But What Did They Plant?

We have spent several weeks discussing what life was like for these Ancient Planters but we just realized that we have not discussed what they actually planted. There is a great exhibit currently at Jamestown Settlement and American Revolution Museum at Yorktown in Williamsburg, Virginia that includes gardens that include examples of the types of crops that were grown during the formation of our country.

We all know the story of Thanksgiving and Pocahontas but many of us are not aware of how much of that influenced colonial American diet. Corn was original grown by the Powhatan Indians and was adopted by the colonists. The Powhatan also showed the colonists how to grow beans and squash around the corn. Other foods and spices that are on display include:

  • peas
  • carrots
  • lettuce
  • chard
  • onions
  • radishes
  • kale
  • cabbage
  • parsnips
  • feverfew
  • wormwood
  • savory
  • rosemary
  • yarrow
  • coriander
  • sage
  • thyme
  • dill
  • oregano
  • chamomile
  • lemon balm

But not everything that was grown during this time was used for food. Crops were used for medicine, fabric dye, insect repellent and for sale. Two types of tobacco are grown in the exhibit – Nicotiana rustica which was found native in the Americas and Nicotiana tabacum which was brought over to the Americas in the early 17 century. Cotton and flax are also both grown as this is what the colonists used to make clothes.

The exhibit also has a “slave farm” with other crops that slaves grew for personal use or to sell at the market. Crops include peanuts, collards, cowpeas, okra, peppers, and gourds.