The roots of Eringus or Eyringo, the Sea Holly (Eryngium maritimum), used as a food ingredient, as a vegetable, or, commonly candied as a, reputedly aphrodisiac, sweetmeat.
Almost unknown now, Eringo occurs in all sorts of earlier receipts, in all sorts of guises. Robert May's Accomplisht Cook of the 1666s adds it to Chicken Pie, Potato Pasties and 'China Broth', while Francetelli in 1852 adds it to 'Sick-Diet Jelly' and the 1891 Encyclopedia of Practical Cookery uses it to flavour ass's milk. It is even known as a flavouring for 'Ebulum' beer.
Sea holly statue in the square at Colchester, celebrating the old eringo trade
Image: Alex Bray...
A particular speciality of Colchester in the 18th Century, but known at least since Shakespeare's 'Merry Wives of Windsor' in 1598. Plat 1609 recommends they be boiled then soaked in cold sugar syrup as "Rootes preserved in this manner, will eate ery tender." Murrell 1617 has it ground with almonds, pistachios and sugar, bound with rosewater, musk and ambergris.
Original Receipt in Plat 1609;
1. How to preserve Eringo roots, Ænula Campana, and so of others in the same manner.
Seethem them till they be tender: then take away the piths of them, and leave them in a colander till they have dropped as much as they will: then having a thin sirup ready, put them being cold into the sirup beeing also cold, and let them stand so three daies, then boyle the sirup (adding some fresh sirup to it; to supply that which the rootes have drunke up) a little higher: and at three daies end, boyle the sirup againe without any new addition, unto the full height of a preserving sirup, and put it in your rootes, and so keep them. Rootes preserved in this manner, will eate ery tender, because they never boyled in the sirup.
Eringo is also referred to in:
A Discourse of Sallets, 1699
A new system of domestic cookery, 1807
Cooks and Confectioners Dictionary, 1723
Encyclopedia of Practical Cookery, 1891
Mary Eales's Receipts, 1718
Modern Domestic Cookery, 1819
Plain Cookery for the Working Classes, 1852
The Accomplisht Cook, 1660
The Closet of Sir Kenelm Digby, 1669
The Cook and Housekeeper's Dictionary, 1822
The Country Housewife and Lady's Director, 1728
The English Art of Cookery, 1788
The Experienced English Housekeeper, 1769
The Lady's Assistant, 1777
The London Art Of Cookery, 1811
The Practical Cook, 1845
The Queene-Like Closet, 1672
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