Chadds Ford Historical Society

Revisiting History

Spring Cleaning Series – April 29, 2016

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Spring is here! Sometimes the winter can cause us to get the blues. It can also cause us to pack on unwanted pounds because of the human body’s amazing ability to adapt to the climate. In the winter months, our bodies and minds adjust themselves according to the amount of daylight we take in or don’t get. That can often affect our mood. This can also affect our eating habits. In colder climates, human bodies, as with many other mammals, are given the ability to “store up” fat within the body and the brain signals us to search after heavier, fattier, and more carbohydrate and protein dense foods. This would have definitely allowed humans to survive when living a more hunter gatherer and nomadic type of lifestyle.

Once humans became sedentary and technology developed to warm our homes and allowed us to work, while not having to actually do much full-body physical activity, or to eat and feel certain ways at certain times of the year, the fall and winter months still have not changed for a majority of individuals. Oftentimes, it is spring and the renewal of life giving fresh foods that allow for an individual’s opportunity to change the pace of eating very heavy foods and respond by breaking free to do a “spring cleaning” of both mind and body. The sunlight is out for longer periods and the weather becomes warmer, which makes doing activities outdoors an easier and more enjoyable task. Food needs also change. Lighter foods are introduced into the body, such as fresh vegetables and fruits, in order to cleanse the body of the unnecessary body fat storage it acquired during the fall and winter months.

Time to load up on the freshest foods you can find! How about starting your own kitchen garden? During the colonial period, the kitchen garden was a place from which the family’s main source of nutrition came. This was not only true of the colonial settlers living in the region, but of local Indian tribes, one in particular called the Lenni Lenape.


During the winter months, most food eaten would have been either salted, picked, dried, or preserved from the previous months of a fresh harvest. Harvesting your own foods is a great way to save money, while also eating the freshest ingredients possible all from your own yard! An easy way to start a garden without having much space can be to start your own container garden on a deck or small porch. Some of the easiest plants to grow in containers are tomatoes, basil and other herbs, zucchini and yellow summer squash, strawberries, peppers, spinach, cucumbers, kale, lettuce, radishes,  collards, carrots, beets, potatoes, cauliflower, and beans or sugar snap peas. Not all of these items would have been grown by local Indians or colonists due to food taboos or simply no introduction to them yet. However, it is great to utilize some of those old bigger flower pots you may have been hanging on to but really not sure what to do with. There are some plants that may need a climbing trellis due to their vining nature, like pole beans or cucumbers. Others can be hung upside down to grow easily without toppling over and having to be tied to a pole like tomatoes. Depending on the item you want to grow, the growing instructions for pot size (both width and depth) may be exclusive to that plant and not necessarily the same as all of the others. Try to find an area on your deck or porch with adequate sunshine, a good amount of warmth, and when the frost has passed. This will make growing a lot easier. You can choose to start from seed indoors or outdoors or by using already pre-grown vegetables and/or fruits from your local nursery or hardware store. Here are two examples to set you along. Please offer up any suggestions you may have on starting your own “kitchen garden”.

Suggestion 1: Tomatoes! – Growing tomatoes upside down can be a great way to grow without having to use a support to keep them upwards! Start off with a 5 gallon bucket or specialty planter from a local hardware store and cut a hole about ¾” at the bottom of the bucket. Next, pick a tomato variety. Push the root ball of a pre-grown plant into the pre-cut hole of the container so that the plant is hanging outside and the root ball is above the plant and inside the container. Fill the top of the container with damp potting soil. Make sure it is damp enough to stick to the container and not able to fall through the ¾” hole. Hang them in a spot where they will get at least 6 hours of sun a day. Water at least once a day or twice a day if the temperatures rise above 85° degrees. This can also be done with pole beans, cucumbers, and strawberries!

Suggestion 2: Carrots! – Carrots prefer cooler temperatures and are great for early spring growing. There are many varieties of carrot from white and purple to orange. You can also grow from seed or pre-grown sprouts. Choose whatever works best for you. Carrots grow best in light and loose soil. Choose a potting soil that has a pH level between 6.0-6.8. Any pre-made potting soil for vegetable gardening should do the trick, even if it doesn’t specify the pH. Find containers that are about 12″ -15” deep. Keep the soil consistently moist for easier growth. Within 14-17 days seeds will start to sprout (if using seed). After 60-70 days, carrots will be ready to harvest. They grow best between 50°-75° degrees.

Not a fan of gardening or don’t have the time?

How about joining a CSA or becoming a locavore? “CSA, is that some sort of secretive government agency? And what on earth is a locavore you ask? Is that some weird kind of meat eater? Well, no and… no.

             CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. A locavore is a person who is interested in eating most foods from the local community and not transported from more than 100 miles away (or about that many miles). These are both great ways to support your local community’s food production and local farms. A CSA oftentimes requires a membership or subscription at a fee or volunteer time for free weekly fresh produce. Sometimes these CSA’s last a season or more depending on the membership/volunteer agreement. This is a great way to get fresh produce, sometimes cheaper than from your local supermarket. This is also a good way to be a locavore! You are not only buying into a membership, it is also going directly into the hands of a local farmer who is making wages to produce the food you eat! It’s a reciprocal relationship. Not only do these two ideas create a great opportunity to invest in the local community and health, it also has less of an impact on the environment. Less transportation is involved overall because the food choices you made had to travel less of a distance. They may also be organically grown, which helps alleviate the impact on soil, water, animals, people, and insects that come in contact with the chemical herbicides, fungicides, and pesticides many times used in conventional large scale farming operations.

Even though colonials would not have been familiar with these terms, many were locavores and supported agriculture through trading or buying from one another. They also may not have understood the concept of organic and non-organically grown produce, because typically there were some plants and herbs grown strategically to deter pests such as weeds, animals, and insects. Local farms in southeastern Pennsylvania did export crops from Philadelphia, which was not a “locavore” type practice. However, there were family farms that were well established, like those of the Pennsylvania Dutch who were able to select a diverse variety of crops to keep the family fed throughout the year.

Whatever route you choose, we hope that you take the opportunity to feel a rejuvenation in your health as you work the land (or even soil in pots) with your own hands, or feel positive connection to the support you give your local community for the fresh produce these life giving, immunity boosting, brain health supporting foods can provide!




Have you checked out our Pinterest page? There you may find some interesting pins on how to start your own garden!

Check it out! at:



Published by: Sarah Krykew, Guide Specialist

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