Planting a Viking Garden

Planting a Viking Garden


Earlier this spring, it occurred to me that another good way to Viking up my life and home would be that when I’m planting the garden I was planning to plant anyways this spring, to make sure I planted as many things that the Vikings would have eaten fresh, as possible. So I did a bit of reading earlier this year, so that I could order seeds from a specialized merchant, if there were things I needed that I didn’t think I could find at the nursery. It turned out there were a fair few of these, since I was looking at herbs as well as vegetables, so it was a good thing I planned well ahead.

As it turns out, there is someone who has already written an article that did most of the research for me on this. So I will start by saying I relied fairly heavily on, and must give major credit to The Plants Used in a Viking Age Garden A.D. 800-1050 by Mette Eggen.

From the list provided in that article, I will be planting: Onion, Cabbage, Turnip, Peas, Beans, and Cress. The last 6 plants in the list I did not plant – Hemp, Flax, Woad and Hops are not plants used for eating (ok, yes, you can eat flax seeds, but it’s much more frequently used for pressing for oil, or to make linen), and apples and plums are, of course, tree fruit. Apples and plums I can readily buy at the grocery store in the summer, I can get them from the farmer’s market, or from friends who have an abundance. If I’m lucky, and the people who bought the empty lot next door haven’t chopped the trees down by the time they produce fruit, this summer I could even get some from the trees next door.

The first plant in the list, Angelica, is an herb that grows wild in Iceland, and it is native to Europe and Asia, but is not found in my area of Canada. it has been found on the eastern coast of Canada1, where is has been deemed an invasive weed. Given the fact that the Vikings are known to have landed in Canada around the year 1000, at sites like L’Anse aux Meadows2, I can’t help but wonder if it was brought over by the Vikings. This is pure conjecture on my part, however, and I have no evidence for this (yet. It merits further research though, I think!) I did order seeds for Angelica, but because it is difficult to germinate, I also ended up ordering some seedlings to be shipped to me.

I did do further research on my own, and to this list I have added:
Carrots (which wouldn’t have been orange, I am certain of that, but I’m not sure what colour they would have been)
White Mustard
Mint
Strawberries
Thyme
Mallow
Caraway
Coriander
Dill
Lamb’s Quarters
Stinging Nettle (I can get this wild here, in fact I think I’ll just be transplanting some from a friend’s yard)

Things the Icelanders grew which I am not growing, because they require too much land and are readily available in the store:
Barley
Wheat
Garlic (not because of the land use, but because it requires planting in the fall and I didn’t)

There are also a bunch of medicinal herbs that I am going to grow (most are still in seed form), but I will save those for another post. Right about now is the time to be getting things planted where I live, so that’s what I’ll be doing in the next week!

1. https://web.archive.org/web/20110927054751/http://www.natureconservancy.ca/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=13554&news_iv_ctrl=0&abbr=at_ncc_
2. Wikipedia page about L’anse aux Meadows

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