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AGRUMED: Archaeology and history of citrus fruit in the Mediterranean

 | 
Véronique Zech-Matterne
, 
Girolamo Fiorentino

The history of Citrus in the Low Countries during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Age

Wouter van der Meer

Texte intégral

1The climate in north-western Europe is not well suited to the commercial production of any Citrus fruit. Therefore, the history of Citrus in the Low Countries is one of consumption and trade rather than production. Nevertheless, one species of Citrus fruit, the bitter orange, was adopted as a national symbol by the northern Low Countries, or at least its colour was.

  • 1 Sanders 1995.

2When rebel cities in Holland and Zeeland declared William III of Orange regent in 1572, the juicy fruit that bears the same noble name had only recently been introduced to the collection of states that sixteen years later would become the Dutch Republic. The rebel tricolour of “orange, blanc et bleu” flown by the Orangeists during the Eighty Years’ War is said to have been inspired by the livery colours of the House of Orange. The colour orange, of course, represented the small French principality of that name. Even though the etymologies of the city of Orange (from Arausio) and that of the colour orange (from the fruit, Sanskrit naranga) followed different paths, both came to be associated with each other.1 Consequently, oranges and orange trees became associated with the House of Orange and pars pro toto with the Dutch Republic, and later with the nation state of the Netherlands (fig. 1).

Fig. 1 - William III of Orange as a child next to a potted orange tree, painted by Adriaen Hanneman in 1654. William is dressed in girls’ clothing, as was the Dutch custom for male children at the time.

Fig. 1 - William III of Orange as a child next to a potted orange tree, painted by Adriaen Hanneman in 1654. William is dressed in girls’ clothing, as was the Dutch custom for male children at the time.

Courtesy of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

  • 2 Blok et al. 1977-1983.

3This chapter will deal with the history of the genus Citrus in the part of north-western Europe known as the Low Countries. Here, “Low Countries” will be defined in the narrow sense, meaning the Dutch-speaking part of the Netherlands and Flanders. Historically, the period discussed will be roughly limited to the Middle Ages and the early modern age. This period encompasses the introduction of Citrus fruit in the Low Countries, as well as its diffusion to all social classes, initially from the highest. The material for this chapter was taken from archaeobotanical as well as historical sources, both published and unpublished. For macro-historical events, information was drawn from the standard work of Blok et al.2 No effort has been made to be exhaustive in the field of history and iconography. Instead, the sources used have been selected to give an as wide as possible overview of the history of Citrus, including economic, social historic and cultural aspects.

  • 3 Zohary et al. 2012: 146-147.
  • 4 Cottin et al. 2002.
  • 5 Philippa et al. 2007.
  • 6 Sanders 1995.

4The taxonomy of the genus Citrus is rather confusing. Research points to a large number of hybrids, originating from only a small number of parent species.3 For the sake of standardization, this chapter will follow the nomenclature of Cottin et al.4 A further problem was encountered when Dutch historical sources on the genus Citrus were studied. In the early modern age, for example, the names for lemons and citrons are used indiscriminately. Furthermore, for the modern reader it might be confusing that the older Dutch name for lemon (Citrus x limon) is the same as the modern name for lime (Citrus x aurantifolia).5 Also, no distinction is made between sweeter varieties of sour oranges and sweet oranges until around 1676, and even then often only by the more scientifically minded.6 In this chapter, distinctions will be made only when the historical sources give the possibility to do so.

1. Citrus in the Low Countries in the period before the late Middle Ages

5For most of history, the region known as the Low Countries has existed on the outer fringes of literate civilization, the northern part even more so. This poses problems for the study of the history of Citrus fruit, since there are hardly any Dutch literary sources other than those concerning state affairs until the later medieval period. Therefore, any statements on the periods prior to this one will be based on conjecture. Even so, some plausible inferences can be made.

1.1. The Roman period

  • 7 Pliny, Nat. hist., 13, 31; 15, 14; 23, 56; Dioskourides, Mat. Med., 1, 166.
  • 8 Cooremans 2008; Cavallo et al. 2008; Pals 1997.
  • 9 Livarda, van der Veen 2008.

6From classical sources it is known that the Romans were familiar with the citron.7 It is possible that these citrons were imported and used by the small Roman population present in several predominantly military or (more or less) urban settlements along and south of the Rhine river. Mediterranean imports such as figs, peaches and grapes, have certainly been found in the latrines of military forts and in features belonging to Roman vici.8 Roman culinary traditions (and perhaps medical ones as well) have been shown to have dispersed from settlements with a strong Roman presence to more rural, autochthonous populations in north-western Europe.9 However, there is no archaeobotanical or other evidence for the use of citron in the Low Countries during the Roman period, neither by the Romans nor by any other group of people.

1.2. The early Middle Ages

  • 10 Fischer 1929: 126-150; Harvey 1981: 25-36.
  • 11 Leuridan 1895.

7In the early Middle Ages the first historical sources concerning fruit production appeared in the Low Countries. During the early Middle Ages, monasteries and noble courts were supposedly the centre from which the cultivation of more exotic fruit types (requiring advanced techniques like grafting) was introduced to the local populace.10 The most important document on the orchards of imperial courts is the Capitulare de villis vel curtis imperialibus from the 9th century, a document that makes note of several fruit trees that every imperial court should have in its orchard, including peaches, mulberries, figs, pines, almonds and laurels. Also, the inventory Brevium exempla ad res ecclestasticas et fiscales describendas mentions several fruit trees of Mediterranean or Asian origin (peach, mulberry and quince) growing in the imperial domain of Asnapium, close to Rijsel (Lille).11 However, Citrus is not mentioned in either of these documents. The Plan of Saint Gall (MS 1092) is an early 9th century architectural drawing that delineates the ideal cloister layout. Although no monastery in the Low Countries will have followed this plan in detail, it gives an idea of which fruit trees were selected for cultivation. Included in the plan is an orchard which contains several Mediterranean species, but Citrus trees go unmentioned. From this it might be deduced that in the Carolingian period, the knowledge or desire to grow Citrus fruit in colder climates was lacking among the elite. Again, the possibility that Citrus was imported does exist, but there are no known finds of Citrus remains from the early Middle Ages.

