Do you dream of vegetables at night? Perhaps your nocturnal imaginings could have more significance than you first thought, says Fiona Davison, Head of RHS Libraries & Exhibitions
The shelves of the Lindley Library hold many books explaining the ‘ancient’ meanings attached to different flowers, largely fabricated by Victorian authors.
However I was surprised to learn that even humble vegetables have meanings and folklore attached to them. We have a lovely book entitled ‘Plant Lore, Legends and Lyrics’ written in 1884 by Richard Folkard.
This lists alphabetically a large number of plants, including vegetables. Here are a few of my favourite excerpts, illustrated with images from a 19th century German seed catalogue from the firm of Ernst Benary.
‘In the reign of James the first, ladies adorned their head-dresses with Carrot leaves, the light feathery verdure of which was considered a pleasing substitute for the plumage of birds. To dream of Carrots signifies profit and strength.’
‘In Medieval days it was superstitiously thought that an evil spirit lurked in a bed of lettuces.
Gerrarde (the herbalist) remarks that, if eaten after supper, this vegetable prevents the drunkenness resulting from too free indulgence in wine.’
‘To dream of cutting Cabbages denotes jealousy on the part of the wife, husband or lover, as the case may be. To dream of eating Cabbage implies sickness to loved ones or loss of money.’
‘To dream of cucumber denotes that you will speedily fall in love.’
Cucumbers are not the only crop with romantic associations. In olden times country girls would put an onion under their pillow are recite the following rhyme:
‘Good St Thomas, do me right,
And let my true-love come tonight,
That I may see him in the face, And him in my fond arms embrace.’
In Westphalia, when a young peasant goes wooing, if Turnips be set before him, they signify that he is totally unacceptable to the girl he would court. To dream of Turnips denotes fruitless toil.’
I am not sure about fruitless toil; if you are dreaming of turnips, I think it probably means you have been spending slightly too much time down at the allotment.
Follow Fiona on Twitter – @fjd65