Iowans have enjoyed the produce of their gardens in late summer for hundreds of years. The Ioway farmers looked forward to squash, beans, and sweet green corn. Pioneers enjoyed fresh berries, tomatoes, and other seasonal veggies. By the 1870s, railroad transportation made ordering from seed catalogs easy and the possible garden varieties exploded. The 1900 Farm family might order the latest in tomato, cucumber, cabbage, and radish varieties from local seed companies based in Des Moines or farther afield from Park Seed in South Carolina or Burpee & Company in Pennsylvania. Visit the historic kitchens this week for a peek at how gardens were planned and harvested. The Tangen House will demonstrate a period apple pie on Wednesday. The 1700 Ioway Farm will roast squash on Thursday. The 1850 Pioneer Farm will cook with apples and raspberries on Thursday and Friday.
“What’s Cooking” Program Presenting Sponsor – Hy-Vee
The Ioway nation planted corn, beans, and squash in their gardens. Much of this garden would be harvested and dried for winter use, but August was a time to harvest some young veggies to eat fresh! The Ioway also gathered wild currants, gooseberries, and other delicacies in season.
By the 1850s, pioneers were planting a wide variety of vegetables in their gardens. They also began to cultivate berries. Early newspapers list many nurseries in eastern Iowa to buy currant, raspberry, and strawberry plants. Once established, farmers picked these delicacies throughout early summer.
By 1875, a favorite small town June event was a strawberry festival. Guests would listen to music and eat strawberries and cream. Late summer watermelon, cabbage, and cucumbers were also picnic staples for Victorian Iowa. Tomatoes were widely found in gardens by 1900. Many different varieties existed including Brandywine, a classic red variety introduced in 1889, and the Wapsipinicon Peach, an heirloom from 1890 named after a river in NE Iowa.
The first new potatoes came out of the ground in late summer. Iowa’s pioneer settlers relied on potatoes as a major part of their diet. Potatoes stored well in winter and could be prepared in many ways. In 1850, Polk County farmers produced over 7,000 bushels of potatoes. Grown as a field crop, potatoes were labor intensive to plant and harvest. In the fall, potatoes were dug up using a fork to sift them out of the ground. They would be stored in a cool, dry root cellar all winter.
Heirloom Cabbage Slaw
9-10 c cabbage
1/3 c red wine vinegar
2 T sugar
2 T vegetable oil
1 t salt
dash of pepper
Mix all ingredients except cabbage, pour over cabbage, cover and chill at least 2 hours.
Wash, scrape, boil ten minutes, turn off water, and add enough more, also boiling, to cover. Add a little salt. cook a few moments, then drain, and set again on stove with butter, salt, pepper, and a little thickening made of two tablespoons flour in about a pint of milk; put on the cover, and when the milk has boiled, serve.”
—Buckeye Cookery, 1877.