The medieval period in Ireland began in the 12th century, and although there is archaeological evidence for people trading foods before this time, there is a huge increase in trading during the medieval period. Foods were exports from and imported into Ireland; the latter included ‘exotic’ foods such as figs and walnuts. At the rear of this section, a medieval farmstead at Mondaniel, Co. Cork, is shown, consisting of a house and fields uncovered by archaeologists in advance of construction of the M8 motorway (Illustrator: Michael Duffy; image courtesy of Transport Infrastructure Ireland). You can find out more about Mondaniel by downloading the archaeological excavation report here: https://repository.dri.ie/catalog/x346sk057


While cultivated foods were important, wild foods remained a key element of people’s diets in medieval Ireland. Seeds of Chenopodium album L. (fat-hen) are often found at archaeological excavations of medieval sites. Many gardeners now consider fat-hen to be a troublesome weed, but this was a useful food in the past. Its leaves were sold by hawkers as a vegetable, similar to spinach, until the 18th century in Dublin. The seeds of fat-hen can also be eaten, much like its better known relative, Chenopodium quinoa Willd. (quinoa).

Medieval Traders