Food Travel > Beer and venison: what Vikings ate Date posted: January 27, 2014

Beer and venison:
what Vikings ate

Food history trends: what Vikings ate

Have you ever wondered what Vikings ate? Thanks to the archaeologists, now we know (well, at least a little bit of it).

2014 has seen Vikings as protagonists: both as the ones who have predicted the Apocalypse for 2014 – accordingly to them the world is set to end on the 22nd February – and as topic for series and movies: for all of fans of these People from history be aware that the second season of Vikings will start on February 27th on History Channel. While we are all longing to see what’s next in the series in the territories of Albione and Ragnar, let’s learn more about their real life in history.

Vikings were, basically, Scandinavian people who sailed and explored Europe, Asia, and the North Atlantic islands in the period from the late 8th to the mid-11th centuries.

The immediate association we do with them is with their wooden, light-weighted ships that were long and especially built for rough sea or shallow waters thanks also to their wide hull.

They are also known for their build, tall and strong. What did they eat to sustain that body (that it has to do more with genetic, if you are wondering, than to what they ate)?

Archaeologists found out about Vikings diet by examining latrines (toilets) and middens (rubbish dumps).


Food history trends: what Vikings ate - Lamb

Well, they didn’t eat much differently from us. Meat was available, and most of the time eaten  roasted or stewed. Among the options were veal, lamb, venison, mutton, horse and, mostly for daily meals, pork.


Food history trends: what Vikings ate - Bread

Bread was produced in great quantity and used daily. They already used the ‘sourdough’ method, where a flour and water starter is left for several days to ferment. They also used to cultivate cereal crops like oats, rye, and barley, and wheat of course.


Food history trends: what Vikings ate - Hazelnuts

The nuts were consumed as they were but also used to produce flour. Tree bark was another way to get flour. Hazelnuts were also eaten.

Dairy Products

Food history trends: what Vikings ate - Milk 

Whole milk (from sheep, goats, and horses) was used to make butter (and only rarely drunk as it was considered too valuable to drink daily). Cheese was produced too, mostly salted and fermented. The peculiarity was that milk was a seasonal product, as only in spring animals were lactating.


Food history trends: what Vikings ate - Eggs

Gull’s eggs were a delicacy, but also eggs from chicken, geese, ducks were used.


Food history trends: what Vikings ate - Fish

Vikings caught freshwater fishes such as trout, salmons and eels. In the coast also herrings and shellfish were fished. Fish formed a major part of their diet and it was eaten fresh, salted, smoked, pickled.


Food history trends: what Vikings ate - Vegetables

Potatoes were commonly consumed, together with turnips, carrots, cabbages.

Food history trends: what Vikings ate - Fruits

Plums and apples were part of the diet, sometimes dried. Also used were raspberries, elderberries and some cherries.


Food history trends: what Vikings ate - Beer

Fresh water and beer (ale, of course weaker and cloudier than the one we are used to today) was drunk daily by children too (water that was brewed was considered safer than water caught from wells and streams). Mead, another common drink, was brewed from the washings of honeycombs after honey extraction (honey being the only available kind of sugar back then). Wealthy people drunk also imported wine.

Check also how Victorians ate and how Romans ate.



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