1.3. The high Middle Ages

8The high Middle Ages saw a growing contact between north-west Europe and the (eastern) Mediterranean area. From this period there is a single reference to Citrus, made by the monk Thomas de Cantimpré from the town of Kamerijk (Cambrai) in his Liber de natura rerum (Harley MS 3717) written between 1242 and 1244. This encyclopaedic work in Latin names the Arbores Orientis que vocantur Adam, or Adam’s apple (Citrus x aurata), and the Medica arbor (Citrus medica). His work draws heavily on Pliny, but the Adam’s apple is a new addition. However, there is no evidence that citrons, Adam’s apples or any other kind of Citrus fruit were traded or consumed in the Low Countries during the high Middle Ages.

2. Late medieval historical sources concerning Citrus

9The first reference to Citrus in a literary text in Dutch is made by the Brugian Jacob van Maerlant in his Der naturen bloeme (The Hague, KB, KA 16) written in about 1270. This work is based on de Cantimpré, and van Maerlant mentions the same two species of Citrus, the citron and the Adam’s apple. The encyclopaedias by van Maerlant and de Cantimpré were not based on personal experiences, but on Pliny, and probably on several medieval authors. Therefore, it is not certain that either one of these authors ever actually came into contact with Citrus fruit, themselves.

  • 12 van Leersum 1912: 241, 255.
  • 13 Anon. 1485.
  • 14 Huizenga 1999: 275-276.

10Citron is also mentioned by the surgeon Jan Yperman in his medical manuscript Cyrurgie (BHSL.HS 1273), written in 1318. It was used in a method to whiten teeth, although it is possible that (Citrullus colocinthus) or quince (Cydonia oblonga) were meant in this recipe.12 Yperman also mentions a preparation named unguentum citrinum. The recipe for this salve, based on citron peels, is given, together with others, in the work Gart der Gesundheit.13 Yperman does make use of other works, but his text also contains original parts,14 and, as he was also a practicing medical doctor, it is possible that Yperman used these citron based preparations himself.

  • 15 Smit 1997: IX-XLIX.
  • 16 van Dale 1860: 34, 53, 75.
  • 17 Degryse 1960: 217, n. 3.

11For the Low Countries, the Flemish towns (Bruges in particular) were the centre of overseas trade with the Mediterranean in the 14th century. To tax this trade, toll houses were erected at strategic places, such as the entrance of the waterways to the Flemish and Dutch commercial ports.15 For Flanders, the most important of these toll houses were placed at the towns of Damme and Sluis. The toll tariff of Sluis is the earliest document in Dutch concerning trade to name Citrus fruit: it makes note of sour oranges (Citrus x aurantium), lemons (Citrus x limon) and citrons (Citrus medica).16 The tariff dates from 1252, but the existing text was actually written in 137617 (fig. 2).

Fig. 2 - Map of places named in text.

Fig. 2 - Map of places named in text.
  • 18 Verlinden 1992.
  • 19 Unger 1939: 6-116.
  • 20 Jansen-Sieben 1992.

12In the late Middle Ages, trade between north-western Europe and the Mediterranean world grew increasingly strong. The trade in exotic spices was highly profitable and, for most of the late Middle Ages, followed the Mediterranean trade routes.18 In the Low Countries, trade in spices often included the trade of Mediterranean products such as figs, grapes and pomegranates, as they are often mentioned together in documents, for example in the toll tariff of Iersekeroord from 1519.19 Even in retail, Citrus fruit was not only sold on the markets with other fruit, but also in shops where spices and drugs were traded: the apothecaries and pharmacies.20

  • 21 Hinneman 1958.

13References to Citrus remain quite rare in the literary sources of the 14th century. Sources that do name Citrus fruit, especially oranges, make clear that only the elite could afford them. From 1377 to 1386 the Duchess Johanna of Brabant (in the southern Low Countries) received several gifts of oranges from different members of the nobility.21 Apparently, oranges were an exclusive and rare gift, suitable for the aristocracy.

  • 22 Verwijs 1869: 189.
  • 23 Baron Sloet 1877: 43.
  • 24 De Meyer, van den Elzen 1980.
  • 25 Von Meyenveldt 2002.

14Oranges were not only magnificent gifts, they were also held in great esteem for their benefit to one’s health. This is confirmed by an account from the ledger of the war between Duke Albrecht II of Bavaria (Count of Holland) and the Friesians: one of Albrecht’s brothers fell ill in 1398 or 1399 and a courier was sent for pomegranates and oranges, to be purchased with the large sum of three guilders.22 That oranges were excessively expensive can also be inferred from the accounts of the Duke of Lorraine’s residence in Hattem in the northern Netherlands. An account from 1410 mentions the purchase of three pomegranates and four oranges for 10 guilders, and of two pomegranates for 45.5 groats in the apothecaries of the cities of Kampen and Zwolle.23 In 1419, the currency rate for the guilder was 31.5 groats.24 Assuming that the price for pomegranates was similar in both apothecaries, this would make the cost of four oranges about 7.83 guilders, more than a month’s pay for a master carpenter.25 The orange was a golden apple indeed.

Fig. 3 - Left: detail of the outer right panel of the upper register of the Ghent Altarpiece by Jan van Eijck. Right: detail of the centre panel of the lower register.

Fig. 3 - Left: detail of the outer right panel of the upper register of the Ghent Altarpiece by Jan van Eijck. Right: detail of the centre panel of the lower register.

http://legacy.closertovaneyck.be

  • 26 Snyder 1976.
  • 27 Harbison 1990: 261-270.

15A sense of luxury, wealth and the exotic is also conveyed by the depiction of Citrus in two works of the Flemish master Jan van Eijck. The first is the “Ghent Altarpiece” of 1432, where Adam and Eve are pictured on the two outer panels of the upper register. Eve stands on the right side, holding a Citrus fruit instead of an apple; very probably, a small Adam’s apple.26 In the lower register, van Eijck depicted date palms and Citrus trees in his vision of the landscape around New Jerusalem (fig. 3). According to Snyder, van Eijck gained his knowledge of these species during his travels to Spain, but, as mentioned before, the Adam’s apple and the orange were not unknown in Flanders in the late Middle Ages. The second painting, the “Arnolfini Portrait”, depicts the extremely wealthy Italian merchant Giovanni Arnolfini and his bride, probably in their house in Bruges. Several oranges are depicted behind the groom. These are thought to represent Arnolfini’s great wealth, but could also be understood as general symbols of marriage and fertility27 (fig. 4).

