In the 17C & 18C British American colonies, families had to plan, plant, & maintain garden seeds in a garden in order to produce the food that sustained their lives from day to day. Seed saving was a necessity. Gardeners farmers carefully selected & stored the best seeds from their harvests, ensuring they had seed for planting in subsequent years. The knowledge of pollination, purity, harvesting and storage of seeds was all part of survival & learned within the family & community.
When the colonial family finally could produce enough to support & maintain their everyday lives, they turned to the seeds of flowering plants to ornament their surroundings & to impress their neighbors. This blog will follow the story of their seed suppliers from purveyors of basic survival to savvy promoters of luxury & status.
In the minds of English people, the perfect diet was one of meat or fish, bread or grain-based porridges, and beer. Dairy products and vegetables were eaten but were not considered essential for health. In England, however, only wealthy people could afford to eat in this way. Poorer families ate meals of vegetables, dairy products and, when they could afford them, meat. Since hunting and trapping were the privileges of landowners, wildfowl (like turkeys) and game (like deer) were not a major part of the common person’s diet.
Along with Indian corn, the Pilgrims also grew some beans, pumpkins, wheat, barley, oats and peas in their fields. In the gardens near their houses, women grew many different kinds of herbs and vegetables, like parsley, lettuce, spinach, carrots and turnips. Some foods, like salt, sugar, oil and vinegar, had to be imported from England.