Continuing with excerpts from my forthcoming glossary of ingredients, equipment and cookery terms that appear in Richard II’s Fourme of Cury, c.1390, here’s my second:
bullaces bolas (plural.). The bullace is a wild plum, Prunus insititia, from which the modern damson may have been cultivated. It is typically found in hedgerows of Britain. This fruit appears just once in Fourme of Cury, in the dish Erboule, a spiced pottage of lightly poached bullaces, sweetened with honey (see recipe 93, chapter 9). According to Sturtevant’s Edible Plants of the World (p. 461), ‘The fruit is globular, black or white [green skin, yellow fruit], of an acid taste but not unpleasant, especially when mellowed by frost’. They are later to ripen than modern plum cultivars, usually around October-November. There does not appear to be any evidence for their cultivation in medieval gardens, though they were cultivated in the Tudor period. Bullaces may have been preserved in Richard II’s time, though the earliest recipe for preserving them, and other fruits, in honey is late fifteenth-century, which begins: ‘For to kepe cheries or bolas or plumbes ffresh unto Christmasse’ (‘In order to keep cherries or bullaces or plums fresh until Christmas’): see Hieatt, A Gathering of Medieval English Recipes, p. 151. Hieatt provides a full translation in The Culinary Recipes of Medieval England, p. 17.
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