Fig. 4 - Jan van Eijck, the Arnolfini Portrait, 1434. Several oranges lie on top of the windowsill and chest.

Fig. 4 - Jan van Eijck, the Arnolfini Portrait, 1434. Several oranges lie on top of the windowsill and chest.

© The National Gallery, London.

  • 28 Unger, 1939: 235-488.

16In the late 15th century, the city of Antwerp took over the role of the main port of trade from Bruges. A toll was levied on ships trafficking the Scheldt estuary to and from Antwerp, and was named after the original toll castle of Ierserkeroord. The detailed, but not exhaustive, toll register shows several ships with cargoes including Citrus fruit.28 Two ships that paid the tax in the years 1373-1374 were carrying only a few barrels of lemons among other goods. In the late 15th century, from 1491 until 1499, the amount of Citrus traded along the Scheldt was probably still relatively small: according to the register, 30 or so barrels and 14 baskets of lemons, and about 4000 oranges aboard about 15 to 20 ships were carried past the toll house. The traders mentioned in the 15th century toll of Iersekeroord all have Dutch names, so we can assume that the cargoes mentioned were mostly meant for the local markets of Antwerp and the other towns along the Scheldt estuary.

  • 29 Smit 1997: 64v.

17In contrast, Citrus fruit is only mentioned once in the medieval toll registers of the numerous (more than ten) toll houses spanning the many waterways in the northern Netherlands. The register of the town of Gorinchem mentions a ship with only a small number of oranges travelling upriver in 1481, possibly to Nijmegen.29 It has to be taken in account, however, that these registers do not provide a complete picture of the trade on the Dutch waterways, since there were many dispensations from toll for many groups of merchants.

3. Historical sources on Citrus in the early modern age

  • 30 Unger 1931: 829-833.
  • 31 Unger 1939: 530-590.
  • 32 Stols 1993: 37.
  • 33 Unger 1929: 774.

18Between the years 1518 to 1570, four Spanish and 29 Portuguese ships with cargoes of oranges, probably bound for Antwerp, paid anchorage in the harbour of Arnemuiden.30 Compared to the century before, the size of the cargo of oranges and lemons traded over the Scheldt vastly increased. On January 21st, 1570, Juan de Riba from Laredo paid the toll of Iersekeroord in Antwerp for a cargo of 264 000 oranges and 3 000 lemons. Three months later, another cargo of 291 000 oranges came in from Laredo.31 This forms a sharp contrast with the small amounts of Citrus fruit traded over the Scheldt in the previous century. However, as Bruges was the central port of trade with the Mediterranean in the 15th century, one would expect the amount of goods traded along the Scheldt to have been lower. Still, it is clear that the 16th century saw a vast increase in trade, which also included considerable quantities of Citrus fruit. According to some, the number of oranges unloaded at Antwerp would sometimes be so large, that their price would drop below that of the common apple.32 In the 16th century, the sweet orange was introduced to Portugal from China, and subsequently could have become available in the Low Countries. In addition to oranges and lemons, citrons were also imported to Antwerp33 (fig. 5).

Fig. 5 - Left: shard of majolica pottery (1500-1550) possibly depicting oranges. Right: majolica dish depicting orange (1570-1620). Both archaeological finds from Rotterdam.

Fig. 5 - Left: shard of majolica pottery (1500-1550) possibly depicting oranges. Right: majolica dish depicting orange (1570-1620). Both archaeological finds from Rotterdam.

© Museum Rotterdam.

  • 34 Wille 1993.
  • 35 De Backer et al. 1993: 100-101.
  • 36 Dodonaeus 1554: 760-762.
  • 37 Lobelius 1581: 167-169.
  • 38 Clusius 1605: 50-52.

19More than their northern counterparts, the southern Low Countries, with their strongly developed cities, were caught up in the cultural and scientific bloom of the Renaissance. Helped by the newly invented printing press, an increasing number of medical treatises and botanical works were written and published. The greatest botanical authors in the southern Low Countries were Rembert Dodoens (Dodonaeus), Mathias de Lobel (Lobelius) and Charles de l’Écluse (Clusius).34 Of these three, Dodonaeus was the first and the most innovative. Following the works of German botanists like Leonhart Fuchs and Otto Brunfels, he composed a massive herbarium, compiling all the (presumed) medical properties of the native Dutch flora, as well as the more exotic plants that were available in local markets and pharmacies.35 In the first edition of his magnum opus Cruydeboeck,36 Dodonaeus mentions three species of Citrus fruit: the bitter orange, the lemon and the citron. He mentions that these species grow in Italy, Spain and in some parts of France. “In the gardens of these lands (around Malines)”, he further states, “people grow the trees, but they don’t produce fruit, only on the rarest of occasions”. Lobelius mentions the same Citrus species in his Kruydtboeck a few decades later,37 and, in addition, the Adam’s apple mentioned by van Maerlant and depicted by van Eijck. Clusius mentions the same four species of Citrus in his Exoticorum libri decem, and, in addition, several varieties of the lemon38 (fig. 6).

Fig. 6 - Pastiche of three species of Citrus fruit (orange, lemon, citron) depicted by Dodonaeus in his Cruydeboeck (1554).

Fig. 6 - Pastiche of three species of Citrus fruit (orange, lemon, citron) depicted by Dodonaeus in his Cruydeboeck (1554).
  • 39 Clusius 1561.
  • 40 Imbesi, De Pasquale 2003: 580-584.

20As a medical doctor, Dodonaeus was mostly interested in the medical properties of Citrus. He ascribed to oranges and lemons a general preventive and curative effect on all kinds of diseases, especially of a gastric nature. In addition, citron and lemon were used in several medications. Clusius mentions in his Antidotarium several preparations containing both citron and lemon.39 These were thought to lessen fever and combat pestilence, fortify the brain, stomach and heart, help with drunkenness and dizziness and give pleasant breath. Several later 17th-century pharmacopaea contain recipes for preparations with the peels, seeds or juice of the citron, lemon or orange.40 These were thought to help with the aforementioned or similar afflictions, and, in addition, were also used to combat scurvy.

