Avocados, bok choy, cilantro, darcy tangerines, elephant garlic … there’s a veritable alphabet soup of fruits and vegetables for sale at the Main Street and Culver South markets our Founding Fathers never dreamed of.
We’re light-years away from the fields and pastures of Jamestown, Virginia, the first permanent English settlement in the New World. Jamestown was founded in 1607. The first settlers struggled to make a go of it in the unfamiliar land; many died from starvation and disease. Subsequent voyages to the New World brought more farmers and skilled craftsmen. The growing popularity of tobacco in the Old World ensured the financial success of the Virginia Company of America’s venture.
By the time George Washington was born in 1732, corn had become a staple of the Chesapeake Bay region’s diet. Cabbage, a hardy vegetable which stored well, was often on the table. Students of American history know that Washington married the widow Martha Custiss and lived on their farm in Mount Vernon, Virginia. Even though they lived on a farm, the Washingtons’ diet was less varied than ours.
The Colonial diet was much more dependent upon seasonal produce, preserving, canning and pickling than ours. Corn in one form or another was frequently on the table. Although its growing season was short, corn was available year round in its dried and ground forms. In fact, President Washington’s favorite breakfast included cornmeal mush with lots of butter and maple syrup.
President Washington would definitely recognize our beets, carrots, kale, onions, parsnips, and turnips. These vegetables are at or near their peak in February here in California, and they were staples in Colonial times as well. Nowadays we associate peanut-growing with the state of Georgia. But, in fact, peanuts were cultivated in Virginia as well. Colonial Williamsburg’s tavern serves a cream of peanut soup which traces its origin back to colonial times.
Even though historians have debunked the authenticity of this story, one still hears that the young George Washington chopped down a cherry tree. Sadly, cherries are not in season now, so we can’t celebrate Washington’s birthday with an authentic locally grown fresh cherry pie. But if you want to try your hand at some other recipes from Virginia at the time of the American Revolution, you’ll find a few in From the Farmer’s Table.
The Tuesday Culver City Farmers Market is held from 2 to 7 pm on Main Street between Venice and Culver Blvds. The Culver South Farmers market is held from 7:30 to 11:30 a.m. at the northeast corner of Westfield Culver City, near the intersection of Slauson and Hannum.
Like our Revolutionary hero and father of our country, Katie Malich also has never chopped down a cherry tree.