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As you do your research on edible foods, wild and planted, you will find that a large amount came from Pennsylvania Germans, who brought them from their home lands in Europe from as early as the 1500’s. There is a large variety of preferred seeds that have made their way from gardens of the east to the growing beds of the west and everywhere in between, thanks to our early explorers.

Traders, merchants and just common people moving to new homes in the unknown territories have carried their seeds, dropped on the way by accident or gardens started, then minds and locations for a home are changed. Lets take a look at some of the types and varieties of grains, vegetables, spices and herbs that found their way across North America in the westward expansion.

Field Seeds

Buckwheat: Lewis & Clark mention buckwheat cakes, as do other colonists in our early history, not sure of how long it has been in N. America,or if the Pa. Germans brought it over, like so many other seeds.

Flax: Has been grown in the colonies as early as 1560’s, used for linen cloth and a number of other cloth by products. Ariane Flax seed is available today.

Rye: This is a good ground cover crop used by Pa. Germans for hundreds of years in this country. Flour is still available in stores today, good for period baking.

Spelt: A form of wheat with a little difference in texture, was originally from Europe but found its way to the colonies when settled. Spelt Mills were popular during the 1800’s in producing flour. You will probably not be able to find seed that is suitable for human usage.

Gourds: In colonial America, old Mexico and parts of Europe, gourds have been used for a number of storage vessels. They have been cooked, fried, boiled or any other way you can think of to be prepared to be eaten. Dipper and large bottle gourds are as old as anything we can find today.

Kale: A good green that will fill in for cabbage or cauliflower in ones diet. Russian or Rugged Jack are good choices that will fit a period menu.

Leeks: A member of the onion family, used as a vegetable and will be correct for a early 1830’s meal. We like the Swiss Coloma Leeks for a green with meat.

Peas: A native to Europe they came over with our friends the Pa. Germans during the migration to the colonies in the 1700’s. The closest to the original would be the Risser Early Sugar Pea.

Pumpkin: Native to the Americas, there are six types listed but no longer available with only a close relation still around, the Fortna White Pumpkin.

Turnips: From Germany originally this turnip of today is only 100 years old, not really period as to say, Gilfeather Turnip.


Tomatoes: Originated in South and Central America, they found their way to Thomas Jefferson’s garden as early as 1781. Red Brandywine are as close as we can come to today, as to the originals he grew.

Beans: Beans were often planted with corn and squash, called "Three Sisters" plantings, the colonists used this Indian method as early as the 1650’s. Fisher, Smith, Hutterite and Jacob’s Cattle beans are still available. Pole beans; Hoffer Lazy Wife, Smith and Scarlet Runner beans have been around since before 1800.

Beets: Native to Europe and N. Africa, their first appearance in N. America is not clear, but reference has been made of them in journals dating to the early 1600’s. Deacon Dan or Lutz are a good choice for the older types.

Cabbage: This mustard family member has been around for 5000 years according to history books. Early Copenhagen, Early Jersey Wakefield and Red Drumhead cabbage will put you into the late 1700’s.

Carrots: Member of the parsley family, came to South and North America from Europe and Asia, in the form of animal fodder, with the colonies employment in the early settlements. The only one that comes close for period use would be the Early Scarlet Horn Carrot.

Corn: Maize is a native of this country, introduced to the early colonies by the natives. This was not a sweet corn as we know it today, more of a field corn, eaten when still young, it passed as a good filler in lean times.


These herbs are used as medicine, seasonings or just for decoration, all have been dated earlier than 1800.

Agronomy/American Pennyroyal: Listed in history as an American Indian herb, used for insect repellent.

Basil/Brunet: A well known pair of herbs, known to provide a aromatic relief for the nose.

Butterfly Weed: Same as above.

Caraway: Has some medical uses, licorice taste used on rye bread by early colonists.

Chives: A flavoring for soups, breads, salads, etc. by native Americans and colonists.

Coriander, Dill: Flavoring or seasoning.

Garlic Chives: Member of the onion family, used for seasoning in soups and salads.

Horehound: Used in teas, candy for sore throat problems.

Sweet Cicely: Licorice flavor used in cooking for seasoning.

Sweet Marjoram: Old medical herb, used for colds in soup and stews.Columbine, elecamane, feverfew, hollyhock, job’s tear, larkspur, lunaria, thin-leafed coneflower, these are all decoration plants and not to be used internally by all means.


Baldwin Woodpecker: Found in history around the mid 1700’s in southern part of Massachusetts.

Black Gilliflower Sheepnose: American grown, found in Connecticut around 1800 and listed in 1817.

Cox’s Orange Pippin: Came to the colonies from Bucks, England, seeds only brought in 1827.

Fameuse-Snow Apple: From Canada originally brought there by seed from France around 1600.

Jonathan: A New York farm apple grown as early as 1800.

Smokehouse: Lancaster County, Pa., medium to large in size, good for cooking, listed in 1801.

The list of grains, vegetables, herbs and apples are not complete, that would take a book with many volumes. This was just a list of the more popular items, listed in a simple way to give the new and the seasoned re-enactor an idea of the large amount of available edibles for different time frames.

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Until next time, we leave as friends and followers of those that went before us.

Buck Conner 

"One who trades”

"Uno quién negocia"

“Unqui commerce”