Thursday, June 6, 2013

Growing Food in Bladensburg

                "The situation of Bladensburgh is unhealthy, among swamps which surround it on all sides, and every fall obstinate fevers spread among the inhabitants of the region, which on the other hand is rich in manifold beautiful plants. Negroes are beginning to be more numerously kept here, and the people show already a strong tincture of southern ease and behavior. Also several plants are grown here which farther to the north are scarcely seen. Cotton wool (Gossypium herbaceum) and sweet potatoes (Convolvulus Battatas) [sic] are raised by each family sufficiently for its needs. The blacks raise Been nuts (Arachishypogaea) this is a pretty hardy growth, which at all events stands a few cold nights without hurt. The thin shells of the nuts, or more properly the husks, are broken, and the kernels planted towards the end of April in good light soil, perhaps a span apart. They must then be diligently weeded, and when they begin to make a growth of stems all the filaments or joints are covered with earth. After the blooming time, the pistils and young seed cases bury themselves in the ground and mature under the earth which is continually heaped upon them. The kernels have an oily taste and roasted are like cacao. With this view the culture of them for general use has been long recommended in the Philosophical Transactions, and the advantages of making this domestic oil plainly enough pointed out, but without the desired result. The wild chesnuts [sic] growing so generally in all the forests might yield a fruit quite as useful for the whole of America. It is known that in certain parts of Europe the chesnut is of almost as important a use as the jaka, or breadfruit tree. The native chesnut tree is found everywhere in America but is not regarded except as furnishing good timber for fence rails. Its fruit is indeed small, dry and inferior in taste to the European great chesnuts, but in Italy these are had only from inoculated trees, the fruit of the wild chesnut there, as in America, being neither large nor agreeable in taste. By inoculation, then, there could be had quite as fine great chesnuts here. But without that, on account of its great usefulness this fruit has received some attention from the Americans who eat it boiled and roasted, convert it into meal and bread, and fresh shelled and ground use it as a kind of soap with plenty of water.

               Unfavorable weather and the hope of finding in the swamps along the several branches of the Potowmack certain other particular seeds or plants made our stay here also a few days longer. But we found very little we had not seen. However we were fortunate enough here to obtain a stock of acorns and nuts which elsewhere had failed. These with some other seeds we shipped on board a brigantine bound from Georgetown to London, but which never came to port."[1]

provided by:  Aeon Preservation Services LLC Final 6-02-2013

[1] Schöpf, Johann David, 1788. New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia

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