Tjaneferet's Fruit and Vegetable Stand

hotep hieroglyph

Hotep and welcome to Tjaneferet's Wild and Cultivated Fruit and Vegetable Stand! I have looked hard all over the land for these fine fruits , vegetables, and sweets and seasonings. Some of them will be well known to you, some of them not. Do not be afraid to try something new! We have something for every palette and every class. I guarantee that all fruits and vegetables are absolutely fresh and wholesome.

I have a variety of fruits for sale:

apples balanites dates
dom nuts Egyptian plums figs
grapes jujubes/nabk berries melons
olives persea fruits pomegranates
sycamore figs    

For vegetables I have:

cabbage and lettuce celery chick peas
chufa nuts/tiger nuts lotus melons
onions and leeks papyrus radishes

Seasonings and sweeteners include:

castor-berry oil, moringa oil, and nut oils
coriander, cumin, dill, fenugreek, and garlic
carob, grape syrup, and honey

Having a hard time choosing what to buy? Look below for more descriptions!

Fruits
Vegetables
Sweets and seasonings

Fruits

fruit hieroglyph

Apples (Egyptian tebekh)

The arrival of these fine fruits during Hyksos times is one of the few good things to come out of that era. They have especially been popular since the 18th Dynasty.

Balanites/Hegelig/Desert Date

Image of a balanite tree and Desert Date

For our less well-off customers we have balanites. Balanites are date-like fruits that have been eaten since the times of the early kings (3rd Dynasty). Balanite trees are drought-resistant and produce fruits even in the driest of years. The leaves and new shoots can be cooked like cabbage. When ripe, balanites have pale brown skins that are peeled to reveal brown or brown-grey pulp. The fruit is bitter but edible and can be eaten dried or fresh. It is best pounded and transformed into a refreshing drink. An oil can also be extracted and used for cooking.

Dates (Egyptian sww?) from the date palm (bnr.t)

Dates come from the date palm. Date palms can live for 150 years. The leaves of the date palm are a symbol of longevity. Date palms have grown in Kemet since before there were pharaohs, although some wise men suggest they originally came from the east. Date palms grow wherever there is water, in oases, along streams, wells, irrigation canals, etc. Wood from date palms is used in construction and its leaves are used for weaving and thatching projects. And of course, dates make great wine too.

Dates are a fine choice for any occasion. Choose from yellow dates, which are sweet and firm, dark brown dates, which are sweet and mushy, and red dates, which are bitter and crunchy.

Dom Nuts (Egyptian xAnn.t-fruit) from the Dom palm (mAmA)

Image of a doum palm tree

Dom nuts come from the dom or gingerbread palm. They only grow south of Waset (Thebes). Like date palms, dom palms have grown in Upper Egypt since before there were kings. The leaves of the dom palm are used for weaving. Palm wine is made from tapping the trunk of the dom palm but this kills the tree. The fruit of the dom palm is red-orange and apple-sized. The fruit has been described as tasting like gingerbread or caramel. Try some!

Egyptian Plums/Sebesten

Egyptian plums grow wild on trees in the oases and elsewhere. Egyptian plums have occasionally been eaten since the Middle Kingdom. They have become more common more recently, in the 18th Dynasty. The cherry-sized fruit is yellow or is greenish with a hint of red. The fruits are often dried and pitted. Cakes are then made from the dried pulp. People prefer to eat Egyptian plums as vegetables or pickles rather than as raw fruit.

Figs

This fine fruit originally came from the eastern Mediterranean. Although figs have been eaten since the days of the early kings (2nd Dynasty), sycamore figs used to be more common than "common" figs. We have a fine assortment of lovely figs. Come and see what has made common figs so common!

Grapes

Image of grapes in a round arbor

Some say that grapes originally came from a distant place called "Transcacasia". Wherever they came from, we have a plentiful supply of them. They are good for eating, winemaking, and drying (to make raisins). Grape syrup is used to sweeten other foods. We have dessert grapes and wine grapes from the oases. Grapes have been eaten since before there were kings. Come and see why!

Jujubes/Zizyphus fruits/Nabk berries

Jujube and Picture of raw jujube fruits

The shrublike jujube plant has grown in Kemet since the time of the first kings (1st Dynasty). There are several types of zizyphus fruits. The Zizyphus Lotus plant of Libya (northern Africa) produces fruit that are called nabk berries. Nabk berries taste so sweet that some say they were the fruit of the lotus-eaters of Libya. It is said that a liqueur prepared from these fruits causes people to forget their homes because the liqueur tastes so good. Some say nabk berries taste like dates and some say they are like cherries. In the east (Arabia) people dry the fruit in the sun for a few days and then pound the fruit into cakes. The dried cakes are said to resemble sweet gingerbread. Dried or fresh, try some nabk berries today and forget your cares!

Melon

Melons have been eaten in Kemet since before there were kings. They taste real good on a hot day! Try some!

Olives (Egyptian djet or djede of bq)

Olives first appeared in the 13th Dynasty but they became more common during Hyksos times. The olive trees in She-Resy (the Faiyum) are said to give the best fruit. My olives come exclusively from She-Resy.

