To keep flies off your paintings and hangings. An Italian conceipte both for the rareness and use thereof doth please me above all other: viz: pricke a cowcumber full of barley corns with the small spring ends outwards, make little holes in the cowcumber first with a wooden or bone bodkin, and after put in the grain, these being thicke placed will in time cover all the cowcumber, so as no man can discerne what strange plant the same should be. Such cowcumbers to be hung up in the middest of summer rooms to drawe all the flies unto them, which otherwise would flie upon the pictures or hangings.
Hugh Plat, Delightes For Ladies, c.1602
Hugh Plat… does not quite make it clear that the wheat stuck into the cucumber would quickly sprout and cover the fruit in a coat of young shoots. This must have looked like some exotic sea creature hanging from a chandelier at the centre of a room. It would, no doubt, have grown increasingly strange as the cucumber gradually dried and rotted, and the barley shoots withered.
from The Curious Cookbook : Viper Soup, Badger Ham, Stewed Sparrows & 100 More Historic Recipes by Peter Ross (2012). I thoroughly recommend this splendid new book, published by the British Library, not least because Dr Ross is my oldest friend – we met when we were eleven years old. Obtain a copy, and you too will be able to make what is possibly the world’s most complicated recipe – cheese and biscuits (with chutney) à la Jack Warner. Yes, that Jack Warner, beloved by all as Dixon of Dock Green.