It breedes winde and belly-ache

These snippets come from a 1599 guide to the provenance of fruits, herbs, and vegetables by T Butts; a curious work which combines origins and history with specific health-related facts.

That Grapes are verie nourishing, it is well seene by the Grape-gatherers in the time of Vintage, for they eat little or nothing else, yet growe they passing fat and corpulent.  The superexcellency of this plant and frute is inestimable…. grapes cause thirst and wind: trouble the belly: immoderately used breed Collicke passions: puffe the spleene and make it sicke; encrease delusions in old folkes.

Those Peaches, whose meate cleaveth to the stone are commended of some, as also, such as seeme friezed over with a thinne downe, like a Quince… peaches being moist, soft, and flatulent, they endgender humours very subject to corruption; evil for old flegmaticke and weake stomackes.

The flowers of this plant are silver-coloured; and from them is distilled a water surpassing all other in fragrancy and sweete smell. Whence they are called Aurantia, gold in Latine, in English properly and truly Aurange, but we have both them and their name by tradition from the French. So we both speake and write it Orenge…  Exquisitely sweet oranges are too hot; the lower coole, and offend the stomacke: stuffe the belly: constraine the brest and arteries.

The citron, Limon or Orenge, growe especially on the sea-coasts of Italy. They were first brought out of Media into these parts. They beare fruite all the yeare long, some at the same time ripe and falling off, other but now budding and sprouting forth. All say a Limon in Wine is good… lemons cause collicke passions and leaneness.

If one eate three small Pomegranate flowers (they say), for an whole yeare, he shall be safe from all manner of eye-sore. Sharp pomegranates offend the teeth and gummes: constrain the brest; not for old folkes.

Hasil (hazel) nuts:
Nut in English, of Nux the Latine: and Nux a Nocendo, because it annoyeth all other plantes or hearbes that are subject and obnoxious to his leaves-dropping. They are windie, engender much choller: cause headacheth if much eaten.

Melons, commonly called pomions:
This fruite is the greatest or biggest of all Hearbes or Trees. That it hath a scouring and cleansing property is evident in that if you rub any part of the body with it, it becommeth much the brighter and cleaner…  it breedes winde and belly-ache.

The Olive was an Embleme of peace ever since the Dove brought an Olive leafe in her mouth into Noahs Arke. The Spanish Olives are bigger than the Italian. Besides that the Spanish have an odd unsavoury smell, and looke yellow, unpleasant to the eye. Olives cause watchfulnesse: much eaten they stuffe the head, especially the salted.

Foennill or Finkle (fennel):
Snakes and Serpents by eating of Foenill renew their age and repair their decaied sight by rubbing their eyes with it. Wherefore it used of us to the like purpose. There is a bad propertie in the seed, to breede poysonous wormes, whose poyson is curable by no Antidot. Fennel doth inflame the blood.

Sparage (asparagus):
Some say that Sparage causeth barrennesse: but it is not probable, sithence it nourisheth very much and manifestly provoketh Venus. Eaten cold, disposeth to vomit.

Surely it is a most excellent hearbe, and of speciall use. It hath this peculiar vertue, that laied in Wine it strengthneth and cheareth the heart, putting merry conceits into the minde. But it doeth greatly annoyeth sore mouthes.

Garlick, Onion, and Leekes are very holesome, but their odour is passing loathesome and offensive. Wherefore some have thought of a medicament to take away the sent of them. But none like Syr Thomas More: to take away the smell of Onions, eate leekes, and to convince your Leekes, eate a clove or two of Garlicke: and if then Garlicke breath be strong, choke him with a turd. Leeks dimmeth the sight.

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  • February 21, 2012 - 8:13 pm | Permalink

    If you want a More-based in-joke, you might conceivably look for it in his friendship with Erasmus and other Dutch-speakers and the th > t transformation they are supposed to inflict on English.

  • February 21, 2012 - 7:03 pm | Permalink

    It’s a pun on turd and (the) third (piece of garlic) which also turns up bilingually in Minsheu’s Dialogues ( ) and surely in other stuff on EEBO – I can’t get in.

    The phonetics of it strike me as interesting – OED says that “thrid” was the standard form till around then and afaik doesn’t mention “turd” at all, but later sources clearly indicate that in some non-jokey, non-Hibernian contexts “turd” may have been the preferred form.

  • March 15, 2010 - 11:38 am | Permalink

    I agree that the joke was probably a reference to a turd being more agreeable than garlic breath, but I wonder if it was also an in joke at More’s expense?

    Martin, most people would have eaten many of these things, although of course certain imported foods could be very costly; lemons for example. Access to exotic food would have been restricted to the wealthy.

  • Anonymous
    March 15, 2010 - 11:33 am | Permalink

    I wonder how many people at the time this was written would have eaten many of those things? Strange to think now that we have access to food from anywhere in the world. Seems a bit harsh on garlic.


  • Anonymous
    March 14, 2010 - 10:42 pm | Permalink

    Of the joke upon Garlicke breath’s offense i suggest the jibe intends to to remedie the offended. Bon Appetite, good health & a day!


  • March 14, 2010 - 2:17 pm | Permalink

    Excellent post! I think Sir Thomas More was implying that the breath of a coprophage would be sweeter than that of a garlic muncher. Not sure I’d have wanted a dinner invitation to his home.

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