Friday, January 1, 2016

1838 - A Rhubarb Jam Contretemps

I find this story delightful.   Gentlemen in the early 1800s vying for the bragging rights to being the inventor of rhubarb jam.

1837 -The Gardener's Magazine and Register of Rural & Domestic Improvement Volume 13


1838The Gardener's Magazine and Register of Rural & Domestic Improvement Volume 14

Rhubarb Jelly and Jam. (p. 395.)—I see, by the last Number of the Gardener's Magazine, that Mr. Joseph Johnson of Northenden, Cheshire, is giving himself much uneasiness about the rhubarb jelly, and evidently wishes to be considered the original inventor of it. He may be; but I do not see what right he has to say that I got the hint at Manchester. Such was not the case. Indeed, I never heard of such an article till June, 1837, when we were making a trial of a tart of Buck's new early scarlet rhubarb, the juice of which was quite as high-coloured as that of red currants. Finding this, I suggested the making a trial of it as jelly, which was done on the 16th of June, 1837. Afterwards, it was tried in the form of jam; and both turned out uncommonly well, and in both instances the colour was preserved fully as rich and clear as that made from red currants. On the 20th of October, 1837 (three months after the date of the paper noticed in your Magazine, July 19. 1837), I visited Manchester; and some rhubarb jelly was then shown me by Mr. Campbell, probably the remains of the jar given him by Mr. Johnson. The sample shown was made with green rhubarb and brown sugar; and I suppose it was from this frightful specimen that Mr. Johnson supposes that I was led to the making of it.  If so, I beg to inform him that he was never more mistaken. I was lately informed by a gentlemen from Shetland, and which I state for Mr. Johnson's information, that the practice of making jelly from green rhubarb has been carried on there for many years; as, unless the seasons are fine, no other preserve can be made. — J.M'Nab, Edinburgh, Aug. 20, 1838.
[Mr. M'Nab sent us, with this communication, pots of both the jelly and the jam. The latter was most excellent, having a beautiful colour, and a fine flavour: the former was equally good in colour and flavour, but it had not formed a jelly, being of the consistence of rich syrup.— Cond.]

1839 -The Gardener's Magazine and Register of Rural & Domestic Improvement Volume 15

Retrospective Criticism

Rhubarb Jam. (Vol. XIV. p. 541.) — 

In the last Number of the Gardener's Magazine (p. 541.), we are favoured with a fresh illustration of the stale subject, rhubarb jam, which we thought had gone quietly to rest; but opinions run counter, and the candour of your correspondent has laid us under the necessity of showing the credence of his statement, and the degree of consistency on which his pretensions to the discovery are founded. I am cognisant of the facts, and will, with your permission, lay them before your readers.
It is true that Mr. Johnson sent me a jar of rhubarb jam in the summer of 1836, also a verbal statement of the manner in which it was prepared. It was the first sample of the kind I had seen, and I requested he would have the goodness to send you the particulars for the Gardener's Magazine. It was his wish that so desirable an article should have publicity; but he had some intentions that summer to visit London, and meant to present you with a sample.
Mr. J. M'Nab paid us a visit in the autumn of 1837, and the " frightful composition of green rhubarb and brown sugar" which he experimented on, was none of Mr. Johnson's, but ours.  He was informed of this fact at the time, though he found it convenient to state the contrary; and, as we see no particular reason why Mr. Johnson should monopolize the credit which is due to us for that delightful specimen, we invite any of your readers who take an interest in such matters to a fair trial of the ingredients; the result will not disappoint them.
In Vol. XIII. p. 460., Mr. M'Nab has the " sole merit of introducing this novelty."  Mr. Johnson allows (Vol. XIV. p. 395.) " that he might have the credit of introducing the jam into Scotland, but that the suggestion which led to his making the trial was his, for "I had informed him ;positive fact on the part of Mr. Johnson, though Mr. J. M'Nab declares he never heard of any thing of the kind, till the blushing virtues of his tart demonstration of 1837 furnished him a clue to the invention; but let it not be lost sight of, that he is silent as the grave respecting his visit to this place on his return from the Sheffield exhibition in the autumn of 1836. 
Why, let us ask, could he not favour the public with a portion of his gleanings on that occasion? It was inconvenient to hint at the subject, and we appreciate the motivefor it was on that visit I informed him of the sample of rhubarb jam which was sent me that summer, and of the manner in which (I was told) it was prepared. Will he deny this fact, of which he made a memorandum on the spot? 
I refer him to his note-book; and, if farther proof be necessary, I will verify my statement on oath. Mr. Johnson's receipt is simply this: To one pound of rhubarb stalks, cut as if for a tart, add one pound of lump or brown sugar, boil till the ingredients are well blended, and acquire the proper consistence. We need not trouble your readers with the details necessary in making jelly; but may remark that ginger (not ground) and candied lemon, boiled in the jelly or jam, is a decided improvement. Jelly of a superior quality has been made in this neighbourhood in this manner. Buck's rhubarb has the preference in point of colour, but in no other quality that we are aware of. — Alexander Campbell, BotanicGarden, Manchester, Nov. 19. 1838.
1858  (an American Publication)

