In the garden at St Nicholas Priory we grow some of the herbs that were used in Tudor times by the household of Nicholas Hurst.
Find out about the herbs and spices that perfumed the Priory.
The Tudors were very keen on scenting their houses with sweet smelling herbs. They also carried scented pomanders and ‘tussie-mussies’ (herbal bouquets). They believed these sweet scents warded off disease. They may not have worked in this way but they probably helped obscure the many bad smells that existed in Tudor times.
Potpourri (DO NOT EAT)
You can make your own potpourri by mingling a number of different ingredients. All the ingredients need to be carefully dried before use.
Flowers for scent
Choose flowers just before they are fully open on a dry day. Dry on stretched muslin to allow the air to circulate. Select from: broom, carnations, elder, calendula, meadow sweet, lavender, lime, mock orange, nicotiana, roses, stocks, wallflowers.
Flowers for colour
Select from: borage, calendula, cornflowers, feverfew, poppy, sage, tansy, small ‘everlasting’ flowers.
Dry leaves whole then break or crush. These scents will generally be more powerful than the flowers so choose scents that harmonise. Select from: balsam poplar, bay, lemon balm, lemon verbena, mints, sweet cicely, sweet marjoram, sweet myrtle, sweet woodruff, thymes.
Spices, peel, roots and wood chips
To make dried peels of citrus fruit, peel with a potato peeler and dry slowly. Select from: allspice, aniseed, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, dill seed, nutmeg, star anise, vanilla pods, peel of citrus fruits; roots of angelica, cowslip and shreds of cedarwood, sandalwood and cassia chips.
Fixatives : These are used to absorb and hold the scents and make them last longer – the most available is orris root – use I tbsp per cup of flowers and leaves.
Essential Oils : A drop or two of these can be added to the mix.
Mix ingredients of your choice. Seal in a jar and leave in warm dry place to ‘cure’ for 6 weeks. Then display in pretty bowls.
Tudor Spice Beads (DO NOT EAT)
These make excellent presents and can be hung inside a natural Christmas wreathe of holly and ivy.
- Mix a variety of ground spices ( about a teaspoonful each). Choose from: Ground cloves, Mixed spice, Ground cinnamon, Ground mace, Nutmeg, Ground cardamom
- To this, if you wish, you can add a drop of scented essential oil. (e.g. myrrh, sandalwood, cedarwood, rose, bergamot, geranium etc.)
- Add a teaspoon full of powdered orris root – this is a preservative but quite difficult to get in ordinary shops – you can get it from the internet.
- Mix the ingredients together and add enough melted edible gum (e.g. Gum Arabic or Gum Tragacanth) to make it stick together. These gums can be bought from specialist cake shops.
- (You can use children’s PVA instead which is cheaper but less authentic)
- Roll the mixture into beads not larger than 2cms across. Pierce with a cocktail stick and leave to dry.
- When dry these can be painted, strung, and hung from garlands or other decorations.
DO NOT EAT