Eat like an early Native American (from New England)

Native American believed that all life was sacred, including those of the animals and plants that were eaten for food.

For much of the time since they arrived about 10,000 years or more ago, the number of people in the North American Northeast was small enough for it to be supported my hunting and gathering. But gradually the numbers increased, and so parts of the forest had to be cleared and used for cultivation. Thus, by 1600, when the first settlers began to record the ways of the Native Americans they met, the native peoples were growing crops in small market gardens protected by fences from the ravages of wild animals.

But they knew it was wise to collect food from as many different sources as possible, in case one source failed. So they were engaged in hunting, fishing, gathering edible wild plants, and planting crops.

The forests of New England were home to many animals, including deer, moose, beaver, rabbit, skunk, and raccoon and, of course, turkey, duck and goose.

The majority of the fish they caught were freshwater herring, trout, perch, catfish and eels, and ocean cod, tautog, pollock, bluefish, flatfish, bass, sea eels, and mackerel. On the shore they gathered shellfish such as oysters, clams, mussels, razor clams, lobsters, and crabs.

Then there were the wild plants that could be harvested. A wide range of nuts, berries, greens, and mushrooms were gathered. They included blueberry, chestnut, hazelnut and many others.

Then they grew corn, beans, squashes (including pumpkins) and melons. These had found their way from the lands of the Maya (in Mexico) by trade over the centuries.

The staple food was a kind of pottage, or stew, which they knew as nasaump. The main ingredient was corn. As well as boiling this stew over an open fire, they roasted meat and fish.

But in the winter and through to spring, it was much harder to find food, and so they had to preserve the summer and autumn surpluses, by drying, smoking and salting as much as possible.

The native Americans understood that the soil would become poor if it were used year after year for food crops. So every few years they put herring into the holes they would use for planting. As the herring decayed, so it became a fertilizer.