Gardening, Harvesting and Preserving Food at Montpelier


As proved by previous posts on the subject I was absolutely taken with Monticello and Montpelier and it was at Montpelier that the secrets to running such a huge house and estate were revealed. I really want to grow and preserve my own food so I jotted down a few notes on traditional ways to do this. I have missed out notes I took on hunting game and fishing because it wasn’t really something I would be able/want to take part in.

1. Gathering Food at Montpelier
In the summer grapes, blackberries, strawberries, gooseberries, currants, mulberries, raspberries, plums, elderberries and cherries would be harvested. During spring honey and beeswax would be collected. Sassafras root, spice bush bark and sweet birch, for teas, spring tonics, candy and jelly, would be were gathered. Vegetation such as wild greens including dandelion, sorrel, asparagus, pigweed, purslane, mustard and lambs quarter were picked from the kitchen gardens. In the autumn months pawpaws, persimmons, spice bush berries, apples and pears would then be harvested. Chestnuts, pecans, walnuts, hickory nuts would also be collected.

2. Maintaining the Gardens at Montpelier
Throughout the summer months the gardens would be maintained through weeding and pest control as well as being prepared for planting during the autumn. When autumn then did arrive late crops, such as cabbage, lettuce, turnips, winter squash, greens, peas and parsnips, would be planted. During the winter plants would be pruned and trimmed, the garden would be fertilised and plowed and early spring crops, onions, spinach, radishes, lettuce, kale, parsnips, turnips, salsify and peas, were planted. Coming into spring the garden was prepared for spring planting and plants such as corn, beans, tomatoes, cabbage, herbs, cucumbers, squashes, watermelons, beets, potatoes, sweet potatoes, cauliflowers, carrots, squashes, eggplant, okra, asparagus, broccoli and peppers were then planted.

3. Harvesting and Preserving at Montpelier
In spring pears, onions, spinach, radishes, lettuce, kale, parsnips, turnips and salsify were harvested. Dairy products such as butter and cheese were also made and stored sure spring. Summer was a time for drying (herbs, vegetables and fruits), pickling (cucumbers, nasturtiums, peppers and radish pods), preserving (tomato marmalade, currants, peaches, quince, cherries, pears, plums and berries), making wines, cordials and brandy and most importantly harvesting. Varieties of squash, corn, cauliflower, brand, okra, early potatoes, tomatoes, cabbage, cucumbers, eggplant, beets, broccoli, carrots and watermelons were all harvested during he summer months. In autumn apples were made into several products including cider, vinegar and butter. Root crops, fruits and vegetables were stored and apples, pears, herbs and vegetables were dried. During the autumn months it was the turn of Jerusalem artichokes, pumpkins, winter squashes, potatoes, greens, turnips, parsnips, sweet potatoes and cabbages to be harvested.


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