How the Other Half Eats
Interestingly, even though most farmers were relatively poor, "people had plenty to eat," says Baum. Indeed, Williamsburg's Askew observes that there was so much "virgin land" here that "coming from the mother country," the opportunities to secure food would have seemed quite abundant to our forefathers. As would "the selection of fruits and vegetables," adds Howell.
The produce planted on the ample farmland included many different kinds of beans and squash; root vegetables such as potatoes and turnips; and leafy items like cabbage, collards, broccoli, and cauliflower. The seasons were always an issue, however, which is why food preservation was so important not just for produce but for meat as well.
Cows and pigs were often slaughtered in the fall and then stored and eaten over the next 12 months, Baum reports, and the foods cut from them were often preserved via salting. Pickling meats, along with items like beans, radishes, and cucumbers, allowed them to last, too, as did drying. Consider that while young corn was eaten off the cob in the summer, dried ground corn was used all year to make hoecakes and the like.