For millenniums, in all different cultures throughout the world, cultivating and reaping herbs has been performed. It was even considered a high art in medieval Europe. With the Greeks lacking medical know-how and technology, the Middle Ages relied heavily on Medieval herbs for medicines. The practice they used mixed knowledge through experience with balderdash, but they did know much that was well-grounded.
The Medieval herb garden was a helpful and beautiful place, if it was used for medicine, seasoning or even quiet meditation. By visiting New York's Cloisters, you can observe a modern sample of what they were like. Even though it was built in the 1930's, it was made to mirror its Medieval counterpart almost identically. The designers of the Cloisters met their goal excellently.
The herb garden is prominently featured among The Cloisters' numerous sections. Despite the various types of New York weather that occur throughout the year, over 250 species are able to be grown.
These historical herb gardens were very original and had raised garden beds, wattle fences and a central wellhead along with the Medieval herbs. These gardens served as a magnificent centerpiece and were often surrounded by lush orchards and other pretty plants.
Herbs are typically hardy; however, many fragile herbs can not make it through a New York winter when subzero temperatures and snow are frequent. Hence, these delicate herbs are planted in period appropriate pots so that they can be brought inside during these frigid winters.
Herbs cultivated during Medieval times could be used for silly reasons like trying to ward off evil ghosts. It was believed that dill held magical powers. People also thought that they could be protected from the plague by rosemary. To try to treat epilepsy, sage was used.
At the Cloisters, herbs can be found placed in nine specific collections based on the original medieval groupings. The first group is for absinthe and thistles, while the second is dedicated to herbs used in medical applications, such as licorice or St. John's Wort. Aromatics such as lavender and lemon balm are in the third group.
Caraway and Fennel, Parsley and Borage were used for cooking. Other herbs like Meadow Rue were used for questionable reasons and there were herbs that were thought to be magical like Herb Robert.
Herbs were widely used in the middle ages, more so than today. But the same Medieval herbs remain available to modern herbalists. New research continues to identify medicinal properties of these herbs, often confirming that they are effective for the purposes they were used for centuries ago.
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