TheGardenLady’s Parent’s Farm

Lenni Lenape dancer by impulse2c

As a child, I wished I knew about the original people who lived on the land that my parents’ farm was on. I wanted to know about the Lenni Lenape Indians that preceded my family to that area. But there were few books in our local library- and very few books on the Lenni Lenape.

I spent many hours of my childhood poring over the ground looking for Indian artifacts. Findings were best after the fields were plowed. It seems that each time the field was plowed it turned up more Indian artifacts. My sister and I, trailed by the family dogs, would slowly go up and down the field looking. We children found lots of flint and arrowheads or pottery shards. (sadly my collection was stolen when I took it to school) We also found clam shells. The closest clams were about one hour drive away from the farm, yet there were clam shells in the fields. So I imagined that the Indians had Pow Wows where they ate clams. But what else did they eat that they found in the area where the farm was?

One fruit they must have had was blackberries. When my parents bought the farm they had to pull up lots of blackberry brambles. Still, some were left and the blackberries they produced were the most incredibly large blackberries I have ever seen. I never even see any this size these days in stores where blackberries are sold. The blackberries were the size of a thumb. But unlike blackberries I buy these days, the blackberries I picked were incredibly succulent and sweet. I hate the blackberries that I find in stores because they are sour or bitter. I believe they are picked before they fully ripen. I can understand why they are the least popular of the berries. If people think that is what blackberries are supposed to taste like, they have to come to the conclusion that blackberries are not something to desire. But having eaten the delicious fruit the Leni Lenape must have also eaten on the land that became my parents field, I know what we are missing today. Blackberries should be delicious. (This year I planted a blackberry bush. I hope it produces the delicious fruit that I remember.)

Red Mulberry Flowers (Male) by milesizz

Also, the Lenni Lenape must have eaten mulberries. The red mulberry Morus rubra is native to the Eastern US. My neighbor’s yard had the largest mulberry tree I have ever seen. It must have been an old tree; they can live for more than 75 years. This tree bore huge mulberries that were the size of those blackberries. And they were so sweet. I ate my fill of mulberries; though we never knew what else one could do with mulberries other than eat them fresh. Mulberries do not seem to be a popular fruit in the US. In the Middle East mulberries are a very popular fruit. In the first reader in an Iranian school, one of the first words a child learns to read is mulberry.

The Lenni Lenape must have had blueberries because during the summer, I used to collect pounds of wild blueberries or huckleberries to eat. I would fill pots of them as they grew along the road. And in the spring, the Indians must have collected wild strawberries. I think that wild strawberries are the most ambrosial of all the berries that grow. I think that one hasn’t lived until one tastes a wild strawberry- a truly wild one, not cultivated and sold as wild. (Unfortunately most of the spots were they grow have been destroyed.)

But I always wondered what vegetables the Leni Lenape ate. I was fascinated with Euell Gibbons books such as “Stalking the Wild Asparagus”. Gibbons wrote about the “weeds” or plants that were edible. The Natives must have known what to harvest. Today we are lucky to have more people who are interested in foraging wild plants. Gibbons was the main guru on the wild edibles when I was young.

And now, thanks to all the information on line, I have learned that the Lenni Lenape harvested some corn, bean and squash.  See here. Could they have harvested these crops on our property? I would like to think so.

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