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Gardening in Early America

Gardening in Early America

Virgin Valley Estate, Courtesy of the National Library of Jamaica

Virgin Valley Estate, Courtesy of the National Library of Jamaica

In her book The Founding Gardeners (Knopf 2011), British Historian Andreas Wulf reveals just how infatuated leaders of our new nation like George Washington, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson had become with horticulture. The book is a fascinating look at colonial British America and the early national period through the lens of gardening. What is most interesting is to learn how the founding fathers intentionally began to define their separation from England and North American identity through the selection of plants cultivated in their gardens and advocated other citizens to grow as a sign of their patriotism. These included plants native to North America as well as okra from Africa. As a historian of history and foodways I love exploring topics with lots of crossover appeal. That certainly is the case with Wulf’s book which catches the attention of the avid gardener and history buffs. 

Okra with Tomatoes Recipe





1 onion, chopped fine

Salt and pepper


Equal quantities of okra and tomatoes put into a saucepan, without water, with a lump of butter, an onion chopped fine, some pepper and salt, and stew one hour.

Carmen Aboy Valldejuli, The Art of Caribbean Cookery (1957)

A Soul Food Journey From Africa To America, NPR

Southern Food and Civil Rights: Feeding the Revolution

Okra Song

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