Summer is picnic season!

August 05, 2019

Summer is picnic season!

Words by Jenny Patton. 

“Picnic” comes from the French term “pique-nique”, which was used from the mid-1600s on to describe gourmands who brought their own wine when dining out. However, elegant meals outdoors were probably first enjoyed during the Middle Ages, when hunting became a favoured pursuit of the leisure classes. Henry the VIII, Queen Elizabeth I and their hunting parties may even have enjoyed picnics during their visits to Elsyng Palace on the Forty Hall Estate in the mid 1500’s.

Elizabeth at a picnic | Woodcut from "The Booke of Hunting" in the British Library.

The British Library

According to food historians(*), it was also common for ladies to ride out into the woods on Lammas Day, 1st August, to enjoy a picnic of delights such as honey-dumplings and cakes, seasoned with lavender and cinnamon, cloves and cardamom and little pastries with meat, potted pickled fruits or onions in verjuice. They would find wild woodland strawberries or apples, pears, plums and quince, which grew on trees planted deliberately on the edge of the woods. How delicious! 

500 years on we do things a little differently but wine still remains a feature. If you are in the North London area and considering a picnic on the Forty Hall Estate, here are some top tips for a jolly good picnic!:

Forty hall Estate  

1) Source locally for the perfect picnic fodder - for the perfect pique-nique look no further than our local stockist, Holtwhites Bakery . They take time to make 'real' bread the old-fashioned way. Fill a baguette with farmhouse cheeses and charcuterie from their well- stocked deli counter and after, spoil yourself with a delicious sweet pastry or patisserie treat, and a bottle of FHV wine too!  (Note: Holtwhites closed  from 5 to 18th August).

2)Think string not single use plastic film -  Once you've filled your baguette, tie up with string rather than film, to hold your filling in!  The Forty Hall Farm Shop are currently selling beautiful printed reusable waxed sheets for food wrapping too.

3)  Don’t forget the entertainment – you might think you won’t have enough hands to carry games, so instead make extra use of those paper plates:


4) Keep cool and hydrated  - use frozen water bottles as coolers in your hamper and then drink once they've melted a bit. Take ice cubes in a Thermos flask, so you can chill your drinks as you go and not worry about them melting.

5) Be more Tudor - the Tudors taught us that a picnic is nothing without the wine! Go one step better and drink a wine in the setting where our grapes are grown. Choose from our Light-medium bodied 2018 Ortega, our crisp fruity 2018 Bacchus or award winning Sparkling Brut. Buy direct from our cellar door – Forty Hall Farm Shop (Thursday– Sun 11-4pm during August)

Or, come along to the Forty Hall Farmers' Market on August 11th, we'll be there along with 20+  stalls of local produce to gather your picnic from. More information about the monthly market here.

 Finaly, if you've over indulged and experiencing  ‘heaviness in the belly’ try a medieval remedy, “give to eat radish with salt, and vinegar to sip; soon his mood will lighten”. The Lacunga C100 ( **) 


* and ** Source: Carol McGrath - Medieval Summer Picnic


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