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Old Sturbridge Village, Celebrating the Harvest

October 21, 2023 - October 22, 2023

Join us in Celebrating the Harvest! Fall is a busy time of year at Old Sturbridge Village. This time of year early 19th-century New Englanders farmers worked tirelessly to harvest corn, potatoes, apples, squash, and other produce from their fields. Families also put time into preserving the harvest by drying, pickling, and sugaring never knowing quite how long the winter would last. As the growing season winds down, come see our gardeners and farmers who are hard at work harvesting and preserving crops, putting fields and gardens to rest, and thinking ahead to the next growing season.

Preserving the Harvest

Harvesting before the freezing temperatures set in is important work, but preserving the harvest is just as vital! Early 19th-century New England farm families stored a lot of the fall harvest is root cellars. How an item was stored in the cellar depended on the item. Cabbages, for example, would be hanged upside down from the ceiling. Early 19th-century varieties of cabbages (such as Mammoth Red Rock) were often larger than what you might see at a modern grocery store. The larger head would last longer when stored in the root cellar, as it has more moisture and layers that can protect the core from decay. As the cabbages hang upside down in the root cellar, the outer leaves dry around the head, and the moisture concentrates towards the head. This leaves the crisp cabbage protected inside. Cabbages stored like this can last for about 2-3 months, depending on their size and quality.

Certain root vegetables (such as carrots and turnips) were often stored in sand in the root cellar. If these items are exposed to the air, they will lose moisture and shrivel up. The sand seals them from the air and isolates each vegetable or fruit, preventing the spread of rot if one should spoil.

Pumpkins and other varieties of winter squash have a long history in North America, with the oldest (known) pumpkin seeds dating back some 9,000 years. Squash was a staple for Indigenous Americans for centuries and then for early settlers later on. The word “squash” comes from the Narragansett word “askutasquash,” meaning “eaten raw or uncooked.” The preparation method varied somewhat from tribe to tribe and by the type of squash. Squash were sometimes eaten before they were ripe and sometimes once they reached full maturity. Squash was regularly baked, boiled, stewed, or prepared in many other ways.

When English traveler John Josselyn published his book New England’s Rarities Discovered in 1640, he included a receipt (recipe) for stewed pompions or pumpkins, which is now considered one of the earliest published American receipts for pumpkins.

Covered bridge in fall

The Village boasts more than 400 varieties of heirloom vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers throughout the campus – but our gardens are more than just pretty places to stroll through. The plants we grow are intentional – ready to inspire questions and conversations. They represent several styles of gardening present in early 19th-century New England as well as the wide array of culinary, medicinal, and domestic uses of plants during the time period. While some uses common in the early 19th century are now deemed unsafe, others are still widely used today!

Did You Know?
Tansy, also known as “bitter buttons” or “cow bitter,” was used both domestically as a yellow dye and medicinally to treat ailments like PMS and intestinal worms. Today, it is deemed unsafe for human consumption and sometimes also considered an invasive species.
Also known as snakeroot, comb root, or scurvy flower, purple coneflower has been used medicinally for centuries. Native Americans used this plant to treat ailments, including coughs, toothaches, colds, inflammation, snake bites, wounds, burns, and more. Pills made from the plant are still available in drugstores today.
Hops, a main ingredient in beer, were commonly grown in kitchen gardens for a multitude of uses. By boiling the cone-like fruiting bodies in water, a decoction could be made to help preserve baking yeast. Hops were also used to make tea/beers to invigorate the appetite and stuffed into pillows to promote restful sleep.


October 21, 2023
October 22, 2023


Old Sturbridge Village
1 Old Sturbridge Village Road
Sturbridge, MA 01566
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(800) 733-1830
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