  • 41 Braekman 1990: 7.

21Some of the 17th-century pharmacopaea give recipes for cosmetic preparations made with citron. In the 16th century, Citrus was also not only used for medical purposes. An anonymous work of 1549, Het batement van recepten, gives all kinds of recipes for daily use, based on an Italian work from around 1525.41 One recipe describes a way to remove stains from woollen or linen cloth by using the juice from lemons, citrons or Adam’s apples. Another mentions the use of lemon juice as an invisible ink. Lemons or citrons are further used in preparations to clean clothing or hands and in preparations for skin care.

  • 42 Anon. ca. 1514.
  • 43 Jansen-Sieben, van Winter 1989: 41-42.

22The earliest sources do not explicitly mention any culinary use of Citrus. Even so, Dodonaeus lists the genus in his chapter on “Herbs, roots, and fruits used in food”. Also, Citrus fruit is not mentioned in the 15th or early 16th century Dutch cookbooks Keukenboek (manuscript: UB Gent 1035) of 1484 and Een notabel boecxken van cokeryen.42 Perhaps Citrus fruit was initially appreciated more for its medical properties, but it is also possible that it was enjoyed fresh, and that its use as a culinary ingredient came later. The first documented culinary use of Citrus in the Low Countries is from a manuscript (UB Gent 476) dating to the first part of the 16th century, and thought to have belonged to a family of the Flemish nobility.43 In this cookbook, oranges were confectioned or otherwise preserved, and lemon juice seems to have been used as a souring agent as an alternative to verjuice, a kind of sour grape juice. A few recipes use succade: confectioned citron or lemon peel (fig. 7).

Fig. 7 - The Well-stocked Kitchen, Joachim Beuckelaer, Antwerp 1566. Lemons are depicted with olives in the lower right, oranges and lemons (?) in the middle right.

Fig. 7 - The Well-stocked Kitchen, Joachim Beuckelaer, Antwerp 1566. Lemons are depicted with olives in the lower right, oranges and lemons (?) in the middle right.

Courtesy of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

23The late 16th century saw the start of the Eighty Years’ War between (chiefly) the northern Netherlands and the Habsburg Empire. During these struggles, a large part of the populace of the southern Low Countries fled to the north. As a result, Amsterdam became the largest commercial port in the Netherlands, to the decline of Antwerp. In the 17th century Amsterdam became one of the most important trading hubs in northern Europe, and the Dutch Republic entered an age of prosperity.

  • 44 Kalkman 2003: 165.
  • 45 van Linschoten 1597: 77.
  • 46 de Hullu 1903: 22.
  • 47 Rumphius 1741: 96-116.

24During this so-called Golden Age, the northern Netherlands established extensive trade contacts in East Asia and founded or took by force a string of colonies in southern Africa, Persia, India, South East Asia and Indonesia. To remedy the trade deficit in the Dutch-Asian commerce, the Dutch East India Company (Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie: VOC) joined the East Asian internal trade. Since most Citrus species and hybrids originated in East Asia,44 this meant that Dutch merchants and colonists came into contact with a wide range of these fruits. One of these was the lime (Citrus aurantifolia), encountered by van Linschoten during his stay in Goa (India).45 Another was the pomelo (Citrus maxima), first mentioned in Dutch records in the register of the fort of Batavia (Jakarta) in 1648 as one of the products brought to the local market.46 These economically useful fruits, along with twenty-two varieties of nine other species of Citrus (including Citrus hystrix), are included in the herbarium commissioned by the VOC and compiled by E.G. Rumphius in the late 17th century47 (fig. 8).

Fig. 8 - Branch from the lime tree, depicted by Rumphius. On the lower left a deformed specimen of lime fruit.

Fig. 8 - Branch from the lime tree, depicted by Rumphius. On the lower left a deformed specimen of lime fruit.
  • 48 Baas, Veldkamp 2013: 11.
  • 49 Bruijn et al. 1987: 165.
  • 50 Kolbe 1727: 74, 319-320.
  • 51 Schooneveld-Oosterling et al. 2013.

25From their first journey in 1602 onward, the VOC ships carried lemons to combat scurvy.48 During regulation stops at the Cape of Good Hope (a Dutch colony from 1652 to 1795), they took on fresh fruit for the same reason.49 The geographical work of Peter Kolbe names the types of fruit grown in the Dutch colony on the Cape of Good Hope, which include sweet and sour oranges, two varieties of lemons, citrons, and even pomelo.50 It seems that Citrus fruit was not imported from East Asia by the Dutch, at least not in great numbers. No return cargo of Citrus is mentioned in the data in the ledgers and journals of the VOC’s Bookkeeper-General, that span a total of 55 years in the early 18th century and describes the cargo of 18 000 voyages in detail.51 Citrus was, however, traded from one colony to another. Salted lemons and lemon juice were transported between colonies, mostly from Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) to South Africa. Confectioned oranges were brought from South Africa to Batavia (Jakarta, Indonesia) on several occasions. In one instance, 100 pomelos were brought from Batavia to Surat (India).

  • 52 Houttuyn 1774: 192-207.
  • 53 Meriaen 1730: 17.
  • 54 Houttuyn 1774: 201.
  • 55 Anon. 1722: 99.
  • 56 Anon. 1758: 51.

26Rumphius mentions that some of the Citrus species he described were introduced to Indonesia by Portuguese or Dutch merchants and colonists. Similarly, Citrus was introduced to the Americas by the Spanish and Portuguese, and possibly by the English or Dutch. According to Martinus Houttuyn, citrons, lemons, oranges and pomelos grew abundantly in Surinam, a Dutch possession from 1674 to 1975.52 Limes also seem to have been common.53 On the island of Curaçao, a Dutch colony from 1634 to 2010, the introduction of bitter orange resulted in a variety with an especially fragrant peel, according to Houttuyn: the Curaçao orange (Citrus x aurantium var. currassuviencis).54 Nowadays these peels are used in liquor, and according to a single reference in an 18th-century anonymous song book, this is a tradition that goes back to at least 1722.55 In one of the Dutch cookbooks from the 18th century this variety is also mentioned by name.56 In this recipe the entire fruit is used, which means that, at least in the 18th century, these oranges were being imported from the western Dutch colonies.

