I've been asked more than a few times why I'm doing a garden history course. For me, the answer is simple - it's not just because I love gardens, or because it's an interest I shared with my mother, or I think gardens are a way to help us understand wider social and economic themes. No, it's because of all the stories and the characters I can find and enjoy.
Yesterday's class threw up a great example of this. We were looking at Gerard's 16th century Herbal.
One of the plants recorded is a tree that had branches that opened to reveal .... er .... geese.
Gerard wrote: "...there is a small llande in Lancashire called the Pile of Foulders...whereon is found a certaine spume or froth, that in time breedeth unto certaine shels." These mussel-shaped shells would grow until they split open, revealing "the legs of the Birde hanging out...til at length it is all come foorth." The bird would hang by its bill until fully mature, then would drop into the sea "where it gathereth feathers, and groweth to a foule, bigger than a Mallard, and lesser than a Goose."
The myth had apparently been uncovered as a falsehood many years before, but our tutor said that one of the arguments as to why it might have remained in Gerard's herbal is that if geese were thought to be from a plant, then they could be eaten on days when meat shouldn't be consumed.
So there you are. If you hate brussell sprouts you can enjoy your Christmas goose instead, after all one vegetable is just the same as another vegetable!