Research Ramblings: Horse Treats and Avoiding Culinary Anachronisms, Part 2

As mentioned in my previous post, ancient horsemen who wanted to give their horses a little something special didn’t have sugar lumps, but they did have access to fruit. Fruit, though, was both regional and seasonal in ancient times. For instance, oranges are an important crop in Greece now, but they weren’t introduced to Europe until the time of the crusades. And while it’s easy for North Americans to import fresh summer fruit from South America in the middle of our winter, the ancients didn’t have the benefit of modern transportation networks.

Fortunately for me, Dalby’s Siren Feasts lists fruit available to ancient Greeks. Among them are:

  • Strawberry
  • Apple
  • Blackberry
  • Sloe
  • Plum
  • Date
  • Pomegranate
  • Musk Melon
  • Cherry
  • Quince
  • Watermelon
  • Pear
  • Mulberry

The Greeks also had grapes and figs according to Dalby, but because they were deemed luxuries, not staples, I didn’t include them for consideration. After all, you might have access to filet mignon and love your dog, but I doubt you’d feed filet mignon to your dog.

Finally, I ran the list past my horsy ladies to see if any fruit candidates were potentially toxic to horses, the way chocolate is to dogs. Julie responded by saying that horses can eat pretty much anything, with a few exceptions. For horse owners, oak and maple leaves (which can get horses sick if ingested) are more cause for concern than fruit.

In the end, I chose apples for a fall scene, and plums and blackberries for  summer scenes. I wasn’t able to find exact dates on their seasons in Greece, but Greece has a Mediterranean climate as does California, so I used California fruit seasons as a best guess.

When I shared my choices with the ladies, Julie had me add one more detail to the scene with the blackberries: stains. According to her, even if a horse is being as gentle as can be, there will still be squished berries.


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