27In the 17th and 18th century, expeditions brought an ever-increasing number of plants back to the Netherlands from all over the world, especially from the colonies. To accommodate some of these plants during the cold Dutch winters, special buildings were erected following Italian and French examples. The most advanced of these had a great number of glass windows facing towards the south. The first of these arose in the Botanical Gardens of Leiden and Leuven universities, other universities followed suit. For the wealthy, it became fashionable to build such buildings on their country estates. The most common tree in these buildings was the orange tree, resulting in the name of oranjerie for this kind of building (fig. 9).

Fig. 9 - The orangery of the Botanical Garden of Leiden University, depicted by Commelijn (1676).

Fig. 9 - The orangery of the Botanical Garden of Leiden University, depicted by Commelijn (1676).
  • 57 Commelijn 1676.
  • 58 Houttuyn 1774: 205.

28Jan Commelijn, an expert on the cultivation of Citrus, and a professor of botany at the University of Amsterdam, wrote a manual that was dedicated solely to the cultivation of Citrus in the north-western European climate.57 Commelijn stated that Clusius was probably the first to bring Citrus trees to the (northern) Netherlands, when he became director of the Botanical Gardens of Leiden University in 1594. He further stated that the art of cultivating Citrus trees was by then already successfully practised in the southern Low Countries. According to Commelijn there were ten species of lemon (including the Adam’s apple) that would bear fruit in the Dutch climate, as well as eight species of bitter orange. The citron, however, failed to produce fruit in these parts. Incidentally, Commelijn is the first to explicitly name the sweet orange in Dutch. During the writing of his work he was still experimenting with growing sweet oranges, but he had heard that others in the southern Low Countries were already successful in producing a crop. In addition, according to Houttuyn, the pomelo could also be successfully cultivated with the use of an orangery.58 Apparently, in the Dutch climate, during colder years, it could take as long as 18 to 20 months for the Citrus fruit to completely form and ripen.

  • 59 Battus 1593; Magirus 1612; Anon. 1667.
  • 60 Anon. 1754; Anon. 1758.
  • 61 Anon. 1758.

29In the three cookbooks published in the late 16th and 17th century an increasing number of recipes makes use of lemons, oranges or citron.59 At the end of the early modern age, in the two cookbooks from the 18th century, about one third of the recipes make use of Citrus in one form or another.60 In this period, lemon was not only used as an alternative for verjuice but also in its own right for cakes and desserts, to accompany fish and poultry and as a garnish. The use of orange buds and flowers in several recipes in Volmaakte grond-beginzelen der keuken-kunde61 is intriguing. The author appears to assume that his public had access to orange trees, meaning that this work was written for the same wealthy elite who could afford the aforementioned orangeries. Similarly to the earlier ones, the cookbooks published in the 17th and 18th centuries were aimed at a public that was not only literate, but who also had a certain level of affluence (fig. 10).

Fig. 10 - Pieter Claesz, Still Life with Turkey Pie, 1626, picturing a lemon and an orange.

Fig. 10 - Pieter Claesz, Still Life with Turkey Pie, 1626, picturing a lemon and an orange.

Courtesy of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

  • 62 Houttuyn 1774: 200.
  • 63 Asselijn 1693: 25.
  • 64 Bernagie 1685: 20.
  • 65 De Vries 1682: 285.
  • 66 Halmael 1711: 9.
  • 67 Brinkink 1748: 47.
  • 68 De Roever 1996: 228, n. 16.

30By the end of the 18th century Houttuyn remarks that sweet oranges were imported to Amsterdam in large numbers.62 This would suggest that during the early modern age, Citrus fruit became more available in the Northern Netherlands. However, in the play Spilpenning from 1692, oranges are still associated with luxury and opulence:63 fresh oranges were deemed fit as a dessert at a wedding banquet.64 In contrast, in 1682, Simon De Vries complained that oranges used to be consumed by people of stature only, but that nowadays even the servants ate them.65 In the 1710 play De koning van luilekkerland, oranges and lemons are sold not in an apothecary, but at the market alongside other fruit.66 One of the people hanged for the public unrest of 1748 was a fish monger, known as the “lemon wench”, who sold lemons and plaice, a fish generally associated with the lower classes.67 An extraordinary source from the 18th century is the Almanak of Arent van der Meersch, a rather affluent but prudently-living inhabitant of Amsterdam, who listed what his family ate for the period of one year. He mentions a recipe for the confection of oranges, using 150 of them in July.68 From these sources it appears that Citrus fruit became available to the lower classes during the late 17th or 18th centuries (fig. 11).

Fig. 11 - Jacob van Hulsdonck, Still life with lemons, oranges and a pomegranate, 1620-1640.

Fig. 11 - Jacob van Hulsdonck, Still life with lemons, oranges and a pomegranate, 1620-1640.

Courtesy of the Getty's Open Content Program.

  • 69 Zohary et al. 2012: 146-147.
  • 70 Verlinden 1992: 138-139.

31Among the Flemish immigrants who migrated to the northern Low Countries in the 16th century were many Spanish and Portuguese Jews who has fled persecution on the Iberian Peninsula some decades earlier. The northern Low Countries granted freedom to practice the Jewish religion, even if they did not give Jewish citizens the same rights as Christian ones. Of interest here is the celebration of Sukkoth, since one of the central attributes in this festival is a Citrus fruit, the etrog or esrog (Citrus x limonimedica).69 The Jewish community would have had to import these fruits from warmer regions. This would have given very little trouble in the 17th and 18th centuries, but one wonders if and how these fruits were imported by the small Jewish community present during the early Middle Ages or even Roman times. From Gregory of Tours it is known that during the early Middle Ages Jewish traders in spices were present in Gaul, so the necessary long-distance contacts for the import of Citrus fruit were probably present70 (fig. 12).

Fig. 12 - Etching of the hakafot during Sukkoth in the Portuguese Synagogue, Amsterdam, by Bernard Picart (Picart 1727). The participants carry an etrog in their left hand.

