The most important staple on homesteads during the 1800s are root crops: turnips, rutabagas, beets, parsnips, carrots, potatoes, onions, etc.
The reasons root crops are so important on the 1800s homestead:
- Very filling (high carb, high fiber, prevents hunger)
- Reliable crops/easy-to-grow (crop failures can mean starvation and even death to homesteaders in the 1800s)
- Highly productive (high yield) crops
- Excellent for available food storage methods (1800s food storage is root cellars, drying, and pickling)
- Can be prepared many different ways (baked, boiled, mashed, stews, soups, sliced & fried, etc.)
|Black Salsify roots * More common in 1800s than today * Oyster-like taste|
Beans and peas are another popular 1800s homestead staple because they are a relatively reliable crop, highly productive, and easily dried for long-term storage. Seed-saving, important on the backcountry homestead, is also very easy with beans and peas (as well as squashes) which is another factor in their favor.
Peppers are also a popular choice on the 1800s homestead. They can be dried for long-term storage, but more often are pickled. Larger-type peppers are often stuffed with cabbage, onions, and spices (similar to what we call relish today) and then pickled.
Of course, a typical 1800s homestead also grows a wide variety of other crops, such as cabbages, tomatoes, and corn. However, the most important crop, the main staple, are root vegetables.
Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits & Vegetables