Crusader dietary information inferred from historical records is
briefly discussed in Chronicles of the Crusades
edited by Elizabeth Hallam (1989 published by Weidenfeld and Nicolson, NY).
Page 180 "In 1120, Baldwin of Jerusalem abolished duties paid on essential
foodstuffs being brought into the city: wheat, barley, beans, lentils and chick peas.
In addition to these staples, there was an impressive range of culinary raw materials. The
olive oil of Palestine had been prized since
Roman times, while vegetables included globe artichokes, asparagus, cabbage, lettuces
and truffles. Spices, such as pepper, cumin, coriander, cinnamon and ginger, and
mastic, are common in medieval recipes, and were among commodities exported from
Acre to Europe in the late 13th century.
At time time the Dominician friar Burchard of Mount Zion recalled seeing fennel, sage,
and rue growing wild in the fields, and parsley, mint and other herbs also flourished,
as today. Hare, quail, partridge, deer and wild boar might have fallen to hawk or bow, and
archaeological excavation has shown evidence of sheep and goats as well as cattle.
Dairy products, including yoghurts and cheeses, were an important part of a meal, and
fish were readily available on the coast and around the Sea of Galilee.
The variety and the novelty of fruits were a source of amazement to westerners:
dates, bananas, melons, water melons, gourds and grapes, which came in huge bunches.
Lemons, oranges and pomolos were used for sauces to eat with chicken or fish.
Pears, apples, cherries and nuts were imported from Damascus.
Grapes, figs and
apricots were often dried, and some were made into conserves or syrups, which were diluted
with water to make refreshing drinks, or with snow from Mount Hermon or Lebanon to make sorbets.
Wine, although forbidden by Muslim dietary law, was produced by Christians in Bethlehem,
the Rafraim Valley, Nazareth and Sidon.
The best honey came from Jerusalem, where bees could feed on wild thyme in the Judaean hills;
and sugar cane was grown and refined as sugar in the Jordan Valley and around Tyre and Acre for
export to Europe.
Despite this array of foodstuffs, at least two religious houses in Jerusalem imported sides of bacon,
barrels of tunny fish, cheeses and wine from Sicily for their own use in the 12th century.
And the raising and consumption of pork (also forbidden to Muslims) increased dramatically
in areas where Christian Franks settled."