Guest post from Tara Heller
Back in the eighteenth century, having a garden was part of the homestead and landscape of society. People produced their own food or purchased it at the market. Herb or kitchen gardens were usually right outside the kitchen door in the dooryard, as they were called, and mentioned throughout the later Outlander books. Garden plots were generally about 1/4 of an acre or up to eight acres, depending on family needs.
Home, Home on the Ridge
Now that the Frasers are settled on the Ridge, I wondered what Claire’s garden would look like in the STARZ Outlander series Season 4, as well as the upcoming fifth season. I was curious about what crops she might be growing. She would need to grow plants for food and medicinal purposes. Claire was certainly interested in wildflowers and their medicinal benefits, as it’s because of the flowers at Craigh Na Dun that she went back in time to begin with!
“Daddy always used to say it, when he’d come home and find Mama puttering in her garden – he said she’d live out there if she could. He used to joke that she- that she’d leave us someday, and go find a place where she could live by herself, with nothing but her plants.”
– Bree (Drums of Autumn, Chapter 43)
But did you ever wonder what Claire and her contemporaries would grow in a kitchen garden? (Yes, I wrote that in the present tense because let’s face it, she exists presently in our minds, amiright?) Some of the crops grown in the eighteenth century were: spearmint, sorrel (a salad plant), parsley, marjoram, thyme, onions, and leeks; marigolds would be planted around the perimeter for pollinators and as a repellent for insects that could do serious crop damage. Wormwood, lemon thyme, mint, horehound, savory were also planted.
Other plants Claire might have grown, and their uses:
Barley– Without barley, you might not have whiskey, which we all know is very prevalent in the Outlander books and especially Drums of Autumn and Fiery Cross. Photo: public domain
Basil– which is actually in the mint family, was used in salads and soups, namely pea soup. The Colonists used it in its dried form as a snuff to help relieve headaches and colds. Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash
Bee Balm– I’ve been wanting to grow this plant in my garden. Bees love it and funny enough, it was used to relieve bee stings. It is also in the mint family, and is native to North America. Its leaves were used to make tea. Photo: Takkk • CC BY-SA 3.0
Borage– when dried, you could make a tea for depression or menopausal discomforts. Bees love it as well. Borage is mentioned in Outlander, Chapter 24, growing at Castle Leoch. Photo by Lucy Kral on Unsplash
Chamomile– As you may have guessed, it was used for tea, but not just for enjoyment! Chamomile is said to aid in indigestion, gas and basically any stomach issues. It was also strewn about and used as an insect repellent. Photo: by kallerna – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0
Lavender– This was used as a way to make things smell better and also an insect repellent. It can help soothe burns, and can also be used in cooking. However, we know too well that Jamie Fraser was not fond of it, so maybe Claire didn’t put that in her garden. Photo by Janine Joles on Unsplash
Lemon Balm– this was used in tea to help with headaches, indigestion, and nausea. It was also distilled to treat, clean and heal wounds. Photo By Andrea_44 CC BY 2.0
Parsley– used in cooking and the seeds were used as a diuretic. Photo: https://www.almanac.com/plant/parsley
Peppermint– used as a breath freshener. The leaves were used for tea and might have been used to help with stomach issues as well. It also has antiseptic properties. The oil was also used to flavor tea, foods, and medicine. In Drums of Autumn, Claire mentions that she has a bottle of wash made of distilled alcohol, garlic juice, and mint. Photo by Josefin on Unsplash
Yarrow– Used to keep away from other plants and is used for disinfection. Photo: Frank Mayfield CC-BY-SA 2.0
Then there’s the addition of the bees. I hope we see more of Claire’s garden in Season Five since we see it in ‘The Fiery Cross’. Those that have read through TFC know that Claire will definitely need her herbs.
Do you have a garden? Does it have some of these herbs and plants?
Stay tuned for ways to incorporate eighteenth-century techniques and style in your garden.