Fig. 12 - Etching of the hakafot during Sukkoth in the Portuguese Synagogue, Amsterdam, by Bernard Picart (Picart 1727). The participants carry an etrog in their left hand.

4. Archaeobotanical evidence for Citrus in the Low Countries

32Archaeobotanical evidence of Citrus has been found solely in the northern Low Countries. Undoubtedly, the reason for this is the much higher density of archaeological and, especially, archaeobotanical research in the Netherlands. Belgian archaeologists made a strong move forward in the last decade, however, and surely Flemish Citrus remains will be uncovered in the near future.

33Citrus remains uncovered in the Netherlands consist of seeds, calices, pollen and fragments of peel. All these remains were preserved in waterlogged conditions. In all cases except one, the Citrus remains were found in urban contexts. In total there are twenty-one locations, of which eight are in Amsterdam. Other cities where Citrus remains were uncovered are Delft, Den Haag, Dordrecht, Harderwijk, Maastricht, Middelburg, Nijmegen, Utrecht, ’s-Hertogenbosch and Flushing. Almost all of these cities played a major part in the Dutch trade network during the early modern age. Westzaan is the only “rural” site, even though “pre-industrial” site might be a more accurate description (fig. 13).

Fig. 13 - Map of sites with finds of Citrus.

Fig. 13 - Map of sites with finds of Citrus.
  • 71 van Oosten 2014: 233-236.

34All archaeobotanical finds of Citrus seeds and pollen from the Netherlands stem from cesspits or other features used for the deposition of household waste and human excrement. A cesspit is an archaeobotanist’s treasure chamber, often containing many well-preserved macroremains from a plethora of species. In most cases, unfortunately, the contents of cesspits can only be dated roughly, at best. Furthermore, the contents of cesspits do not provide a sociologically homologous view of dietary customs in Dutch society. The phenomenon of the cesspit is limited to urban contexts in the period from the 14th until the 18th/19th centuries, and the presence of these features is determined by local factors, differing from city to city.71 Also, the state of preservation of the botanical remains differs per feature and site, and fragile remains like those of Citrus have a rather low chance of survival (fig. 14).

Fig. 14 - Top: Seed of Citrus sp. from the cesspit S30 from Amsterdam Oudezijds Voorburgwal 262-266, plot 1 (ca. 1750-1800). Bottom: Corroded seed of Citrus sp. from cesspit S36 from Utrecht-Klokkenveld (ca. 1400-1580).

Fig. 14 - Top: Seed of Citrus sp. from the cesspit S30 from Amsterdam Oudezijds Voorburgwal 262-266, plot 1 (ca. 1750-1800). Bottom: Corroded seed of Citrus sp. from cesspit S36 from Utrecht-Klokkenveld (ca. 1400-1580).

© BIAX Consult.

  • 72 van Beurden 2015.

35The earliest feature containing Citrus remains is a water well, filled with human refuse and household waste during its secondary use.72 The well is located in the city of Middelburg, which, due to its location on the Scheldt estuary and proximity to the Flemish ports, was highly involved in the trade between northern Europe and the Mediterranean during the late Middle Ages.

  • 73 van Haaster 2010b; van der Meer 2014.

36There are three cesspits with starting dates in the early 15th century and end dates in the 16th century,73 belonging to two different monasteries in Den Haag (1) and Utrecht (2). In the monastery at Utrecht, Citrus seeds were encountered in two cesspits, one of which also contained a calyx and a pollen grain. That three of the (probably) earliest finds of Citrus were recovered from monasteries might point to the exceptional status of these fruits in the late Middle Ages (fig. 15).

Fig. 15 - Photo of Citrus calyx from cesspit B of the Nieuwlicht monastery in Utrecht.

Fig. 15 - Photo of Citrus calyx from cesspit B of the Nieuwlicht monastery in Utrecht.

© BIAX Consult.

  • 74 van Haaster 2004a; van Haaster, van der Linden 2009.
  • 75 van Haaster 2003.
  • 76 Kooistra et al. 1998; van Haaster 2001; 2003; 2004a; 2009.
  • 77 van Haaster 2001; 2006a; 2006b; 2007; 2010a.

37Most of the Citrus remains from the early modern age have come from the cesspits of burghers’ houses, three of which have contents dating to the 16th century.74 One cesspit had several separate stratigraphical and chronological layers, two of which, dating to the 16th and 17th centuries, contained Citrus remains.75 Five cesspits had contents dating from the 17th century.76 Four cesspits date from the 18th century.77 In most of these cesspits the archaeobotanical assemblage points to the affluence of the users, which in some cases can be corroborated by other evidence (fig. 16).

Fig. 16 - Print by Olfert Dapper (1663). The inn De Kleine Karthuyzer is depicted in the foreground.

Fig. 16 - Print by Olfert Dapper (1663). The inn De Kleine Karthuyzer is depicted in the foreground.
  • 78 van Haaster 2001.
  • 79 Bredero 1617: 245.
  • 80 van Haaster 2001: 16-17.

38The cesspit that contained the most Citrus finds is located in Amsterdam and belonged to an inn named De Kleine Karthuyser.78 The pit had several separate layers dating to the first and second halves of the 17th century and to the first half of the 18th century. Three of these contained Citrus remains. The inn is mentioned by several well-known inhabitants of Amsterdam, such as Bredero.79 The archaeobotanical assemblage includes several exotics, but does not point to a high status clientele.80

  • 81 van Oosten 2014: 233-236.

39There are no features with Citrus from the 19th century or later. Firstly, this is because 19th-century cesspits are often not selected for archaeobotanical research. Secondly, in this period many households switched to different methods of waste disposal81 (fig. 17).

Fig. 17 - Number of cesspits and similar features in the Netherlands containing Citrus finds. Separately dated layers from single features are divided according to date.

Fig. 17 - Number of cesspits and similar features in the Netherlands containing Citrus finds. Separately dated layers from single features are divided according to date.
  • 82 Deforce 2010: 340-341.

