IS KNOWN TO YIELD FOR FOOD AND THE SUSTENANCE
OF LIFE, CUSTOMARILY EATEN BY THE NATIVES
AND USED BY US WHILE WE WERE THERE
Pagatowr is a kind of grain. It is called maize in the West Indies; Englishmen name it Guinea wheat or Turkey wheat, after the countries from which a similar grain has been brought. This grain is about the size of our ordinary English peas and, while similar to them in form and shape, differs in color, some grains being white, some red, some yellow, and some blue. All of them yield a very white and sweet flour which makes excellent bread. We made malt from the grain while we were in Virginia and brewed as good an ale of it as could be desired. It also could be used, with the addition of hops, to produce a good beer. The grain increases on a marvelous scale-a thousand times, fifteen hundred, and in some cases two thousand fold. There are three sorts, of which two are ripe in ten, eleven, and, at the most, twelve weeks, when their stalks are about six or seven feet in height. The third one ripens in fourteen weeks and is ten feet high. Its stalks bear one, two, three, or four heads, and every head contains five, six, or seven hundred grains, as near as I can say. The inhabitants not only use it for bread but also make food of these grains. They either parch them, boiling them whole until they break, or boil the flour with water into a pap.
Okindgier we called beans, because they are like the beans in England, except that they are flatter, more varied in color, and some are pied. The leaf on the stem is also different. However, they taste as good as our English peas.
Wickonzowr. We named these peas to distinguish them from the beans, because they are much smaller. They differ little from the beans, though they taste different and are far better than our English peas.
Both the beans and the peas ripen in ten weeks. The natives boil them in a broth, where the beans are reduced to small pieces or boil them whole until they are soft and begin to break, as we prepare them in England. These peas are either cooked by themselves or mixed with wheat. Sometimes after they have been boiled whole they are pounded in a mortar and made into loaves or lumps of doughy bread.
Macocqwer. This is the native name for what we call pumpkins, melons, and gourds. In Virginia there are several varieties of this family, all of which taste very good. There are two varieties of macocqwer, one of which is ripe in a month, the other in two months.
There is an herb which is called melden in Dutch. Some people to whom I have described it believe that it is a kind of orach [mountain spinach]. It grows about four or five feet high, and the natives make a thick fine-tasting broth of its seeds. From the stalk of the herb they produce a kind of salt by burning it to ashes. This is the only salt they know, and they season their broths with it. We ourselves have used the leaves for pot-herbs.
There is also another large herb, which resembles the marigold, about six feet high. The head is a span in width with the flower. Some believe it to be planta solis [sunflower] From its seeds a kind of bread and also a broth are made.
All the commodities I have described are planted, sometimes separately, but more often mixed together in one plot. To make you understand the fertility of the soil, I will explain briefly how the natives prepare the ground and how they go about the planting.
They never enrich the soil with refuse, dung, or any other thing, nor do they plough or dig it as we do in England. They simply break the upper part of the ground to raise up the weeds, grass, and old stubs of cornstalks with their roots. This is done by the men a few days before they sow, using wooden instruments made almost like mattocks or hoes with long handles, while the women sit on the ground helping with short peckers or parers about a foot long and five inches in breadth. After the weeds have dried in the sun for a day or two, the refuse is scraped up into many small heaps and burned to ashes. This they do to save themselves the labor of carrying it away, rather than to enrich and better the ground.
Then they sow the seed. For corn they begin in one corner of the plot and make a hole with a pecker. They put four grains into each hole, about an inch apart, taking care that they do not touch one another, and cover them with soil. The seeds are planted in rows, each row spaced half a fathom or a yard from the last, and the holes in each row are the same distance apart. Thus, there is a yard of spare ground between the holes, where the natives sometimes set beans and peas or plant macocqwer, melden, and sunflowers.
The planted ground, compared with an English acre of forty rods in length and four in breadth, yields at least two hundred London bushels of corn, beans, and peas, in addition to the crop of macocqtver, melden, and sunflowers. In England we think it a large crop if an acre gives forty bushels of wheat.
So that you who will live and plant there may know how much that country's corn is to be preferred to ours, I thought it good to tell you this. Besides the many ways it may be used for food, the yield is so great that little labor is needed in comparison with what is necessary in England. Of this I can assure you, for according to our experiments we found that one man may prepare and cultivate as much ground (which has borne corn before) with less than twenty-four hours' labor as will supply him food in abundance for a year. This is true even though he has no other food save what was grown in that ground, and of no other kinds than those I have spoken of, and even if the plot were only twenty-five yards square. If it were necessary, two crops could be raised on the same plot. For the natives sow at any time from the middle of March until the end of June and can still plant after they have eaten from their first harvest. We have heard that in some places they do harvest two crops from the same ground.
As to English corn, whether you who will live there should wish to use it or not, you may decide as you think best after trial. You need not doubt that it will grow, for we have seen the proof with barley, oats, and peas. We did not purposely plant these; the seeds fell casually in the worst sort of ground, and yet they grew to be as fair as any we have ever seen in England. We could not try our wheat, because it was musty and had soaked up salt water, nor could we test our rye.
