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Old Sturbridge Village, Harvest
September 16, 2021
Celebrate the harvest and the beautiful New England autumn. Fall is a special time at the Village. Our farmers are just beginning the hard work of bringing in the harvest and soon the work of preserving it will begin. Our heirloom apples are ripening and this coming weekend, we’ll be operating the Cider Mill for the first time this season. Soon, the brilliant fall foliage will frame the scenic Village in autumnal hues. Planning is underway for many exciting fall programs and we hope you will join us sometime in the next month.
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.
How do you like them apples?
Did you know that the most common fruit on 19th-century New England farms was the apple? Many farms had orchards containing 100-300 trees! Most of the apple harvest was either dried for cooking or turned into hard cider. While many farm families had plenty of apples, few owned a cider mill. Instead, they would bring their apples to a local Cider Mill, just like the one at Old Sturbridge Village, and pay a fee to use it.
Of course, the apples grown and consumed in the early 19th century are quite different from the ones you will find at the grocery store today. Varieties included Red Streak, Winesap, Harrison, Granniwinkle, Golden Pearmain, and Hagloe Crab. These varieties and more are growing in the Cider Mill Orchard at the Village.