Working on the Language of Flowers exhibition for the Library last year, we learnt a lot about the ‘ancient’ meanings attached to different flowers, largely fabricated by a number of industrious 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:
‘In the reign of James the first, ladies adorned their head-dresses with Carrot leaves, the light feathery verdue 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.’
‘In Birmingham and many other districts, it is believed that a Potato carried in the trousers pocket is a sure charm against rheumatism, so long as the tuber is kept there.’
'In (Rhineland) 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...