The Practical Fruit, Flower and Vegetable Gardener's Companion: With Calendar

  The stalks of Buck's Early and the Elford are of a bright scarlet color, which they retain even when forced in the dark; and they are at the same time tender and of delicate flavor.   Excellent jam and jelly have been made from these by Mr. James M'Nab, of the Horticultural Society's Garden, Edinburgh.  
Below are recipes for rhubarb jam from before the men invented it...


The Cottager's monthly visitor

1823 - 
Something tells me the gentlemen  having the discussion about who was first with a rhubarb jam would get an amused glance from many cooks!

The Cook and Housekeeper's Complete and Universal DictionaryIncluding a System of Modern Cookery, in All Its Various Branches, Adapted to the Use of Private Families : Also a Variety of Original and Valuable Information, Relative to Baking, Brewing, Carving ... and Every Other Subject Connected with Domestic Economy

RHUBARB PIE. Peel the stalks of the plant, cut them about an inch long, put them into a dish with moist sugar, a little water and lemon peel. Put on the crust, and bake it in a moderate oven.
RHUBARB PUDDING. Put four dozen clean sticks of rhubarb into a stewpan, with the peel of a lemon, a bit of cinnamon, two cloves, and as much moist sugar as will sweeten it. Set it over the fire, and reduce it to a marmalade. Pass it through a hair sieve, then add the peel of a lemon, half a nutmeg grated, a quarter of a pound of good butter, the yolks of four eggs, and one white, and mix all well together. Line a pie dish with good puff paste, put in the mixture, and bake it half an hour. This will make a good spring pudding.
RHUBARB SAUCE. To make a mock gooseberry-sauce for mackarel, reduce three dozen sticks of rhubarb to a marmalade, and sweeten it with moist sugar. Pass it through a hair sieve, and serve it up in a boat.
—Mock gooseberry-fool is made of rhubarb marmalade, prepared as for a pudding. Add a pint of good thick cream, serve it up in glasses, or in a deep dish. If wanted in a shape, dissolve two ounces of isinglass in a little water, strain it through a tammis, and when nearly cold put it to the cream. Pour it into a jelly mould, and when set, turn it out into a dish, and serve it up plain.
RHUBARB SHERBET. Boil six or eight sticks of clean rhubarb in a quart of water, ten minutes. Strain the liquor through a tammis into a jug, with the peel of a lemon cut very thin, and two table-spoonfuls of clarified sugar. Let it stand five • or six hours, and it will be fit to drink.
RHUBARB SOUP. There are various ways of dressing garden rhubarb, which serves as an excellent substitute for spring fruit. Peel and well wash four dozen sticks of rhubarb, blanch it in water three or four minutes, drain it on a sieve, and put it into a stewpan with two sliced onions, a carrot, an ounce of lean ham, and a good bit of butter. Let it stew gently over a slow fire till tender, then put in two quarts of rich soup, to which add two or three ounces of bread crumbs, and boil it about fifteen minutes. Skim off all the fat, season with salt and cayenne, pass it through a tammis, and serve it up with fried bread. (Tamis is the modern spelling: a drum sieve)
RHUBARB TART. Cut the stalks in lengths of four or five inches, and take off the thin skin. Lay them in a dish, pour on a thin syrup of sugar and water, cover them with another dish, and let it simmer very slowly for an hour on a hot hearth; or put the rhubarb into a block-tin saucepan, and simmer it over the fire. When cold, make it into a tart; the baking of the crust will be sufficient, if the rhubarb be quite tender.

