An 1880's Ethnic Garden

An 1880's Ethnic Garden

Part of Ep. 702 The Heirloom Garden Pt. 2

Join us at the Koepsel House at Old World Wisconsin for a demonstration on how immigrant ethnic Pomeranians integrated American traditions.

Premiere date: May 01, 1999

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley:
This is the Koepsel House. It's one of the many exhibits at Old World Wisconsin, near Eagle, Wisconsin. This is a great place to learn how Wisconsinites lived and gardened during the 19th century. We join Director, Tom Woods. Tom, thanks for having us today. Tom:
Shelley, thanks for coming. This is a wonderful place for people to come to learn about their ethnic traditions and their gardening history. We're open from May through October every year.

Shelley:
What time period are we recreating here?

Tom:
The Koepsel House-- we're in the 1880s. It's a good place to come to see the transition from ethnic Pomeranian traditions to begin to become more part of that melting pot or stew that we've heard so much about. They're beginning to adopt some of the American traditions now.

Shelley:
For example?

Tom:
Well, you noticed as you came in there's a big lawn in front of the house.

Shelley:
A front yard, yeah.

Tom:
Usually, in Pomerania, there would have been a garden in the front. Now, it's been moved to the side or rear of the house.

Shelley:
So, I'm assuming that if they have a lawn, they have a little bit more time to spare then, too.

Tom:
They do. They can even play croquet if they have that much time.

Shelley:
Which is definitely not a Pomeranian game!

Tom:
No, exactly right.

Shelley:
What about something the picket fence behind you. That looks very Yankee influenced to me.

Tom:
Well, it is. In fact in Pomerania, they would've been likely to have a wattle fence, which is a woven twig or stick fence. Now, this is very much a Yankee-style fence that is built out of fairly large materials.

Shelley:
If the fencing and the front yard have changed, has what is actually happening within the garden changed, as well?

Tom:
It's changed dramatically. There's much more diversity of vegetables grown in the garden. And there's a greater diversity of cultivars, too.

Shelley:
So, it's a great time to be gardening.

Tom:
It really is.

Shelley:
Let's take a look.

Tom:
Let's look at it. Shelley, this 1880s flower garden is a wonderful example of how there were more flower varieties available to farmers in the 1880s.

Shelley:
And they look more ornamental. I don't see many herbs anymore. They're for ornamentation, for leisure?

Tom:
You're right. They grew these, not just because they were useful, but because they were pretty. Things like the Celosia, the Snap Dragons and the Petunias. Not only was there greater variety in flowers in the 1880s, but also greater variety in vegetables.

Shelley:
These look like cucumbers.

Tom:
These are cucumbers. And over here, we have a cucumber. This is a White Vienna Cucumber. And these two plants were very important by the 1880s.

Shelley:
When you put dill next to a cucumber, I think pickles.

Tom:
That's right, pickles. Pickles were a part of a very important revolution in gardening and homemaking at that period. They went together with the invention of the Mason jar.

Shelley:
So, they didn't have major sources of canning until this time period?

Tom:
Right. The Mason jar enabled people all over the country to begin to preserve foods that previously, they could only eat fresh.

Shelley:
So, they're growing probably a lot more variety, because they can keep it over the winter.

Tom:
That's right. Now, this particular jar has salted green beans in it, so it combines an older method of preservation with a new container. Here, this is an example of pickling green beans.

Shelley:
So, again, we're just branching out into all sorts of varieties and ways of keeping it in the home.

Tom:
That's right.

Shelley:
Now, you have a variety here that I don't think of as essential for the gardener. This looks like Hops.

Tom:
This is Hops. And Wisconsin was settled by a lot of German and Polish immigrants, and of course, they had a tradition of drinking beer. And when they first came here, they didn't have hops. They surely missed it. So, they quickly tried to establish hops in Wisconsin.

Shelley:
So, this isn't something that came with them. Are they using the varieties of vegetables that did come over with the early settlers, then?

Tom:
There's a lot of things that were beginning to change at that time. Some of the old varieties that they brought with them simply didn't do well in the new climate.

Shelley:
Sure, okay.

Tom:
They began to establish new tastes and new foodways when they were here, as well. Some of those old varieties were replaced by newer varieties.

Shelley:
So, it's a melting pot. They're all still heirlooms to us, of course.

Tom:
They are. Here is a wonderful example of an heirloom.

Shelley:
That's huge!

Tom:
It's a huge tomato. This is a Brandywine Tomato that was an old tomato that was introduced by a seed company in Pennsylvania in the late 1880s.

Shelley:
And it's still easily available today.

Tom:
People love it today for the same reason they did in the 1880s. Because it tastes great.

Shelley:
That's great! Thanks, Tom. If it's survived 100 years, it's worth growing in your garden now.

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