There is an herb called uppowoc, which sows itself. In the West Indies it has several names, according to the different places where it grows and is used, but the Spaniards generally call it tobacco. Its leaves are dried, made into powder, and then smoked by being sucked through clay pipes into the stomach and head. The fumes purge superfluous phlegm and gross humor2 from the body by opening all the pores and passages. Thus its use not only preserves the body, but if there are any obstructions it breaks them up. By this means the natives keep in excellent health, without many of the grievous diseases which often afflict us in England.
This uppowoc is so highly valued by them that they think their gods are delighted with it. Sometimes they make holy fires and cast the powder into them as a sacrifice. if there is a storm on the waters, they throw it up into the air and into the water to pacify their gods. Also, when they set up a new weir for fish, they pour uppowoc into it. And if they escape from danger, they also throw the powder up into the air. This is always done with strange gestures and stamping, sometimes dancing, clapping of hands, holding hands up, and staring up into the heavens. During this performance they chatter strange words and utter meaningless noises.
While we were there we used to suck in the smoke as they did, and now that we are back in England we still do so. We have found many rare and wonderful proofs of the uppowoc's virtues, which would themselves require a volume to relate. There is sufficient evidence in the fact that it is used by so many men and women of great calling, as well as by some learned physicians.
Openauk is a kind of round-shaped root the size of walnuts or larger. It is found in moist or marsh grounds growing together in ropes, as though fastened with string. When boiled it makes a very good food.
Okeepenauk is also round in shape, but is found in dry places. Some of these roots are as large as a man's head. They have to be eaten as soon as they are taken out of the ground, because they are dry and will neither boil nor roast. They do not taste as good as the first-named kind, but even so the inhabitants eat them with fish or meat, especially when they do not have bread or wish to vary their food. In my judgment it is as good as the English household bread made of rye.
Kaishucpenauk is a white root about the size and shape of a hen's egg. It does not taste as good as the other; therefore we did not pay much attention to the manner of its growth. Still, the inhabitants often boil and eat it.
Tsinaw is much like the root called China root here in England, which is brought from the East Indies. And for all we know, it may even be the same. The roots grow in large clusters, the stalk is like that of a briar, but the leaf has a very different shape. It grows near trees, and sometimes climbs to the top of the highest. The fresh-dug roots are chopped into small pieces and pounded, and the juice formed by the adding of water is strained and used to make bread. When the root is boiled it gives a very good spoon-meat [pudding] like a jelly and is even better if the taste is tempered with oil. This tsinaw cannot be the same as China root, for it has been discovered since China root was brought into England; the roots are, however, very similar in shape.
Coscushaw. Some of our men believed this to be the same root Which the Spaniards of the West Indies call cassavy; we therefore gave it the same name. It grows in muddy pools and moist ground. Prepared in the native fashion, cassavy makes not only a good bread but also a good spoon-meat. The juice of this root is poison, and for this reason care must be taken before anything is made with it. Either the roots must first be sliced and dried in the sun or by a fire and pounded into flour, or else they must be peeled while they are green, cut into pieces, and then beaten. The loaves made from the our must) e ai' near or over the fire until they are sour. After this they are well pounded again, and the bread or spoon-meat made from them has a very good taste.
Habascon is a root like a parsnip in size and shape and hot in taste. It is not used by itself, but is boiled to flavor other foods.
There are also leeks in many parts of the country, differing very little from ours. We gathered and ate them, but the native inhabitants never did.
Chestnuts grow in great abundance in several places. The natives eat them raw, or crushed and boiled; they also make the same kind of dough bread from the boiled chestnuts that they do from the beans.
Walnuts are of two kinds, and there is an infinite number of both. In some of their great forests a third of the trees are walnut. The one kind is very similar in taste and form to the English walnut, only harder and thicker shelled. But the other kind is larger, with a hard and ragged shell. The kernels of the fruit are very oily and sweet. The inhabitants either eat them or make a milk of them by breaking the nuts with stones and grinding the powder in a mortar with water. This they add to their spoon-meat, their boiled wheat, peas, beans, and pumpkins, thus giving the food a far more pleasant taste.
Medlars are an excellent fruit, which are not tasty until they are rotten-ripe, They are about the size of our medlars and open at the head as ours do, but otherwise they differ both in taste and color. Their color is as red as cherries, and their taste is sweet, but while the cherry's sweetness is sharp, medlars are luscious.
Metaquesunnauk. This is a pleasant fruit, almost the same shape and size as our English pear. Its color is a perfect red, both inside and out. The plant that bears it has thick leaves full of prickles, sharp as needles. Men who have visited the Indies and seen there the kind of red dye called cochineal relate that its plant is very like that of metaquesunnauk. Whether they speak of the true cochineal or of a wild variety I cannot say, as I think that true cochineal does not come from the fruit, but is found on the leaves of the plant.
