Ancient Roman Fruit Salads – Melon and Peaches


In the ancient Roman agronomy books, we find many recipes and suggestions to preserve and dry fruit; however, fresh-fruit recipes are quite rare, except for a few preparations in the cookbook conventionally attributed to Apicius, the source we are using today.
The two fruit salads we are preparing are savory and intensely aromatic. We suggest pairing the peach salad with meatballs, and the melon salad with cuttlefish and shrimp cakes or lobster.
Peaches, write Pliny, were expensive, despite they kept themselves for a few days. However, two centuries later, in the Edict of Prices issued by Emperor Diocletian, we find out that 10 big peaches or 20 little costed just 4 denarii.
Melon, pepon, and melopepon instead are difficult to identify precisely, as we wrote a few weeks ago about cucumber. We know from Galen that pepon was a sort of sweet cucumber, according to Pliny a very big one. The Edict of Prices seems to confirm the huge size: 2 big melopepones or 4 little melopepones costed 4 denarii as well as 4 pepones, against the price of cucumbers, that costed 4 denarii per 10 or 20 pieces depending on the size.
Below, you find the original texts with our translation, a note about the ingredients, and the video of the recipes with captions in English and Italian. Enjoy!


4 peaches
spices (black pepper, lovage, cumin)
dry mint
extra virgin olive oil

To make the cumin sauce, mince the parsley and grind black pepper, lovage, and a good quantity of cumin. Add the minced parsley and dry mint, pounding all the ingredients together. Mix the sauce with a little honey and garum, diluting with vinegar.
Peel and slice the peaches finely, then simmer them in water for a couple of minutes. Arrange them on a plate with a bit of olive oil and the cumin sauce.

Ancient Roman Fruit Salads - Pesche

Note about the ingredients
The author specifies to use duriora peaches, which may mean that we have to choose peaches not excessively ripe or a variety with a hard pulp. It is important to simmer them for the shortest time possible to prevent them from dissolving.
Lovage is a quite intense Mediterranean spice and with the addition of pepper, it turns very spicy. If you do not have it, skip this ingredient or use anise seeds instead.

Original text
Patina de persicis: persica duriora purgabis, frustatim concides, elixas, in patina compones, olei modicum superstillabis et cum cuminato inferes.
Cuminatum: piper, ligusticum, petroselinum, mentam siccam, cuminum plusculum, mel, acetum, liquamen.

Plate of peaches: clean quite hard peaches, then slice and simmer them. Place them in a plate pouring over a bit of oil and serve with cumin sauce.
Cumin sauce: pepper, lovage, parsley, dry mint, a good amount of cumin, honey, vinegar, garum.

Ancient Roman Fruit Salads - Preview


spices (black pepper, asafoetida)

Mince the pennyroyal and grind the black pepper, adding a bit of honey, garum, and vinegar. Peel and cut half a melon into squares. Plate the melon and pour over the sauce, grating a bit of asafoetida on the top.

Ancient Roman Fruit Salads - Melone

Note about the ingredients
Pennyroyal is very common in ancient Roman and Greek cuisine and it is still used in traditional Italian cuisine. It grows wild in many Italian regions, but it may be difficult to find. Its flavor recalls of mint, though it is stronger and slightly bitter. If you do not have it, use mint instead.
The author suggests using either honey or raisin wine. Choose the ingredient you prefer.
Asafoetida is equivalent to silphium Parthicum, one of the most common ancient Mediterranean spices, used as a cheap substitute for the costly silphium Cyrenaicum, no longer produced. Silphium appears in both Roman and Greek cuisine.

Ancient Roman Fruit Salads - Thumbnail

Original text
Melones et pepones: piper, puleium, mel vel passum, liquamen, acetum: interdum et silfi accedit.

Melons and pepons: pepper, pennyroyal, honey or raisin wine, garum, vinegar. Meanwhile, add silphium.

Ancient Roman Recipes Playlist

YouTube Channel

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