Cabbages, turnips and onions


The garden at the Antes Plantation is 44 feet by 44 feet, surrounded by an oak fence that more or less keeps the deer out. The tools are all reproductions of 18th-century tools - I particularly liked the T-handled shovel. Looked indestructible.

Jacqueline and the other volunteers have planted mostly heirloom varieties - Bull's Blood beets, which are strong enough to dye cloth; Dragon's Tongue bean, Hutterite soup bean, Jacob's Cattle Bean; and West Indian Gherkin cucumber, a tiny, spiny cuke that Jacqueline pickles and gives to visitors. "Delicious," she says.

There are several rows of cabbages and onions, and back in the day, there likely were many more than that. Jaqueline says cabbages, turnips and onions were the backbone of these folks' diets - a legacy of the Old Country, southern Germany, where they began theire journey. They arrived in Pennsylvania, via the port in Philadelphia, in the early 1700s in search of economic opportunity and freedom from religious persecution.

The volunteers till the soil here and make the reproductions - furniture, tools, fencing, everything - for this traditional German four-square garden. It has two-foot-wide paths and raised beds to facilitate drainage; medicinal plants line the perimeter, vegetables in the middle. Some flowers, too - yellow calendula - for ornamentation, Jacqueline says, and one plant - ground cherries - that are more like tomatillos that what you think of as cherries.

Some of the perimeter plants included spurge as a "mole plant," to chase moles away; lovage, whose hollow stems served as straws to suck up juice or tea for a sore throat; parsley, whose roots made a tea to help with urinary problems; dill, whose tea helped, oh dear, "gas in children,"; and gray southernwood, a kind of artemisia. There's an "old man" southernwood (leaves used for "male problems," and an "old woman" southernwood (for "female problems.")

So many ailments!

Jacqueline warns against planting the "old woman" next to the "old man." "She'll kill him or at least take over," she says.

'Nuff said.