- I was writing about vegetables yesterday and came across something I’d never heard of, colewort. Was it a herb? Some sort of leafy thing to eat cold in a salad or cook and eat hot with dinner? I’d heard of wort, especially as part of traditional plant names which we might no longer use – the plants I mean. When I looked it up I remembered wort wasalso was some part of the brewing process, but colewort? Cole, as in coleslaw?I discovered that another name for colewort is seakale which gives a big clue – kale (similar word to ‘cole’)is a large leafed vegetable and as it’s called seakale it must have originated by the sea. The kale/cole part of the name originally came from Latin meaning a stem or a stalk; from Latin it spread into other languages and might actually have arrived in English via the Vikings with the word cawl/cawel, or but maybe it was already here with the Anglo-Saxons who certainly loved their vegetables! It’s said that at that they believed colewort killed ‘maggots’ and ‘lava’ so would protect their other vegetables from being eaten by pests.
I think the Anglo-Saxons might be surprised to find that a variety of colewort is used as an ornamental garden plant, with large leaves and abundant flowers! One variety is ‘notable in stature’ and has great giant mounds of leaves and delicate white flowers on tall stems. Apparently they can grow to eight foot tall so not suitable for every or even many gardens!
We might no longer use the word colewort, or many eat it, but certainly our grandparents would have known of it and grown it in their gardens, vegetable plots and allotments!
Here is a link to a very interesting site which tells you more about colewort: