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Feast & Fast

The Art of Food in Europe, 1500 – 1800

71: Richard Bradley

Richard Bradley, A General Treatise of Husbandry and Gardening (London, 1721) Sir Matthew Decker, a wealthy Dutch merchant and grandfather of the Fitzwilliam Museum’s founder was the first man to grow pineapples from scratch on English soil in the 1710s with the help of his Dutch gardener, William Tellende. Decker’s pineapples were also the largest grown to date in Europe. This achievement was publicised by his friend, Richard Bradley, Cambridge University’s first Professor of Botany, in this issue of his General Treatise of Husbandry and Gardening, which included this finely observed engraving of one of Decker’s pineapple plants. Based on Tellende’s techniques, Bradley provided step-by-step instructions on growing pineapples from slips using hotbeds and special thermometers. Decker’s achievements and Bradley’s publication encouraged other gardeners to follow suit, starting pineapple-growing mania in England. But this was a fashionable pursuit only for the wealthy since it required specialized equipment, skilled gardeners, time, space, and money, with Bradley estimating that it cost some £80 to grow a single pineapple from scratch, equivalent to roughly £9,300 today.

Private collection

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