dried vegetables and other timeless traditions

November 12, 2013

Longtime readers may remember that each year I mark my calendar for the Friends of Minuteman Park annual harvest festival. Not only does this event afford an excuse to take in the splendor of New England fall, but it also gives me a chance to learn more about authentic colonial cooking.

We first stumbled upon this event a few years ago when walking in the footsteps of Paul Revere along the Battle Road from Lexington to Concord. As we watched reenactors at Hartwell Tavern string vegetables in order to dry them for the winter, Oliver, then 5, suddenly grabbed an extra needle. As I admonished him, a lady in colonial garb stepped in. “Actually,” she informed me, “in the 18th century, stringing vegetables would have been the chore of someone just his age.” Ok. Though a little apprehensive, I let him try. Wasn’t I surprised to see, a. how much he enjoyed it, and b. how this fine motor activity really calmed my active boy down! Needless to say, we’ve been stringing things ever since – beads or cranberries and popcorn at Christmas. But this fall was the first time we actually tried drying vegetables for ourselves.

the sign at Hartwell Tavern

Hartwell Tavern

I love the wall treatment here of wide, painted boards up to the window and plaster above.

Every year I take a picture of this spinning wheel in the window. The way the light hits the lithe form is breathtaking. (See here for last’s year’s picts.)

coveting colonial cooking utensils such as these

Olie at the door

wooden bowls

a seating area in the Tavern

Olie at the spinning wheel

colonial beer and pie (Yes, we made our own pumpkin pie the minute we got home.)

another beautifully carved utensil

colonial food staples

You can buy you own copy of this 18th century Housekeepers Companion, which is full of traditional cooking methods at G. Gedney Godwin.

drying mushrooms

with Grandma

Hartwell barn

leaf pile!

Oliver demonstrates the finer points of leaf throwing to an eager pupil.

Back at home, Oliver strings beans.

Solvi tries her hand at mushrooms.

hard at work

the dried vegetables

You can read my complete tutorial on Colonial Food Drying at Gardenista.

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