History Fruits and Vegetables of the Civil War Era

donna

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There were many varieties of fruits and vegetables during the Civil War Era. They were different than ones now and would be hard to obtain today except from dealers of heirloom plant seeds. Many people had gardens and fruit bearing trees and grew their own.

It was much more common to grow them in the country, but many city dwellers in the North had their garden plots. In the South, many had their gardens and trees. This was especially important when shortages became widespread in the South. The women supplemented the family income by selling fresh and canned produce from their gardens.

One of most popular of home grown garden produce were tomatoes. The French introduced tomatoes in their cooking in New Orleans. Thomas Jefferson grew them as ornamental plants at Monticello. In 1820, Robert Johnson made them popular when he ate an entire basketful to prove he could and they wouldn't make him sick. Within a few decades, tomatoes were commonplace in recipes.

Before Civil War, the varieties were named Large Round Red and Yellow Pear-Shaped Tomatoes. By the time of the war more than a thousand varieties had been introduced. The names were Abraham Lincoln, Brandywine. Mortgage Lifter, Great White Beefsteak, Cherokee Purple and Ruffled Yellow. The names suggested the colors of the tomatoes, being red, pink, purple, yellow and white.

The Civil War tomatoes were not as smooth and round as ones today. Some had a pleated texture, like the Ruffled Yellow.
 

donna

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Another popular vegetable was lettuce. These included head, leaf and romaine types. Early Curly Simpson was introduced in 1864. Another variety was Grandpa Admire which was a green leaf tinged with bronze and was developed by Civil War veteran George Admire. The Head varieties included Tennis Ball, a Boston type that Thomas Jefferson also grew at Monticello. It was developed in Kentucky in 1800s and is still popular today. In Kentucky it is known as Bibb Lettuce.
 

donna

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In the 1820's Sweet Corn was introduced. It was to be for humans and not fodder for cows. It became very popular by the 1850s. Some of the varieties available during the Civil War were Black Aztec, Hooker's and Luther Hill. Two varieties for making cornmeal were Northstine Dent and Garland Flint. The Garland Flint was said to make the sweetest cornmeal.
 

donna

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Cabbage was another popular vegetable. It was especially grown by Germans and Irish. Two common varieties were Early Jersey Wakefield and Winnigstadt, a German variety. It had yellowish green leaves and firm pointed heads.

There were several potato varieties grown too, There was a variety called Early Rose which had light pink skin with deep set eyes and white flesh. Of course there were Irish Potatoes.

Other vegetables enjoyed and grown in Civil war era gardens were cucumbers, pumpkins, melons and beets.
 

donna

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Fruit trees were also popular. One was the "Ponderosa Lemon". This tree was four to five foot and bore lemons that could weigh up to 5 lbs. They had thick rinds that allowed them to hang for months without spoiling. These were grown in the house. They were for decoration but also for eating.

Information on Fruits and Vegetables from: "Everyday Life During The Civil War", by Michael J. Varhola, Writer's Digest Books, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1999. Pages 81 thru83.
 

nitrofd

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Another popular vegetable was lettuce. These included head, leaf and romaine types. Early Curly Simpson was introduced in 1864. Another variety was Grandpa Admire which was a green leaf tinged with bronze and was developed by Civil War veteran George Admire. The Head varieties included Tennis Ball, a Boston type that Thomas Jefferson also grew at Monticello. It was developed in Kentucky in 1800s and is still popular today. In Kentucky it is known as Bibb Lettuce.
All these minor types of lettuce have really gained immense popularity in recent years,it's not just iceberg lettuce anymore.
 
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Apr 3, 2018
Beans were also grown during the Civil War. Many types were grown, including Navy, Great Northern, Yellow Eye, Jacob's Castle and Cranberry. These were used for baking and soups. The varieties of snap beans were Yellow Pencil Pod, Hickman's Snap and Cherokee.

Wasn't it Jacob's Cattle? It's interesting how dried beans apparently haven't changed much -- I've seen all of these beans except Yellow Eye at the supermarket at one time or another, and Amazon's got Yellow Eye. Most produce, and even things like corn and wheat, have changed considerable since then, but the dried beans at least still sound to be the same. Never heard of any of the snap beans, not that I'm much of a gardener. But I have heard of Kentucky Wonder and scarlet runner, which are not listed.

That Ponderosa Lemon is boggling my mind! Although this website is arguing with your book -- says the first known Ponderosa Lemon was a seedling in 1886 or 1887.

https://www.specialtyproduce.com/produce/Ponderosa_Lemons_10906.php
 

Deleted User CS

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Mar 18, 2015
Donna. Thank You very much for posting the interesting historical information on various fruits and vegetables and their uses during the nineteenth century. It is truly amazing how modern society has transformed some of these vegetables and fruits into very delicious meals while in some cases still respecting the older recipes from long ago. David.
 

LoyaltyOfDogs

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The Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial in Indiana grows heirloom white crookneck cushaw squash that have quite a pedigree. They're believed to be descended from squash seeds that Thomas Lincoln brought with him from the family's farm in Kentucky. He later carried squash seeds to Illinois when the family left Indiana and grew them there as well: https://www.facebook.com/LincolnBoyhoodNPS/posts/2311644155526377
 
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