40When interpreting these Citrus remains from cesspits in relation to dietary customs, the seeds and calices clearly point to consumption of the Citrus fruit (peel, flesh or juice). Citrus pollen could have adhered to Citrus peel, or it could have been present in ethereal oils, blossom extracts and other preparations containing Citrus, and it could even have come from locally grown trees. The chance that a link exists between the Citrus pollen and the use of Citrus products is weak, however, since it could have been present in other imported wares. Mediterranean honey is a good example of this,82 but Citrus pollen could also have adhered to grapes, figs and other imported Mediterranean produce.

  • 83 Buurman 1982.
  • 84 van Haaster 2004b.

41The two Citrus peel finds were present as the in situ contents of a container. These finds provide a unique insight into the way Citrus was used in the past. However, both finds are from the 18th century and therefore quite recent in date. The first in situ find was from an apothecary’s jar, found in a cesspit in Nijmegen with contents dating to 1700-1800. The jar contained Citrus peel (Citrus sp.), cassia seeds (Cassia sp.), caraway fruits (Carum carvi), fennel fruits (Foeniculum vulgare), anise fruits (Pimpinella anisum) and juniper cones (Juniperus communis). However, the contents were only subjected to preliminary research and the results were never published in full.83 The other in situ find was a bottle, recovered from a ditch at the aforementioned “rural” site of Westzaan. The bottle was dated to the 18th century. In addition to the Citrus peel (Citrus sp.) many aromatics were also discovered, such as Calamus root (Acorus calamus), Angelica root (Angelica sp.), laurel berries (Laurus nobilis), sage leaves (Salvia sp.), leaves of lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), coriander fruits (Coriandrum sativum) and pollen grains of clove (Syzygium aromaticum). These aromatics were common ingredients in several bitters (i.e. brandy infused with herbs), a common distilled drink in the 18th century84 (fig. 18-19).

Fig. 18 - 18th-century bottle containing remains of several aromatic compounds.

Fig. 18 - 18th-century bottle containing remains of several aromatic compounds.

© Gemeente Zaandam.

Fig. 19 - Photo of Citrus peel in the bottle from Zaandam.

Fig. 19 - Photo of Citrus peel in the bottle from Zaandam.

© BIAX Consult.

Summary

42It can be concluded that in the southern Low Countries citrons and Adam’s apples became subjects of scholarly study in the middle of the 13th century. Oranges, lemons and citrons were traded at least from the 14th century onward. During the Middle Ages they were considered rare, exotic and healthy, if not curative, and were only available to the wealthiest. In the 16th century the volume at which Citrus fruit was traded increased. Archaeobotanical finds in cesspits demonstrate that during this period Citrus also became available to the inhabitants of the major Dutch towns in the northern Low Countries, as is supported by historical sources. In general, Citrus still seems to have been associated with the upper strata of society. In the second half of the 16th century, Citrus gained the interest of the newly emerging botanical societies, and successful attempts were made to cultivate Citrus trees in the Low Countries on a small scale. From the 17th to 18th centuries Citrus became ever more available to the general public. In many colonies Citrus was plentiful, including the more tropical species such as lime and pomelo. However, these new species of Citrus do not seem to have become part of the Dutch culinary tradition.

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Verwijs 1869: E. Verwijs, De oorlogen van hertog Albrecht van Beieren met de Friezen in de laatste jaren der XIVe eeuw, naar onuitgegeven bescheiden door E. Verwijs, Utrecht (Werken uitg. door het Historisch Genootschap gevestigd te Utrecht, 8).

von Meyenveldt 2002: F. von Meyenveldt, Over guldens en gouden schilden, Land van Lochem, 1, p. 6-8.

Wille 1993: H. Wille, De botanische werken van R. Dodoens, C. Clusius en M. Lobelius, in F. de Nave, D. Imhof (eds.), De botanica in de Zuidelijke Nederlanden (einde 15e eeuw-ca. 1650), Antwerpen, p. 33-39.

Zohary et al. 2012: D. Zohary, M. Hopf, E. Weiss, Domestication of plants in the Old World, Oxford.

Notes

1 Sanders 1995.

2 Blok et al. 1977-1983.

3 Zohary et al. 2012: 146-147.

4 Cottin et al. 2002.

5 Philippa et al. 2007.

6 Sanders 1995.

7 Pliny, Nat. hist., 13, 31; 15, 14; 23, 56; Dioskourides, Mat. Med., 1, 166.

8 Cooremans 2008; Cavallo et al. 2008; Pals 1997.

9 Livarda, van der Veen 2008.

10 Fischer 1929: 126-150; Harvey 1981: 25-36.

11 Leuridan 1895.

12 van Leersum 1912: 241, 255.

13 Anon. 1485.

14 Huizenga 1999: 275-276.

15 Smit 1997: IX-XLIX.

16 van Dale 1860: 34, 53, 75.

17 Degryse 1960: 217, n. 3.

18 Verlinden 1992.

19 Unger 1939: 6-116.

20 Jansen-Sieben 1992.

21 Hinneman 1958.

22 Verwijs 1869: 189.

23 Baron Sloet 1877: 43.

24 De Meyer, van den Elzen 1980.

25 Von Meyenveldt 2002.

26 Snyder 1976.

27 Harbison 1990: 261-270.

28 Unger, 1939: 235-488.

29 Smit 1997: 64v.

30 Unger 1931: 829-833.

31 Unger 1939: 530-590.

32 Stols 1993: 37.

33 Unger 1929: 774.

34 Wille 1993.

35 De Backer et al. 1993: 100-101.

36 Dodonaeus 1554: 760-762.

37 Lobelius 1581: 167-169.

38 Clusius 1605: 50-52.

39 Clusius 1561.

40 Imbesi, De Pasquale 2003: 580-584.

41 Braekman 1990: 7.

42 Anon. ca. 1514.

43 Jansen-Sieben, van Winter 1989: 41-42.

44 Kalkman 2003: 165.

45 van Linschoten 1597: 77.

46 de Hullu 1903: 22.

