat, and greater
than those of the Cucumbers: the shell or outward barke is blackish,
sometimes of an ouerworne reddish colour. The fruit of the Citrull doth
not so easily rot or putrifie as doth the Melon, which being gathered in
a faire dry day may be kept a long time, especially being couered in a
heape of wheat, as Matthiolus saith; but according to my practise you
may keepe them much longer and better in a heape of dry sand.

2 The second kinde of Citrull differeth not from the former, sauing that
it is altogether les|ser, and the leaues are not so deepely cut or
iagged, wherein consisteth the difference.

He describes also a wild cucumber and under "of Cucumbers" he writes:

THere be diuers of Cucumber; some greater, others lesser; some of the
Garden, some wilde; some of one fashion, and some of another, as shall
be declared in the following chapters.

¶ The Description.

1 THe Cucumber creepes alongst vpon the ground all about, with long
rough branches; whereupon do grow broad rough leaues vneuen about the
edges: from the bosome whereof come forth crooked clasping tendrels like
those of the Vine. The floures shoot forth betweene the stalkes and the
leaues, set vpon tender foot-stalks composed of fiue small yellow
leaues: which being past, the fruit succeedeth, long, cornered, rough,
and set with certaine bumpes or risings, greene at the first, and yellow
when they be ripe, wherein is contained a firme and sollid pulpe or
substance transparent or thorow-shining, which together with the seed is
eaten a little before they be fully ripe. The seeds be white, long, and

One way to find recipes is to search under "cucumber" in Doc's index at

There are a number of Tudor-Jacobean recipes in Martha Washington's 
Booke of Cookery for cucumbers plus Karen Hess's notes.

Hope this helps


Bronwynmgn at aol.com wrote:
> My cucumber plants are going gang-busters - 9 cucumbers growing already, 
> and they only just started flowering.
> Are there any period cucumber recipes?  I can't think of any in the 
> European stuff I'm familiar with, but I focus mostly on northern European 15th 
> century and earlier, so that leaves out a lot of sources.  Is there anything in 
> later or more southern sources?

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