Nursery Rhymes

Medieval Fish

Medieval life and Times

Medieval Fish
Middle Ages  food included a vast range of different fish. The range of fish included herring, salmon, eel, whiting, plaice, cod, trout and pike. Shell fish also featured in Medieval food which included crab, oysters, mussels and cockles.

Medieval Fish and Shellfish
Freshwater fish, which was much more abundant in former days than now, was the ordinary food of those who lived on the borders of lakes, ponds, or rivers.

The perch, pike, and tench were often eaten by the lower classes. Trout was held in great estimation. Mention has also been made of the blay, shad, roach, and gudgeon, but, above all, the carp, which was supposed to be a native of Southern Europe, and which must have been naturalised at a much later period in the northern waters.

Medieval Sea Fish
The most ancient documents bear witness that the natives of the sea-coasts of Europe, and particularly of the Mediterranean, fed on the same fish as at present: there were, however, a few other sea-fish, which were also used for food, but which have since been abandoned. The porpoise, and even the whale, which was salted, was believed to have furnished all the markets of Europe. The whale, which was sent from the northern seas in enormous slices, was only eaten by the lower orders, for, according to a writer of the sixteenth century, "were it cooked even for twenty-four hours it would still be very hard and indigestible."

Medieval Fish Trade
The trade in salted sea-fish only began in the 12th century. Herrings became a necessary food during Lent.
All sea-fish were comprised under three names, the fresh, the salted, and the smoked. Besides salt and fresh herrings, an enormous amount of salted mackerel were eaten. Other sea fish included flat-fish, gurnets, skate, fresh and salted whiting and codfish.

Medieval Fish
Conger eels were eaten but at a later period the conger was not eaten from its being supposed to produce the plague. The turbot, John-dory, skate and sole, which were very dear, were reserved for the rich.  A great quantity of the small sea crayfish were brought into market. Freshwater crayfish were not much esteemed in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, excepting for their eggs, which were prepared with spice. The inhabitants of the coast ate various kinds of shell-fish, including oysters, crab, cockles and mussels.

Middle Ages Food - Fish
The following fish were available during the Medieval era, even though many were looked upon with sheer distain, especially by the Upper Classes. The following list of fish were available during the Medieval times of the Middle Ages:

  • Herring
  • Salmon
  • Eel
  • Whiting
  • Turbot
  • Plaice
  • Cod
  • Trout
  • Pike
  • Skate
  • Oysters
  • Crab
  • Cockles
  • Mussels
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Medieval Food

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