47 Rumphius 1741: 96-116.

48 Baas, Veldkamp 2013: 11.

49 Bruijn et al. 1987: 165.

50 Kolbe 1727: 74, 319-320.

51 Schooneveld-Oosterling et al. 2013.

52 Houttuyn 1774: 192-207.

53 Meriaen 1730: 17.

54 Houttuyn 1774: 201.

55 Anon. 1722: 99.

56 Anon. 1758: 51.

57 Commelijn 1676.

58 Houttuyn 1774: 205.

59 Battus 1593; Magirus 1612; Anon. 1667.

60 Anon. 1754; Anon. 1758.

61 Anon. 1758.

62 Houttuyn 1774: 200.

63 Asselijn 1693: 25.

64 Bernagie 1685: 20.

65 De Vries 1682: 285.

66 Halmael 1711: 9.

67 Brinkink 1748: 47.

68 De Roever 1996: 228, n. 16.

69 Zohary et al. 2012: 146-147.

70 Verlinden 1992: 138-139.

71 van Oosten 2014: 233-236.

72 van Beurden 2015.

73 van Haaster 2010b; van der Meer 2014.

74 van Haaster 2004a; van Haaster, van der Linden 2009.

75 van Haaster 2003.

76 Kooistra et al. 1998; van Haaster 2001; 2003; 2004a; 2009.

77 van Haaster 2001; 2006a; 2006b; 2007; 2010a.

78 van Haaster 2001.

79 Bredero 1617: 245.

80 van Haaster 2001: 16-17.

81 van Oosten 2014: 233-236.

82 Deforce 2010: 340-341.

83 Buurman 1982.

84 van Haaster 2004b.

Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 1 - William III of Orange as a child next to a potted orange tree, painted by Adriaen Hanneman in 1654. William is dressed in girls’ clothing, as was the Dutch custom for male children at the time.
Crédits Courtesy of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.
URL http://books.openedition.org/pcjb/docannexe/image/2197/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 144k
Titre Fig. 2 - Map of places named in text.
URL http://books.openedition.org/pcjb/docannexe/image/2197/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 424k
Titre Fig. 3 - Left: detail of the outer right panel of the upper register of the Ghent Altarpiece by Jan van Eijck. Right: detail of the centre panel of the lower register.
Crédits http://legacy.closertovaneyck.be
URL http://books.openedition.org/pcjb/docannexe/image/2197/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,4M
Titre Fig. 4 - Jan van Eijck, the Arnolfini Portrait, 1434. Several oranges lie on top of the windowsill and chest.
Crédits © The National Gallery, London.
URL http://books.openedition.org/pcjb/docannexe/image/2197/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,2M
Titre Fig. 5 - Left: shard of majolica pottery (1500-1550) possibly depicting oranges. Right: majolica dish depicting orange (1570-1620). Both archaeological finds from Rotterdam.
Crédits © Museum Rotterdam.
URL http://books.openedition.org/pcjb/docannexe/image/2197/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 472k
Titre Fig. 6 - Pastiche of three species of Citrus fruit (orange, lemon, citron) depicted by Dodonaeus in his Cruydeboeck (1554).
URL http://books.openedition.org/pcjb/docannexe/image/2197/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 140k
Titre Fig. 7 - The Well-stocked Kitchen, Joachim Beuckelaer, Antwerp 1566. Lemons are depicted with olives in the lower right, oranges and lemons (?) in the middle right.
Crédits Courtesy of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.
URL http://books.openedition.org/pcjb/docannexe/image/2197/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 552k
Titre Fig. 8 - Branch from the lime tree, depicted by Rumphius. On the lower left a deformed specimen of lime fruit.
URL http://books.openedition.org/pcjb/docannexe/image/2197/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 292k
Titre Fig. 9 - The orangery of the Botanical Garden of Leiden University, depicted by Commelijn (1676).
URL http://books.openedition.org/pcjb/docannexe/image/2197/img-9.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 508k
Titre Fig. 10 - Pieter Claesz, Still Life with Turkey Pie, 1626, picturing a lemon and an orange.
Crédits Courtesy of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.
URL http://books.openedition.org/pcjb/docannexe/image/2197/img-10.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,4M
Titre Fig. 11 - Jacob van Hulsdonck, Still life with lemons, oranges and a pomegranate, 1620-1640.
Crédits Courtesy of the Getty's Open Content Program.
URL http://books.openedition.org/pcjb/docannexe/image/2197/img-11.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 300k
Titre Fig. 12 - Etching of the hakafot during Sukkoth in the Portuguese Synagogue, Amsterdam, by Bernard Picart (Picart 1727). The participants carry an etrog in their left hand.
URL http://books.openedition.org/pcjb/docannexe/image/2197/img-12.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 2,6M
Titre Fig. 13 - Map of sites with finds of Citrus.
URL http://books.openedition.org/pcjb/docannexe/image/2197/img-13.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 412k
Titre Fig. 14 - Top: Seed of Citrus sp. from the cesspit S30 from Amsterdam Oudezijds Voorburgwal 262-266, plot 1 (ca. 1750-1800). Bottom: Corroded seed of Citrus sp. from cesspit S36 from Utrecht-Klokkenveld (ca. 1400-1580).
Crédits © BIAX Consult.
URL http://books.openedition.org/pcjb/docannexe/image/2197/img-14.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,8M
Titre Fig. 15 - Photo of Citrus calyx from cesspit B of the Nieuwlicht monastery in Utrecht.
Crédits © BIAX Consult.
URL http://books.openedition.org/pcjb/docannexe/image/2197/img-15.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 532k
Titre Fig. 16 - Print by Olfert Dapper (1663). The inn De Kleine Karthuyzer is depicted in the foreground.
URL http://books.openedition.org/pcjb/docannexe/image/2197/img-16.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 208k
Titre Fig. 17 - Number of cesspits and similar features in the Netherlands containing Citrus finds. Separately dated layers from single features are divided according to date.
URL http://books.openedition.org/pcjb/docannexe/image/2197/img-17.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 152k
Titre Fig. 18 - 18th-century bottle containing remains of several aromatic compounds.
Crédits © Gemeente Zaandam.
URL http://books.openedition.org/pcjb/docannexe/image/2197/img-18.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 360k
Titre Fig. 19 - Photo of Citrus peel in the bottle from Zaandam.
Crédits © BIAX Consult.
URL http://books.openedition.org/pcjb/docannexe/image/2197/img-19.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,1M

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© Publications du Centre Jean Bérard, 2017

Conditions d’utilisation : http://www.openedition.org/6540

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