Persea Fruit/Chaouaba (Egyptian lebakh or SwAb)

The Persea tree is a medium-sized evergreen tree with leathery leaves. Persea trees originally came from East Africa. The persea tree is associated with cats. The serpent, Apep (Apophis), was slain at a persea tree at Iunu (Heliopolis).

Persea fruits are small and yellow. They have two hard seeds. The fruit has been described as "sweet and luscious" (by Theophrastus). Try it for yourself! [There is some disagreement as to whether the plant referred to is a Cordia myxa or a Mimusops species. The modern Persea genus may have originated in West Asia and includes avocados.]

Pomegranates

Image of two pomegrantes

Pomegranates have been eaten since the 12th Dynasty. They were also popularized during Hyksos times. Try them in pomegranate wine!

Sycamore Figs (Egyptian nehet)

Sycamore Figs

We offer sycamore figs for our less well-off patrons. Sycamore fig trees are good shade trees that grow along riverbanks and at crossroads where there is water under the surface. The trees originally came from east Africa. Coffins and other items are made out of sycamore fig tree wood. The Book of the Dead says that there are twin sycamores at the eastern gate of heaven, where Ra emerges in the morning. Het-heru (Hathor) is known as The Lady Of the Sycamores.

Forget what you have heard about sycamore figs. They can be very tasty when properly prepared. Sycamore figs are buff-green when young and yellow or pale red when mature. In Kemet, the large figs are scraped with metal scrapers and left to ripen. They ripen four days later.

Vegetables, Nuts, and Other Foods

vegetables hieroglyph

Almonds

Almonds come from exotic Persia (or a distant place called Armenia) and have occasionally been used in New Kingdom times.

Cabbage and Lettuce

Cabbage is very popular with all Egyptians. It is often boiled and is said to be a delicate vegetable. Lettuce is sacred to the god, Min. Lettuce is eaten with oil and salt.

Celery

Celery has been eaten in ancient Kemet since at least the 18th Dynasty, perhaps before. Try this new sensation!

Chick Peas

Chick peas have also been eaten at least since the 18th Dynasty.

Chufa Nuts/Tiger Nuts

Image of a handful of chufa nuts (Scroll down for the picture).

Chufa nuts come from plants known as Nile Grass or Egyptian Paper Reed. Different parts of the plants have been used since before the time of the kings. The stems of this aquatic perennial is used to make paper, ropes, mats, medicines, etc. Chufa nuts are dried and then eaten.

Lotus

Images of a blue lotus

The roots of the white lotus are popular with the less well-off. They are eaten fried, grilled, roasted, or boiled. Lotus seeds are used in pastries. Some say that lilies are called lotos and that lilies are dried and pounded into loaves that are baked in the fire.

Onions and Leeks

Onions have been eaten since the Old Kingdom. Their images have been identified on bas-reliefs from the Old Kingdom. Baskets of onions were the second-most popular grave offering during the Old Kingdom (behind bread). African onions have been described as especially pungent by some (Pliny). The best leeks are said to come from Kemet (Egypt). The pyramid-laborers were said to have lived on a diet of radishes, onions, and leeks. These staples are popular with all classes.

Papyrus

Pictures of papyrus plants

Papyrus roots have long been eaten by the poor but did you know that the juice inside papyrus stalks is quite nice and sweet? Some say the stems are chewed like sugar cane, whatever that is.

Peas

Peas are a rare food item that has been eaten since the times of the early kings (2nd Dynasty).

Radishes

Radishes have been popular since the time of the Old Kingdom. Egyptian radishes are quite large. There are also wild radishes that taste like turnips.

Seasonings and Sweeteners

sweet hieroglyph

Oils

Oils include moringa oil from Arabia, olive oil, and various nut oils. There is also castor-berry (kiki) oil.

Seasonings

Coriander and fenugreek have been used since before there were kings in Kemet. Cumin, dill, and garlic are the new and coming seasonings. They have been used since the 18th Dynasty. Try some today!

Sweeteners

Sweeteners include carob, grape syrup, and honey. Carob is not that common but it has been eaten in Kemet (Egypt) since the 12th Dynasty. The dark brown seed pods are baked and then ground into powder.

Rumored exotic foods - Some foreigners have described foods called cherries, pears, peaches, and sesame oil. I have searched all over Kemet (Egypt) and I have not found any. Perhaps they will appear later in our culinary history. [Cherries were grown in the Faiyum in Greek times. Pears and peaches appeared in Roman times.]

This web page was created to assist people who are role playing in the ancient world on:
Panhistoria.

The web page is set during Egypt's New Kingdom period.

See also Ta Sety, Egypt's First Nome

And my sister's nome at Herui, the 5th Nome

Sources:

I have used many sources while creating this web page, including the following books:

Ancient Egyptian Agriculture and the Origins of Horticulture, Jules Janick, Purdue University, 2002.

A Dictionary of Ancient Egypt, Margaret Bunson, New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.

Eternal Egypt: The Civilization of Ancient Egypt From Earliest Times to the Conquest by Alexander the Great, Pierre Montet, London: Phoenix Press, 1964, 2000.

Food in Antiquity: A Survey of the Diet of Early Peoples, Don Brothwell and Patricia Brothwell, Baltimore, Maryland: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998.

I have also used too many web sites to list, including:

Ancient Egyptian Plants: Trees.

Persea

Some graphics come from:

Updated November 30, 2009

Last updated June 12, 2016