Medieval monks knew a great deal about plants and their characteristics. And so did monks of later times.
Take the example of Gregor Mendel, as does this article discussed in a March 2009 Journal of Biology article: Why Didn’t Darwin Discover Mendel’s Laws?
Mendel solved the logic of inheritance in his monastery garden with no more technology than Darwin had in his garden at Down House. So why couldn’t Darwin have done it too? A Journal of Biology article argues that Darwin’s background, influences and research focus gave him a viewpoint that prevented him from interpreting the evidence that was all around him, even in his own work.
Moravian priest and scientist Gregor Mendel (1822 – 1884) studied clear-cut, inherited traits in pea plants, which he grew in the monastery gardens in Brno. Mendel showed that trait inheritance follow simple laws, which were later named after him. Mendel’s work was rediscovered at the beginning of the 20th century, and laid the foundations for genetics. Mendel had a good understanding of biology, but his understanding of physics, statistics and probability theory were far superior to Darwin’s.
And of course, a recipe is in order (adapted from Niger Slater):
Peas with Olive Oil and Mint
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 cups frozen green peas
1 small red onion or shallot, sliced very thin
2 sprigs fresh mint
Pour the oil into a medium saucepan and add the peas, onion slices, and mint. Add salt and one T. water, and cover. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook 6 to 7 minutes. Shake the pan occasionally. Serve hot.