My Search For "Rhubarb" Myatt

I'm  busy trying to get a new rhubarb bed prepared for a spring planting.  My husband and I are transporting yummy compost from the town leaf dump every weekend, feeling righteous after filling 30 big kitty litter buckets and transporting the goodness up the hill onto the new patch.  The gardner's plight...darkness falling ... led to poking around in the 19th century after rhubarb gossip where Myatt's Victoria rhubarb kept being praised. So there I was, slaving away (happily) trying to track down a historical mystery man, Mr. Myatt. All references from the 19th century simply called the man who had introduced rhubarb to the cooks of London, Mr. Myatt, quoting the same anecdote, and that was that.   After finding a lead that gave me his first name, the bits accumulated.  "Ah ha! ", I though,"I'm cracking it!!"  
It was then I bumped into a beautifully done contemporary piece that outlines the whole tale!  WHY I hadn't seen that link in my dozens and dozens of rephrased Google searches I cannot imagine.  But there it is.  In the blog Deptford Pudding by David Porter he has an entry Rhubarb, Rhubarb that summarizes the story.    I think you might want to read that, then skim this post for horticultural historical bits that add more detail. 
So, go meet Mr. Joseph Myatt, of Manor Farm, Deptford. Then come back and meet his son William, and later James, and the next stage of the Myatt garden business.
1838The Gardener's Magazine, and Register of Rural and Domestic ..., Volume 15 
From Mr. Myatt of Deptford, stalks of a new kind of Rhubarb, called the Victoria. It appeared to be a variety of Rheum hybridum, of enormous size; the leafstalks were each 2 ft. 8 in. long, and 6 in. in circumference, and twelve of the stalks weighed 46 lb.
 Few vegetables have made a more rapid progress in their cultivation, within the past twenty years, than this article, and we yet expect to see it cultivated by the hundred acres and brought to our market in wagon loads." 
The edible kinds were first introduced in the London market by Mr. Myatt, about 20 years ago, and it is now in high demand. Among the varieties may be named Tobolsk, Washington, Giant, Mammoth, Myatt's Victoria, Large Early Red, Myatt's Linnaeus, and many more recently introduced seedlings. 
Tobolsk is very early, small, of excellent flavor, and red color, growing from 18 inches to 2 feet long. The Washington is green spotted on the foot stalks, and grows about 2 feet long, and follows the Tobolsk. The Giant has round stalks of a green color, and sometimes of two inches in diameter and four feet long. This was for many years the favorite sort, and is still among the best of the late varieties, capable of supplying the market during the whole summer. The Mammoth is a sort raised from the seed of the Giant, by Mr. Robert Buist, and only differs from it in having flat leafy stalks.  
Myatt's Victoria is an earlier kind than the Giant, very richly flavored, and generally superior to the large Early Red, and is a seedling from the Victoria, by Buist. Large Early Red is a seedling from the Victoria, and is eight days earlier, and larger than its parent, about three feet long ; and as a general rule, the red stalk sorts are earlier than the green.
Myatt's Linnaeus is the largest and best Rhubarb known. It maintains its color after being cooked, and requires less sugar than other sorts. Many of the Rhubarbs form a mass or magma by cooking, but the Myatt's Linnaeus scarcely changes its figure, and is still more tender and less stringy than any of the other sorts. It was introduced into this, country by the Hon. Marshall P. Wilder, of Boston, and its seeds have the peculiar property of producing their kind more regularly than other sorts.    

1851 - The Quarterly Review, Volume 89

Mr. Joseph Myatt of Deptford, a most benevolent man now upwards of seventy years of age, was the first to cultivate rhubarb on a large scale. It is now nearly forty years since he sent his two sons to the Borough market with five bunches — of which they could only sell three. The next time they took ten bunches, all of which were sold. 

Coming events cast their shadow before, and from the small but increased sale Mr. Myatt judged that rhubarb would become a favourite. He therefore determined to increase its cultivation, and year after year added to his stock. 

For his first dozen roots he was indebted to his friend Mr. Oldacre, gardener to Sir Joseph Banks. They consisted of a kind imported from Russia, finer and much earlier than the puny variety cultivated by the Brentwood growers for Covent Garden. 

Mr. Myatt had to contend against many prejudices; but time, that universal leveller, overcame and broke down every barrier, and rhubarb is now no longer called physic.

The foot-stalks of the physic-plant are now regarded as a necessary rather than a luxury in culinary management. The most frugal table can display its rhubarb pudding or tart, in season. 

Note:  I have pasted the dates to various ads and notices to keep them organized.
W. & J. (William and Joseph) Myatt in this ad.

William here states his father is dead.

 Notice IS HEREBY GIVEN, that the PARTNERSHIP heretofore subsisting between WILLIAM MYATT and JOSEPH MYATT, Market Gardeners, of Manor Farm, Deptford, in the county of Kent, was DISSOLVED on the 29th day of September last, by mutual consent, All debts owing to or by the said concern will be received and paid by the said WiLLIAM MYATT, who will in future carry on the business on his own separate account—Manor Farm, Deptford, Dec. 8.


