Pilgrim Fathers - Seeds

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Posts: 1
Joined: 28 Jan 2020, 11:27

Pilgrim Fathers - Seeds

Post by catherine »

I wondered if you could help me.
I am doing some research on behalf of the Friends of Devonport Park,for the Mayflower 400 celebrations.
My research relates to the provisions that were taken on board the Mayflower in 1619 by the Pilgrim Fathers to eat on their journey to America, and to plant up once there.
I would like to be as accurate as possible and therefore use the varieties of the period, if they are still available. If anyone was able to help me that would be fantastic.
We intend to buy the seeds and plant up a display garden for the summer.
The plants include
Cabbage/ Kale
Mustard seed

Many thanks

Posts: 24
Joined: 25 Jun 2017, 13:45

Re: Pilgrim Fathers - Seeds

Post by rwhoyle »

I am not sure that I can really advise on this in the depth that you wish.

The question seems to break down into several parts.

i. I think that the food on board would have been pretty thin stuff: bread, biscuit, cheese, weevils. I would doubt if there was anything on board to be eaten that was fresh (hence scurvy), but you might suppose apples.

ii. You have at least a couple of things on your list which I would have thought were unknown at the time, certainly rice, probably turnips, but carrots were familiar in the late sixteenth century.

iii ON the varieties grown, the first problem is that certainly with grains, there was no recognition of varieties before the early nineteenth century when recognized varieties (which brought a premium price) began to appear. MY people (i.e. in the seventeenth century) generally talked about wheat, barley etc. I would not be sure that they took any particular sort of wheat, barley etc. The second problem is that none of these varieties are grown today - you would have to look to wild plants if you wanted something like the sixteenth-seventeenth century originals. If you are interested in what they looked like, then you need John B Letts, Smoke blackened thatch : a unique source of late medieval plant remains from Southern England (1999).

I might point out that if you sailed to America to start a colony, you needed to take everything you might need with you. No B&Q to go out and get the hammer or axe you left behind. I think that there is at least one printed list of what a settler should take with him but off the top of my head I have no idea where to start looking for it.

A final suggestion. Approach this from the other end, and start with the Omohundro Institute of Early American history at College of William and Mary.

Best wishes,

Richard Hoyle

Posts: 15
Joined: 07 Sep 2018, 22:20

Re: Pilgrim Fathers - Seeds

Post by Nutmeg »

Hi Catherine

As this request has already been up a long time you may have already sorted out your research.

The first rule with research is to start with background reading. The only contemporary account of the Mayflower is that of William Bradford:
http://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/ted_hil ... tation.pdf
(A good modern history should help too.) From this it can be seen how ill-prepared these colonists were. They were starving in their first winter.They had no corn for example. And they stole seeds from Indian graves!

Apart from grain, the vegetables and herbs that might be considered are those listed in William Lawson's 'New Orchard and Garden with the Country Housewife's Garden', published in 1618. There is a modern edition edited by Malcolm Thick (Prospect Books, 2003). Cabbages, carrots (not orange in colour then), chives, leeks, lettuce, onions, parsnips, radish, turnips are among the vegetables Lawson lists. I doubt you will be able to identify varieties for that period.

In any case best wishes with your project.

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