The Onion - Allium cepa

Use in medieval times

Onions were a staple of the medieval diet. They formed the main ingredient of pottage- a stew eaten most days by almost everyone, including the monks of Lewes Priory. Onions were grown in all kitchen gardens. Pottage was made from whatever vegetables were in season and was often thickened with oats. Wealthier people would add more expensive ingredients such as meat and spices to their pottage.

The Larderer’s accounts at Lewes Priory for 1533-4 record four bushels (145 kg) of onions and garlic. Some of these would have been used to flavour cheese flans.

According to an old English rhyme the thickness of an onion skin could predict the weather:

Onion skin very thin
Mild winter coming in.
Onion skin very tough
Coming winter very rough.