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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.
Home Gardeners’ Exhibit (September 30 – October 1)
Celebrate your own harvest in our Virtual Home Gardeners’ Exhibit! Submit your vegetables, fruits, herbs, flowers, and more to be part of our online exhibit. Learn more about the exhibit.
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.
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!