the 17th- and 18th-century garden, herbs were an
important part of the vegetable plot, growing
side-by-side with peas, carrots and lettuces, and then
harvested and used in cooking, dye and soap making and
those crops are grown in demonstration raised beds at
Virginia’s Jamestown Settlement and Yorktown Victory
Center, where historical interpreters do the same as
part of the living-history museum experience for
goes to show that history often repeats itself — today’s
raised-bed vegetable patches are again popular and
practical for small-space, easy-access gardening. Even
many of the crops are the same.
home gardens, Jamestown Settlement historical
interpreter Pat Leccadito recommends parsley, sage,
rosemary and thyme, and peppermint, spearmint and lemon
balm, which colonists also favored. All of these can be
grown indoors in pots as well as outdoors, she adds.
majority of vegetables and herbs grown in the 17th
century are grown today," she says.
herbs grown in England were cultivated in
fact, an advertisement from the Virginia Gazette
newspaper dated October 22, 1772, according to
interpreters at Yorktown, states, "Imported in the
last ships from Britain, and to be sold by the
subscriber at Norfolk, a large and complete assortment
of garden seeds, also tools; he likewise furnishes
plants and herbs of all kinds in their respective
are always welcome to explore the gardens and talk with
historical interpreters, according to Debby Padgett,
spokeswoman for the two historical sites. Garden-themed
private tours are available with reservations.
the Yorktown Victory Center, this year’s field crops
are growing on a limited basis while a huge expansion
and transition is underway at the American Revolution
Museum at Yorktown. The entire project, including a
reconstructed and enhanced Revolution-period farm, will
be complete late 2016, she says.
herbs and medicinal plants in the 18th-century,
according to Jamestown and Yorktown historical
An ancient medicinal and culinary herb, rosemary is a
Mediterranean shrub that found its way to America with
early settlers. The plant has long been valued as a
stimulant and tonic. It also "quickens a weak
memory and the senses," according to "Culpeper’s
Complete Herbal," originally published in the 17th
Cloves are the unopened buds of the tropical clove tree,
used medicinally and as a spice. The clove bud, when
crushed, releases oil that is both anesthetic and
antiseptic. It is used for toothaches and indigestion.
gall: Caused by a gall-wasp puncturing the bark of the
oak and laying eggs inside, galls are astringent and
white gall binds and dries,…yet is good against the
dysentery and bloody flux," also according to
"Culpeper’s Complete Herbal."
pepper: Native to tropical America and Africa, it was
used medicinally as well as a seasoning. The oil from
the peppers was used for salves and to help clear
congestion. Modern Capsaicin, which contains capsicum,
is from the peppers. It is rubbed on sore joints and
Grown primarily as a cash crop throughout the 17th and
most of the 18th century. Tobacco was also used
medicinally. The juice was used as a purgative. The
juice was also used on insect stings and bites. The
smoke was used for constipation,
This was one of the first native plants to be exported.
Sassafras tea was used as a stimulant and antispasmodic;
sassafras is the flavoring in root beer.
There are thought to be at least 30 species of mint, all
of which have been highly valued for their medicinal
properties since earliest times. By the 18th century,
various species were used as a cure for colic and
bark: The bark of the white willow contains salicin,
from which acetylsalicylic acid is derived, the main
ingredient in aspirin. Needless to say, willow bark was
used for headaches or to lower fevers.
Made from apple cider. Many farms had a small apple
orchard, and the primary use of the apples was for the
making of cider. When the cider turned, it became
vinegar, which was used as a preservative as well as
medicinally. The benefits of a daily tablespoon of cider
vinegar mixed with water are very much in today’s
Herbs need sun and well-drained soil.
Regular pruning and good air circulation around plants
helps keep them healthy.
Herbs are easily dried by cutting and hanging them in
bunches to dry in a cool, dark place; when the herbs
easily crumble, store them in airtight containers.
Foliage on herbs can be cut into small pieces and placed
in baggies to freeze for later use in dishes; herbs can
also be frozen in ice cube trays and dropped into soups,
sauces and stews.
Learn more about herbs with the American Herb Society at