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Subsistence Gardens Saved Lives In Colonial Cuba

Lima bean dish, recipe below 
Waiting for Plantation Food Rations, Cuba, ca. 1866 

The Haitian Revolution (1791-1804) provided Cuban farmers with tremendous opportunities to compensate for the Haiti’s lack of sugar production. To meet their labor demands, Cuban planters  imported thousands of enslaved Africans, among them the parents of Esteban Montejo. Born in 1860, Montejo. With the existence of so many recent African arrivals, Montejo observed first hand many African cultural expressions including subsistence gardening. He says it was the small gardens with rows of “sweet potato, squash, okra, corn, peas, horse beans, beans, like limas, limes, yucca, and peanuts . . . that saved many slaves . . . providing them real nourishment,” and most had one behind the slave quarters. Here is great lima bean recipe that is apt for this story and whose fantastic flavor should encourage you to plant limas this year.

Creole Lima Beans
2 slices vegan or regular bacon
1 medium onion, chopped
1 small garlic clove chopped
1/4 cup green pepper
2 cups canned tomatoes
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cups cooked frozen or fresh Lima beans , drained
sea salt and ground pepper to taste
2 tablespoons butter substitute or butter

Sauté the bacon until crisp and remove from the pan. Add the onion, garlic, and pepper to the fat in the pan and cook until tender but not brown. Add the tomatoes and sugar, and cook about fifteen minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the beans and season with salt and pepper. Add 2 tablespoons butter and simmer a few minutes longer. Serve hot, sprinkled with the crumbled bacon. Serves five people.

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