What about our colonial ancestors?
Along with knowing what worked when using herbs and plants to treat illnesses, enhance meals, and wardrobes, success with garden plants relied on knowledge passed down and around. What may seem like an old wives tale might just be based on some 'old husbands' as well.
John Gerard was the author of a huge tome of horticultural knowledge (published in 1597) called both THE HERBALL and THE GENERAL HISTORY OF PLANTS. Granted much of the 1200 page book was taken from an earlier Dutch work by Rembert Doedens, Gerard added to it with experience in his own English gardens. After Gerard's death, someone took on the task of updating it to a 1700 page resource which was the standard for plant knowledge throughout the 17th Century.
Another expert in the field was Nicholas Culpeper who was a physician expounding the benefits of herbs. He was a rebel in his time, angering the medical professionals and even being accused of encouraging witchcraft. He created a herbal book for 'the masses' that they might be able to treat themselves rather than be subject to charlatan doctors who thought bloodletting would heal all.
Culpepper was one of the first 'battlefield surgeons' recorded during the English Civil War.
His book, The English Physician, was a radical resource!
Using experience, stories of herbal usage and garden lore gathered strength over the centuries. Some make sense today because they are truly based on plant needs and human physical needs. Some are just plain entertaining. What plant wisdom have you heard? What old tales valued in colonial times still hang around? Do you use any herbal remedies?
As a horticulturalist, I know there's good reason why some things work, and I enjoy hearing about all those that don't. An entire series of posts could focus on the lore of herbal remedies and you can be there is good basis for their success. I'm fascinated with herbal remedies and love to study them. Kudos to these two 'fathers' of 'old wives tales' and the printers who put together these huge books which became the standard for planting and using plants for food and health.
As for the list above, I can tell you that I did have some spring flowers bloom again last fall and we certainly had a sorrowful winter! For colonial gardeners, I'm pretty sure the truth was - living from the land takes a lot of hard work and common sense. That hasn't changed a bit.