1879  Are these the same Myatt's?  I assume so.   The Deptford Pudding blog mentions James, but I have not found more info on him.

1884  - The History of Deptford 



1852Working Farmer, Volumes 3-4 (American publication...implies that in 1832 rhubarb was quite newly considered a major market garden plant) 

Myatt’s Victoria has been so generally introduced, and has given such satisfaction to all who possess it, that it will be difficult to displace it by other new kinds. Mr. Myatt, the raiser of this fine kind, has offered for sale, a new variety, and some others have also been produced. Capt. Lovett, of Beverly, has raised some very superior seedlings, fully equal, if not superior, to the Victoria. The two following appear to be the leading kinds, offered for sale, by the London growers :—
Myatt’s Linnaeus- This is the principal kind, grown by Messrs. Myatt, who raise immense quantities for the London market, for several years, and was not offered for sale, until after numerous applications from the London trade. It is remarkably early, and unusually productive, and is preferred by purchasers, to every other variety, for its delicious flavor. The stalks being large, and free from filaments, it is admirably adapted for preserving, and all other purposes. For early forcing, it is the best known. The superior flavor, large size, unusual productiveness, and extremely light red appearance, render it alike desirable and profitable. lilitchell’s Royal Albert is said to retain its supremacy over all other sorts, hitherto produced, being from two to three weeks earlier than any kind now grown. It is most delicious in flavor, a splendid red color, most prolific bearer, and free grower, with large fleshy stalks, and, for early forcing, is more suitable than any other varieties. It has been acknowledged by all the principal growers attending the London markets, to be by far the best ever introduced. This is the account of it given by Mr. Mitchell. I've have a root or two of it now, imported last year, and shall have an opportunity, the coming season, to test its qualities, in comparison with others.


1840  - Genesee Farmer - Page 41

Giant Rhubarb.
The leafstalks of this improved variety of Rhubarb, are much larger and better for pies than the common kind. It is now generally cultivated for that purpose in the best gardens in England, where the writer obtained a supply of the seed.
There is still a larger and newer variety, called "Myatt's Victoria Rhubarb", which was raised by a gardener near London, a year or two since. This is quite rare, as yet, and the roots are sold at a very high price. It is said that the seed of this variety will not produce the same kind. I could not learn that any person had raised any of it from seed, or that any of the seed was to be had.
* A correspondent of the "Cultivator" inquired where this seed can be obtained. If the editors will send us his address some seed shall be sent him. B..

Just an extra little bit....
January 30, 1875
Of late years this has become a much sought-for and important vegetable, but half a century ago it was scarcely known in the London market. The late Mr. Myatt, of Deptford, is looked upon as being the father of Rhubarb growers; but his sou, the present Mr. Myatt, informs me that Rhubarb was grown in the neighbourhood some years before his father took to growing it, although he was certainly the first who grew it in quantity. 
The Deptford and neighbouring market gardeners at first thought that Myatt was mad upon the subject; but they soon found out that this was a paying job, though a mad one, and consequently they took to growing it, as also did the majority of the London market gardeners. 
Now, however, it is almost universally grown, and it is a very accommodating crop, requiring but little care or attention. The varieties grown consist chiefly of the Early Albert, Myatt's Linnaeus, Hyatt's Victoria, Red Champagne, and Johnson's St. Martin. The last-named sort Mr. Steel has just taken to grow, and it promises well.  Mr. Myatt informs me that Red Champagne is much sought after in the market on account of its fine red stalks, and, when forced, its colour is brighter and more imposing than that of other sort. 
The soil used for growing Rhubarb is a deep, rich, and moderately moist one, and the position is sometimes in exposed places, and at other times under the shade of fruit trees. The exposed positions are decidedly productive of the finest Rhubarb, hence it may be most desirable to adopt such; but under fruit trees this crop grows almost as well as anything else that could be planted; therefore in order to economize this space, I think few crops pay better than this one. In the Rhubarb season, which is spring, that under the fruit trees grows well, and, as the trees are leafless, they do not shade them much. In sheltered corners, such as are to be found under fruit trees, the produce comes naturally for use about a week sooner than from the open field.

New:  Descendants of Joseph Myatt contacted me.  You must look at their site!  The oil portrait of Myatt is fantastic.     July 2016

Sunday, December 27, 2015

1932 - Wannock Gardens, Eastbourne - Seed Border

Wannock was a well known spot since the mid-1800s as far as I can see.  The strawberry gardens there made a pleasant destination when combined with having tea somewhere.  It seems it was a lovely area to visit.  By the early 1900s ads ran for "Charabanc tour for ladies at 2.30 p.m. ; tea at the Old Mill GardensWannock."

