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This is a contributing entry for Historic Hanna's Town and only appears as part of that tour.Learn More.
Mrs. Hanna used a large kitchen garden to prepare and season meals for her family and the paying visitors of the tavern, Many families depended on their gardens for food, medicine, and seasoning for their dishes. They called almost everything edible that could be grown ‘herbs’. They used everything they could and foraged for the rest in the woods or hunted and used their crops to sustain themselves. The kitchen garden behind the tavern is representative of roughly a fourth of the size of an actual colonial kitchen garden. They grew potatoes, beans, pumpkins and corn.

  • The garden in full bloom
  • Hanna’s Tavern and garden gate
  • The garden gate

It was important to have a big, luscious garden in order to feed your family and anyone else you were responsible for. In the tavern, Mrs. Hanna had to provide for not only her large family but all the travelers passing through the tavern each night. The travelers would pay for food and a spot on the bed. That being said, there was no ‘menu’ the travelers could order from. They ate whatever was being prepared that evening. Gardens, foraging, and hunting was the only way these people obtained food. They couldn’t simply order out for pizza if they felt too lazy to cook.(Gender division) Women had to feed their families and Mrs. Hanna was in charge of even more people than her already large family. Men worked in the fields, while the women and children spent their time in the garden tending to the plants. It took extremely hard work and dedication to keep their families fed every day, year after year.

Normally the size of the garden would somewhat depend on how many mouths you had to feed. Hanna’s Town garden is a small example of a kitchen garden is actually much smaller than the ⅓ to ½ acre that would be required to feed that many 18th century mouths. If wouldhave to be a fairly large garden to feed all the mouths of travelers stopping by that night and every night after. 

It’s hard to imagine life back then without some of our favorite veggies and fruits, but they just simply didn’t have certain resources available to them. Without food and markets, the people of Hanna’s Town had to work their hardest to gather and prepare what they could off of the land. Since there was so Walmart, they had to forage and use all that was available to them on the land they occupied. They had to go out into the fields and woods to search for food as well as grow their own. They searched and harvested mushrooms, blackberry, elderberry, staghorn sumac, slippery elm, common yarrow, wood sorrel, white snakeroot, sweet flag, ginseng, poke, sassafras and red mulberry. 

Corn, potatoes, pumpkins,squashes, beans and potatoes. Pork, squirrel, dear and bear meal accompanied these veggies in stew and soups. Many believe that tomatoes were around back then but even if it was the colonials would have been afraid to eat it. Tomatoes weren’t actually introduced until the 1820’s. For textile and clothing purposes they also grew flax along with grain for cooking and baking. Flax is a fibrous plant that when harvested can be used to make linen. Herbs were also present in these gardens. Rosemary, sage, tansy, mint varieties, lemon balm, horehound, lavender, rue, savory, ambrosia, thyme and others were present in the kitchen gardens, whether it be for medicinal use, seasoning, or for fragrance. 

Garden for county seats such as Hanna’s town would also contain flowers like pansies, hearts-ease, golden daffodils, hyacinths, foxgloves, peonies, carnations, iris, primroses, marigold, Canterbury bells, poppies, and tiger lilies. Lilacs were also a very famous flower when it came to Pennsylvania gardening. So it’s very likely that Hanna’s town had their fair share of prideful lilacs.

Colonial gardener terminology used In-lot and Out-lot to separate the crops from the garden herbs. In-lot plants would be the plants grown in limited quantities in the kitchen gardens themselves. Out-lots would be the grain and flax that they grew as crops in the outer field. They also used the term ‘herb’ to describe every plant that was useful to them, whether it be for medicine, food, or clothing. They also used terms in receipts or recipes like ‘sallet’ (salad) ‘pot’ (flavor/seasoning). The plants in our garden are lettuce, carrots, potatoes, onyons (onions), cucumbers, beets, parsnips, peas, kale, cabbage, red Lima bush beans, and a variety of pole beans. The herbs include dill, apothecary rose, fennel, parsely, chamomile, borage, comfrey, feverfew, elecampane.

The layout of these kitchen gardens are very similar to how some prefer gardening today. They would use raised beds with little footpaths called alleys. The raised bed thawed the soil in a timely manner in spring, and the footpaths kept from people stepping on the plants. The fence even allowed the east to west setting sun to reflect the light into the garden, creating a microclimate and helping to shade. The entire garden would be surrounded by a fence to keep roaming animals out. Very much like how some people today prefer fences to keep deer out of their fruit and veggie plants. 

Kitchen garden were a very essential part of everyday life for people on the frontier. Hanna’s Town was certainly no different. Because the town played such an important role is Westmoreland County History, it’s easy to imagine how many people visited and traveled through this town, whether it be to or from Fort Pitt or Fort Ligonier. The garden was really an essential part of everyday life in the 18th century.

Weigel, George. How Did Our Foregardeners Do It? Tips From Our Soiled Colonial Past, Penne Live. September 20th 2012. Accessed June 10th 2020.

Westmoreland County Historical Society. 2019. “Hanna’s Town Tour Manual”. Westmoreland County Historical Society.

Westmoreland County Historical Society. 2019. “18th Century Kitchen Garden”. Westmoreland County Historical Society.