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Colonial Cooking. It’s Time to EAT. By Kathy Snyder. The Colonial Pantry. Everyone who arrived during the early 1600s had to become accustomed to three foods available in this new land. These foods included corn, pumpkins, and beans .

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colonial cooking


It’s Time to EAT

By Kathy Snyder

the colonial pantry
The Colonial Pantry
  • Everyone who arrived during the early 1600s had to

become accustomed to three foods available in this new

land. These foods included corn, pumpkins, and beans.

  • In New England waters, seafood was plentiful-- especially lobster, clams,

oysters, and cod fish. A popular soup made from seafood was fish chowder.

  • The term "vegetable" was not used in the 16th century. Edible plants were called "sallets." The most widely used sallets included onions, artichokes, carrots, turnips, cabbages, and beets.
  • Some of the animals eaten were deer, duck, turkey, rabbit, geese, and pigeon.
  • The Colonists found a number of native fruits that included blueberries, cranberries, blackberries, raspberries, and gooseberries.
gardening in the colonies
Gardening in the Colonies


Dear Friend,

Spring is surely upon those of us who toil in the Colonial Garden, thus on a rainy day I write to share with you the Fruits of our labours. While I cannot \send you the Flowers, Vegetables or other Products from our cultivation of the Plants, it is my hope to interest you with some of the Knowledge we have gleaned.

gardening in the colonies continued
Gardening in the Colonies-Continued

have again had a lesson of the importance not to defer one task in favor of another. Wesley Greene worked mightily through January and dunged the upper vegetable bed in a timely manner. I began the lower bed in March, exhausted our supply of Dung and now must finish the bed with leaf Mold while trying to plant spring seeds. Next year I must complete the spading of the vegetable beds in January and February.

gardening in the colonies5
Gardening in the Colonies

Despite my procrastination we are posssessed of Peas planted from March first, along with Onions begun from bulblets and transplanted Brassicas nurtured under glass. Tender Seedlings of Broad Windsor Beans and Salsify planted on March 17th stretch heavenward. Of course we still impress visitors to our garden by sharing a taste of the Peas and Lettuce planted in the Hotframe at the start of last December. The second hotframe is currently occupied with seedling Melons and Cucumbers growing in Pots or Baskets for transplanting to the garden in a few days.

gardening in the colonies continued6
Gardening in the Colonies-Continued

We are near the middle of the Spring flowers. The Crocuses, Daffodils, and Narcissus have nearly left us for this year, but the Tulips are near their peak. Many of the smaller bulbs still reveal their glory, such as the Spanish Squill, the Anemone and the Grape Hyacinth. The early perennials such as the Cowslip, Candytuft, along with natives such as Green- and-Gold, Spring Beauty, and Foamflower are spreading carpets of color.

gardening in the colonies continued7
Gardening in the Colonies Continued

The Flower Stall vendors find it easy to interest visitors in their goods when the plants are busy displaying their qualities. A Dogwood, Lilac, or Redbud is worthwhile to buy as a young whip when its more mature brother or sister is grandly draped across the fence. Further, I impress upon you Friend, the flower merchants have expanded their wares this year with many new plants to sell, along with Seeds, dried flowers, and an assortment of garden Utensils.

gardening in the colonies8
Gardening in the Colonies

Wesley and I renewed acquaintance with a family from the Upper Chesapeake this week. They had visited our garden last September and returned to share the culmination of that encounter. While they were here we had given the children a Chrysalis attached to one of the plants. They took it home, kept it warm until the Butterfly emerged, and brought it back to release it in the garden. 'Tis a wonder indeed how such a small act on our part can encourage others to admire Nature.

I hope to be able to inform you of the progress of our economy in the future. Much More I have to say but I will tire you no Longer but only to assure you that I am Your sincere Friend

Terrance Yemm, Gardener

mixing the new and old
Mixing the New and Old

There were native foods available to the early American colonists; game, fish, berries and Indian crops (corn, squash, pumpkin). It took some time for the colonists to change their old eating habits and adapt to the new foods available. Settlers brought wheat and rye seeds with them to grow in America but found these crops were difficult to grow in the soil along the coast. Corn, a Native American crop, was easier to grow. They adapted their bread and pudding recipes to use corn instead of wheat and rye flour

help from a cookbook
The first cookbook printed in the colonies, The Compleat Housewife contains popular recipes, as well as directions for painting rooms and removing mildew. In addition, Smith includes home remedies for treating several different ailments, such as smallpox and consumption.

The Compleat Housewife was a massive undertaking for Williamsburg printer, William Parks, who, aside from his government and newspaper work, had previously only produced small pamphlets. He printed and sold this 228-page cookbook, then in its fifth London edition, believing that there was a strong market for it with Virginia housewives who wished to be current with the London fashion. Advertisements for The Compleat Housewife appeared in The Virginia Almanack and in The Virginia Gazette, the weekly newspaper for the colony. Twenty-four years later, this cookbook was still popular in the colony. There are six known copies of the Williamsburg edition of The Compleat Housewife.

Help From A Cookbook
turning up the heat
Turning Up the Heat

Hot water was heated in a pot hanging from the pot hook and some other cooking was conducted from a hanging pot as well. However, Plimoth settles also had three-legged pots, and frying pans, and grills. All of these were used in front of the fire. Food was either cooked from side heat -- the heat falling on the side of the pot from the fire -- and or from embers shoveled out of the fireplace under, and even on top of a pot lid.

setting the table
Setting the Table

Many Plimoth homes had richly detailed interiors. Here, a carpet covers a table, and dishes are kept on a simple open shelf.