Facts About Viking Food, Farming and Feasts

The Vikings are best known as brave and fearsome invaders and warriors, but they were also able farmers and fishermen. Here are some facts about the types of farming and fishing the Vikings relied upon, the foods they would have eaten and their meal time practices and customs.

What did the Vikings farm?

  • The Vikings both grew crops and kept animals.
  • The best farmland in the Viking world was located in Denmark and parts of Sweden. On the fertile land in these areas, the Vikings grew: wheat, barley, rye and oats.
  • Flax was also grown and this was turned into linen.
  • The Vikings used a range of farming tools constructed from wood and iron. These included: shovels, picks, hoes, sickles and scythes.
  • Vikings farmers raised sheep, pigs, poultry, goats and cattle. Wool from sheep was the main material used to make Viking clothes.
  • Some of the Viking lands had very harsh climates and soils unfit for most crops. In these areas the Vikings kept poultry and pigs in farmyards.

How did Viking Fishermen Catch Fish?

  • Viking fishermen used both nets and barbed hooks to catch fish.
  • They caught freshwater fish (such as trout and eels) in the lakes of Europe and herring and cod in the Baltic Sea, the North Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean.
  • Fish formed a major part of a Viking’s diet.

What Types of Food Did the Vikings Eat?

  • Oats, rye and barley were made into bread or porridge – split peas were often added to the mixture.
  • Goat meat, horse meat and beef were all commonly eaten – often in stews.
  • The Vikings hunted to provide venison (the meat from a deer), wild boar, reindeer, hare and wildfowl.
  • Honey was used as a sweetener.
  • Honey was also used to make mead, a strong alcoholic drink.
  • Beer was made from barley and wine was made from berries and fruits.
  • Animals were often slaughtered and their meat smoked or dried to preserve it and provide the Vikings with food during the winter. Fishes were either salted and dried or pickled.
  • The most common vegetables in a Vikings diet were cabbages and peas.
  • The Vikings also picked cherries, apples and plums in the summer months.
  • Onions, garlic and dill were added to stews to give them more flavour.

How Did the Vikings Prepare and Eat Their Food?

  • Food was often prepared around a hearth located in the centre of the main living space, although some Viking dwellings had separate kitchen areas.
  • Huge iron cauldrons were used to cook meat and make stews.
  • Some animals and birds were roasted on spits.
  • The Vikings used bowls and plates made of wood or pottery.
  • They didn’t use forks. Instead they used their fingers and sharp knives to position and cut their meals into bite-size mouthfuls.
  • Viking families usually ate twice a day.
  • Viking feasts usually lasted a long time and were very drunken. Wedding celebrations could last for weeks!

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