Grapes. I have mentioned two kinds of grapes under the marketable commodities.
Strawberries found in Virginia are as good and as large as those we have in our English gardens.
Mulberries, crab-apples, and whortleberries are the same as those we have in England.
Sacquenummener. These berries look like capers, but are somewhat larger. They grow in clusters on a plant or herb found in shallow waters. If boiled eight or nine hours they give good, wholesome food, but if they are eaten raw they will make a man frantic and extremely sick for a time.
There is also a variety of reed which bears a seed much like our rye or wheat and when boiled, makes a good food.
In our travels we found in some places wild peas very much like our English peas, except that they were smaller.
LIKE THE ACORN
There are five different sorts of berries or acorns growing on trees, The kinds called sagatemener, osamener, and pummuckoner are dried upon a fire on a hurdle made of reeds, very much as we dry malt in England. When the berries are ready, the natives water them until they are soft, then boil them. They are eaten either raw or pounded into loaves or lumps of bread. The berries are also used for-making sweet oil.
Another kind is the sapummener, which, boiled or parched, tastes like chestnuts and is eaten in much the same way.
The fifth kind is called mangummenauk. The acorns are dried like the other berries and then soaked and boiled. Not only the ordinary natives but also the chiefs themselves eat them with fish or flesh, instead of bread.
Deer. In some places there are a great number of deer. Near the seacoast their size is that of our ordinary English deer, though sometimes they are smaller; but farther inland, where there is better feed, they are larger. They differ from our deer in two ways: their tails are longer, and the snags of their horns point backward.
Conies, or rabbits, are gray in color like hares. In some places there are so many that the people of the towns make mantles for themselves of the fur or down from the skins.
Saquenuckot and maquowoc, two small animals somewhat larger than rabbits, make good meat. We have not caught any of them, but ate many which the natives brought to us.
Squirrels. We caught and ate gray squirrels.
Bears are black in color. In the winter the natives shoot and eat a great many, just as we did. They are hunted in certain islands or in places where they are especially abundant. When the bears perceive a man, they run away, and when they are chased, they climb the nearest tree, from which the natives shoot them down. We too have hunted them and killed them with our muskets.
I have the names of twenty-eight different kinds of beasts which I have been told are found in various parts of the country. Of these we have so far discovered only twelve, and those which are good for food I have already mentioned. At times the natives kill a lion and eat it, and we ourselves have eaten their wolves or wolfdogs. These I have not set down as good meat, lest my judgment in the matter be thought more simple than it is. I could describe, though, how different is the taste of the Virginia wolves from that of our English ones, for some of our company have eaten both.
Turkey cocks and turkey hens, stockdoves, partridges, cranes, and herons. Swans and geese, which could be had in winter in great abundance, may be added to these. I have noted in the native language the names of eighty-six different kinds of fowl. Besides those I have already named, we have caught and eaten, as well as made pictures of, several different varieties of waterfowl and seventeen kinds of land fowl. We have seen and eaten many others as well, but had not the leisure to draw pictures of them. When we make further discoveries and have better examples, I shall publish all we know about the strange beasts, fish, trees, plants, and herbs there.
We found also parrots, falcons, and merlins, which we do not use for food, but I thought it would be well to mention them for other reasons.
For four months of the year-February, March, April, and May-there are plenty of sturgeon and herring. Some of these fish are the size of those we find commonly in England, but most of them are far larger-eighteen, twenty inches, and some two feet in length and more. We found them to be a most delicate and pleasant food.
There are also trout, porpoises, rays, oldwives, mullets, plaice, and many other varieties of excellent fish which we caught and ate. I know their names only in the language of the country. But we made pictures of twelve different kinds of fish while we were there.
The natives catch fish in two different ways: one is by trapping them in a kind of weir made of very strong reeds; the other is by using a pole sharpened at one end, and spearing the fish in much the same way as Irishmen cast darts. This they do either while wading in the shallows or while rowing in their boats.
There are also plenty of shellfish, sea crabs such as we have in England, and large and small oysters. They are found both in salt and brackish water, and, as in our own country, those taken from salt water are the best. Besides these, there are mussels, scallops, periwinkles, and crayfish. Seekanauk, a kind of crusty shellfish, is a good food. It is about a foot wide, has a crusty tail, many legs, like a crab, and its eyes are set in its back. It can be found in salt-water shallows or on the shore.
Tortoises, both of the land and sea varieties, are more than a yard in breadth, with thick shells on their backs and bellies. Their heads, feet, and tails look very ugly, like those of a venomous serpent. Nevertheless, they are very good to eat, as are their eggs.
Thus, I have told about all the kinds of food eaten in Virginia that I can remember and that are worthy of mention.
1 Henry VIII's shilling.
2 According to an old medical theory man was supposedly composed of four humors: blood, phlegm, choler, and melancholy; an excess of any one of the was thought to cause disease.
3 Probably a spyglass.
4 Magnifying glasses.
5 It was never published. Hariot's manuscript has not yet been found.
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Last updated: April 14, 2015