Malt-juice and pickled cabbage

Scurvy chilled the ambition of every voyage. Because they did not know the causes of the disease, they could not control it. In 1768-71, James Cook first beat scurvy on a long voyage by the regular issue of the proper anti-scorbutics. By then, it was known to be a dietary problem. Dr. James Lind, in 1753, had hit on the right cure: a daily dose of citrus juice. Yet neither Cook (who always worried about the health of his crew) nor the officers of the Admiralty’s Victualling Board read Lind’s treatise, and instead of citrus juice Cook tried other anti-scorbutics: sauerkraut, malt, and half a ton of “portable soup,” made by boiling down meat broth into a gummy cake, the ancestor of the bouillon cube. In combination, these worked. Throughout the three-year voyage of the Endeavour, Cook did not lose a man from scurvy–a feat without precedent in the history of seafaring. Malt-juice and pickled cabbage put Europeans in Australia, as microchip circuitry would put Americans on the moon.

–Robert Hughes, That Fatal Shore

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