The first thing to know about the food of the Anglo-Saxon period was
that the people were limited to only foods they could make or find
themselves. This means only food they could grow or find in the
forests and the wild.
"Exotic foods such as potatoes, tomatoes, bananas, pineapples - fruits
and vegetables of the New World, were unknown here. Mediterranean
fruits, such as lemons and oranges were, as far as we know, not
imported, although we have documentary proof for the importation of
such things as figs and grapes." (http://www.regia.org/food.htm)
So that of course leaves the question, What did they eat?
FRUITS AND VEGATABLES
To begin "We know that they grew wheat, rye, oats and barley." The
wheat allowed them to bake bread, the barely was used for brewing and
the oats were used to make a nice porridge.
In the vegetable department they grew a form of carrot as well as
parsnips. Cabbage was also grown, but it is important to note that of
the vegetables known, most were very different then one would view
them today. The carrots for example were much smaller and less
orange...more of a dark red. The cabbage grown had smaller leaves
leaves with a different texture then one might find in the local
Other important vegitables of note were peas, beans, onions, roots and
leeks. Looking at the vegatables that were available to them one
understands why the spice trade was so important. In order to make
the food a little more tolerable they used various spices, both local
and exotic (they did manage to import spices, hense the spice trade).
Among the spices that is believed they imported are ginger, cinnamon,
cloves, mace and pepper. The spices that would have been made localy
include coriander, dill, thyme, opium poppy and summer savoury.
Fruits were also eaten of course. Small apples, plums, cherries, and
sloes would have been found on the dinnng plates of the people during
When the people wanted to forget their troubles they drank a fine
alchoholic drink named Mead. Mead was created from honey.
"Wine was drunk, but this was generally imported although fruit wines
may have been home-produced. There are also written references to
'apple-wine', probably a form of cider. Many fruit juices including
apple, pear and plum were drunk as were herbal 'teas' and infusions.
Whilst acorns are plentiful most years, they can only be eaten with
sufficient preparation. There is no mention in the Anglo-Saxon record
of them ever being used as a food stuff - with the closest instances
of Oak 'products' being the leaves as a remedy in the Ormont fragment
and the bark as an astringent in Bald's Leechbook. There may have been
many instances where a needs must approach may have occurred which was
not normal practice when food was in short supply. Evidence of such
practices has been observed at sites where grain was used for bread
production, but the bulk inclusion of random grass seeds suggests that
the flour was being padded out - either to make it stretch further
because there was actually little wheat, or simply because someone was
being ripped off."
"Spirits and fortified wines were not known although the apple wine
may have had quite a high alcohol content."
FISH AND MEAT
A plethora of fish were eaten during the period. By studying the
bones that have been found it has been possible to identify a number
of the fish that they did eat. Among these were herring, salmon, eel,
pike, perch, roach, flounder, whiting, plaice, cod and brown trout.
Shellfish were also eaten, Oysters, mussels and cockles.
The meat eaten during the period was of a fairly standard vareity, a
lot of the meat you would find people eating today. This includes
Sheep, cows, lamp, sometimes horses (this became to be a fairly taboo
activity except in times of famine), hens, Wild Boar and Deer.
Hens were used predictably for their eggs prior to being slaughtered.
-*- COOKING -*-
Cooking in the Anglo-Saxon period was a long and time consuming task.
"The Anglo-Saxons cooking methods did not always require utensils. One
could wrap food in leaves and clay, and cook it in the embers of a
fire. Spit roasting over an open fire was expensive because it
required metal instrument, large quantity of meat, as well as a long
time to cook. Other applications of direct heat included roasting,
grilling, and toasting."
"Bread was a constant of the daily diet, and they were made in large
ovens-either earth ovens or hot-air ovens. These ovens could also be
used for meat or other foods that needed a long time to cook. "
"The household hearth usually served as both a heating and cooking
device, in order to conserve fuel. Pots, griddles or frying pans were
sustained over or suspended above the fire. Sometimes the set is moved
outside, weather permitting, to keep the house cool and smoke-free.
Boiling and stewing were the most economical cooking methods-they
required little attention or time, and wasted little material. Meat
stews, soups, broths and pottages were all familiar dishes on the
Anglo-Saxon dining table."
-*- SAMPLE RECIPES -*-
"Grilled Trout With Herbs
The herbs below are what might have been used in Anglo-Saxon East
Anglia, but use whatever you might fancy. Try to use fresh, although
dried is acceptable.
6 fresh cleaned trout
6 sprigs fresh rosemary, or 1-2 tablespoons dried
75g (3 oz) soft butter
18 fresh mint leaves or 2 teaspoons dried
leaves from 6 sprigs fresh thyme or 2 teaspoons dried
6 fresh sage leaves or 1 scant teaspoon dried
1-2 teaspoons coarse sea salt
6-9 grinds black pepper
Put one sprig or generous shake of rosemary down the middle of each
fish. Chop all the other herbs and seasonings and mash them into the
soft butter. Use this to coat the fish generously on each side. Griddle,
barbeque or grill it for 4-5 minutes on each side or till the skin is
well browned and the flesh flaking off the bone. Baste now and then with
the butter which runs off. Serve at once with lot of fresh bread and a
salad or a simple green vegetable."
A recipe for Mead:
Here is a book you might find interesting, "Tastes of Anglo-Saxon
England" available from Amazon for $7.95.
You will also want to check out "Margarits's Anglo-Saxon Menu."
Cooking in Anglo-Saxon England
Anglo-Saxon England Index
Anglo-Saxon Culture: An Online Guide
I hope this is what you were looking for. If any part of my answer
requires clarification please let me know before rating it.
Have a great day!
Anglo-saxon era food
Anglo-saxon era recipes