In last’s week mail, our order of potatoes and leeks arrived from Fedco Seeds, as well as onions from Dixondale Farms. We are very lucky to have others grow, harvest and store the seeds and starts needed for our garden. The women of this farm needed to be more resourceful, for they either had to gather from the land and woods and/or store from the previous year’s crops.
In her book, Good Wives, the esteemed historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich outlines the chores of Magdalen Wear, of York, Maine:
Long before her small garden began to produce, she would have searched out a wild “sallett” in the nearby woods, in summer turning to streams and barrens for other delicacies congenial to English taste—eels, salmon, berries and plums.
Michael Tortorello went in search of older plants that were commonly used by colonial women, but are now rare or out of favor, but not flavour. Some of the plants are grown at Plimoth Plantation and tended by the Colonial Foodways Culinarian Kathleen Wall. She recounts:
It doesn’t help matters that many Colonial-era “herbs,” like dandelions or patience dock (Rumex patientia), would now be tarred as weeds. Burnet (Sanguisorba officinalis), one of Ms. Wall’s favorites, can be found growing by the side of the road. The plant has a tireless quality. The flowers, typically maroon, will bloom all summer if you keep picking them, she said. And the little leaves of salad burnet (Sanguisorba minor) can be harvested almost all year.
Dandelions are starting to crop up, not only in the passages I am reading about older gardens, but also in our yard. More on those tomorrow.[Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Goodwives, (Vintage Books, 1982), pgs 31-31] [Michael Tortorello, Ye Olde Kitchen Garden, New York Times, July 7, 2011]