The following illustration is from Eastbourne From Old Photographs By Roy Douglas. 

Pumpkin Beer to the Rescue! Connecticut Flip

In a History of New York During the Revolutionary War the diet of a hale old general was noted to contain a great deal of "flip" which was "A mixture of New England rum, pumpkin beer, and brown sugar. In winter this liquor is made warm by putting a red-hot poker into it. Every public-house in Connecticut has in the winter season one of these pokers (known among them by the name of loggerheads) always in the fire, ready upon the arrival of travellers or the arriving in of company. It is far from being disagreeable liquor, and is universally drank in Connecticut."

 The following from Stage-coach and Tavern Days by Alice Morse Earle can be found in Project Gutenburg if you would like to read more. 
"Other names for the hospital loggerhead were flip-dog and hottle. The loggerhead was as much a part of the chimney furniture of an old-time New England tavern and farm-house as the bellows or andirons. In all taverns and many hospitable homes it was constantly kept warm in the ashes, ready for speedy heating in a bed of hot coals, to burn a mug of fresh flip for every visitor or passer by. Cider could be used instead of beer, if beer could not be had. Some wise old flip tasters preferred cider to beer. Every tavern bill of the eighteenth century was punctuated with entries of flip. John Adams said if you spent the evening in a tavern, you found it full of people drinking drams of flip, carousing, and swearing. The old taprooms were certainly cheerful and inviting gathering-places; where mine host sat behind his cagelike counter surrounded by cans and bottles and glasses, jars of whole spices and whole loaves of sugar; where an inspiring row of barrels of New England rum, hard cider, and beer ranged in rivalry at an end of the room, and
[Pg 113]“Where dozed a fire of beechen logs that bred
Strange fancies in its embers golden-red,
And nursed the loggerhead, whose hissing dip,
Timed by wise instinct, creamed the bowl of flip.”

These fine lines of Lowell’s seem to idealize the homely flip and the loggerhead as we love to idealize the customs of our forbears. Many a reader of them, inspired by the picture, has heated an iron poker or flip-dog and brewed and drunk a mug of flip. I did so not long ago, mixing carefully by a rule for flip recommended and recorded and used by General Putnam—Old Put—in the Revolution. I had the Revolutionary receipt and I had the Revolutionary loggerhead, and I had the old-time ingredients, but alas, I had neither the tastes nor the digestion of my Revolutionary sires, and the indescribable scorched and puckering bitterness[Pg 114] of taste and pungency of smell of that rank compound which was flip, will serve for some time in my memory as an antidote for any overweening longing for the good old times."

I live next to Putnam, Connecticut.  I didn't know I was bang in the middle of the land of flip!  

In another book, Customs and Fashions in Old New England, Earle reported "Flip was a vastly popular drink, and continued to be so for a century and a half. I find it spoken of as early as 1690. It was made of home-brewed beer, sweetened with sugar, molasses, or dried pumpkin, and flavored with a liberal dash of rum, then stirred in a great mug or pitcher with a red-hot loggerhead or hottle or flip-dog, which made the liquor foam and gave it a burnt bitter flavor."

"...The colonists at first were deprived of their beer. One of the earliest New-England poets, in boasting of the comforts around him, does it regretfully, after this fashion:
If barley be wanting to make into malt,
We must be contented, and think it no fault.
For we can make liquor, to sweeten our lips,
Of pumpkins and parsnips and walnut-tree chips.
They could not, however, have long been confined to their pumpkin-beer, for the General Court of Massachusetts, in 1687, regulated the brewers in the colony, and enacted that "no person shall brewe any beare, or malte, or other drinke, or sell in gross, or by retaile, but only such as shall be licensed by this Courte, on pain of £100;..."

Appletons' Journal, Volume 13

"Colonial Americans also drank their pumpkin. An enterprising person can make an alcoholic beverage out of almost anything, and the Pilgrims seem to have been first to make pumpkin beer or ale. ...
The Pilgrim recipe was said to involve a mixture of persimmons, hops, maple syrup, and, of course, pumpkin. 
Further south in Virginia, planter Landon Carter mentions pumpkins in his diary in 1765. He, too, concocted some sort of alcoholic beverage from fermented pumpkins. He christened it pumperkin.
Perhaps he used a method similar to an anonymous recipe of 1771:
Let the Pompion be beaten in a Trough and pressed as Apples. The expressed juice is to be boiled in a copper a considerable time and carefully skimmed that there may be no remains of the fibrous part of the pulp. After that intention is answered let the liquid be hopped culled fermented & casked as malt beer."