This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V26", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
The aboriginal inhabitants of Britain appear to have done little or nothing in the way of plant-culture with any object. It was after the arrival of the Romans that the subjugated Britons began eventually to follow the fashions of Italy, and those who could formed flower gardens and orchards; kitchen gardens perhaps, one has to add, since the Romans were "no great shakes" at the cultivation of vegetables for culinary purposes. In the matter of fruits we all know our great indebtedness to them. They introduced new species, they also improved upon others that were growing wild in our extensive forests. The fig, pear, plum, cherry, quince, apricot, peach, chestnut, and walnut are only a part of the fruits the Romans have been credited with, but they did not add much, if anything, to the English kitchen garden. Demand creates supply, as we are aware, and the Roman fashions in regard to meals, even during their grandest days, were rather peculiar. De Quin-cey has proved beyond question that their jentaculum and prandium translated by us as "breakfast" and "dinner," were meals of a shadowy kind - a slice of bread or biscuit, eaten anywhere, flavored by a fig, a date, or an olive. The ccena or supper was the sole substantial meal, consisting of several courses.
One course was all fish usually, another all fruits, but vegetables did not occupy a plare of importance in any. Some dishes of broth or stews were, however, flavored with herbs, and the vigorous stomachs of the Romans relished onions, leeks, and garlic. In two of these our taste is, on the whole, not at all in sympathy with theirs.
During the unsettled times when Dane and Saxon contended for the mastery, gardening was not much attended to in England. We know that many plants which had been introduced by the Romans were lost sight of. The preponderating population - the Anglo-Saxon race - had no particular genius in this direction, and it was not till after the Conquest that the London citizens appear, to have turned their attention to the raising of vegetables for the table. That city, from its position as the chief resort of visitors and the abode of the Court, was sure to take the lead in all matters i of progress. Undoubtedly the English got some valuable hints from over the Channel, nor should we be reluctant to acknowledge our early horti- cultural obligations to our French neighbors. We | have not failed to make them returns; indeed, at one time it was remarkable how eagerly every English method in gardening was examined and acted upon by the French gentry.
Subsequent to the Conquest a great impulse was given to all branches of gardening by the Crusades, which opened up more frequent communications between the countries of Europe and parts of Asia. Then, again, the palmers and pilgrims in their peregrinations often carried from one monastery to another the seeds or branches of some plant that was a novelty, which the monks would carefully cultivate in their small but well-tended plots. - Journal of Horticulture.