VI: Skirret

A sweet root described by a medieval font of wisdom.

The leafy side of skirret. Photo by Malte via Wikimedia Commons.
The leafy side of skirret. Photo by Malte via Wikimedia Commons.

Good morning. Today is sextidi, the 16th of Brumaire, Year CCXXXI. We celebrate le chervil, yet another root to dig up and gnaw on.

We can't get away from these alternatives to carrots in Brumaire. This time, they're attached to a broad-leafed plant, and grow in clusters of long, skinny, pale, knobbly looking things that would terrify children and cause goodwives to faint were they to show up in a grocery store. Unlike other root vegetables, they have the decency to rival modern carrots for sweetness, and are even called "sweet root" in German.

If you don't know Hildegard von Bingen, she was a nun who was as much a polymath as Leonardo da Vinci, but 300 years earlier and more interested in beer than gadgets. She wrote songs and had psychedelic visions and essentially invented natural history, all while publicizing the Catholic church well enough to earn herself a low-key sainthood that was only recognized by the church officially officially in 2012, after many centuries of gray zone beatification and de facto worship.

Unlike most women of the time, she preached publicly and garnered a following of men and women who admired both her scholarship and her ability to describe some pretty wild visions. She could spin a story and throw a little singing in – the full ecclesiastical blockbuster experience. Her popularity and undeniable correctness prevented the church from doing too much "but you're a girl" to her, and her rediscovery in the 20th century made her an all-star example of feminine contributions to European society for women's studies departments across the world. That's how I came to know her anyway.