[Sca-cooks] Cloves / Gilliflowers was: Caudle spices

Johnna Holloway johnnae at mac.com
Tue Jul 13 06:42:51 PDT 2010

After the last major discussion on the topic of cloves and those pesky  
gilliflowers or clove pinks,
I kept an eye out for more on the topic. (I know the obsessive/ 
compulsive reference librarian dies hard.)

I was rewarded by coming across an article which
appeared in Garden History. The author is John Harvey; he's the author  
of the
book Mediaeval Gardens and numerous papers on plants and garden history.

In this paper on "Gillyflower and Carnation" Harvey looks at the  
question of how
old the plant is in Western European gardens. Instead of dating to  
ancient or
classical times, Harvey writes "It now seems far more probable that
the real carnation, the old double red clove, is the most modern of  
all the
classical plants brought into cultivation before the great age of  

He also promises, "We shall deal later with the question whether, in  
the period
1386-1400, the word clowe-gilofre can have meant anything else than  
the spice

Harvey notes part of the problem in English is the plant has numerous  
It doesn't turn up as Gilliflower in that spelling until 1535;
it's also applied to a number of plants which doesn't help. William  
Turner in the mid-16th
century certainly failed to be consistent in his various lists and  
compounding the confusion.

Harvey traces the plant back through medieval plant lists and through  
When Chaucer writes:
"Ther was eek wexing many a spyce,
As clow-gelofre, and licoryce,
Gingere, and greyn de paradys,
Canelle, and setewale of prys,"

he was talking about spices.

Harvey traces the word "clow-gelofre" etymologically back to its roots  
and notes
that it must be the spice cloves in the 15th century and earlier. He  
does the
same for all the other early quotations mentioned in the OED.

After several
pages of also tracing the plants, Harvey concludes "Neither gilofre nor
in any spelling, occurs before 1500 as unequivocally the name of a  

He believes the plant could not have been introduced much before 1500.  
to general modern supposition, but in agreement with the views of  
Ruellius and
Gerard, the Carnation is not an ancient but a relatively modern  
addition to the
garden flora."

Harvey, John H. "Gilliflower and Cranation." Garden History. 1978: V. 
6, 1
(Spring), pp. 46-57. [The article can be found on Jstor.]

What this article indicates is the English manuscript recipes that  
clow-gelofre and its many forms prior to 1500 must be indicating the  
spice and
not the flower. Only after 1500, possibly quite later than 1500 in  
fact, would
it be possible for it to be a flower.

hope this helps

Johnnae llyn Lewis

On Jul 10, 2010, at 12:52 PM, Phil Troy / G. Tacitus Adamantius wrote:
> Gelofres is Cloves Gilofre. In some usages it may be the flower,  
> a.k.a. the Clove Pink, but in this case it's probably the spice,  
> cloves.

> Adamantius

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