Lettuce in Labrador- A study in history

This is a outstanding article and I am not going to copy it onto the blog, its well worth the time to head over to their site and read it in full


But I will pull out a few tidbits..

The Moravian Brethren, also known as Unitas Fratrum (Unity of Brethren), established their first permanent mission post in Nain in 1771, approximately 240 kilometres north of Sandwich Bay. The Moravian mandate was to Christianize the Inuit, but also to trade for whalebone, furs, fish, and seal products. The mission garden was characteristic of even Moravian station in Labrador, producing root crop staples for winter consumption and employing many limit workers. According to the Moravian diaries, Nain was chosen for a mission site because the land was even and had “a good soil for grass and garden stuff or other produce. An account of the newly established Nain mission, written in 1773 by a Moravian visitor to the mission, mentions that “they have a small sandy garden and they raise sallads in tolerable perfection. By the end of the nineteenth century mission gardens had become extensive operations, painstakingly fenced for protection from the wind, fertilized with fish offal, and utilizing raised beds and cold frames to nurture the harvest.

And one more..

Cartwright lived in the Sandwich Bay region for the remainder of his years in Labrador, until 1786, with continued gardening efforts. In April 1776 he “sowed some mustard, cresses, and onions in a tub, and hung it up in the kitchen.” Three weeks later, however, “the seeds I sowed in a box … were dead by giving them two [sic] much heal. I sowed some radishes and mustards afresh.” Cartwright dug a new garden, which was surrounded by a Fence, sowing radishes, onions, carrots, spinach, cresses, and “early Charlton-pease,” as well as “some French beans, Indian corn, barley, oats, and some wheat of Quebec growth.” He also “had some wheat, rye, barley and oats sown in different spots about Muddy Bay and Dykes River.”

In July 1777 Cartwright tried cucumbers for the first time: “pease are in bloom, and the cucumbers appear strong,” but the season, as ever, was not without its challenges, for the autumn high tides “flowed over the greatest part of my little garden, and destroyed many fine cauliflowers and cabbages.” His 1778 garden was surrounded by a wattle fence, and contained mustard, cresses, radish, onion, cabbage, and cauliflower, all mulched with kelp. The kelp, however, bred worms, which in turn devoured the seeds, forcing Cartwright to sow the seeds again. This time he also added cucumber seeds “under glasses

I love reading things that just show that what is sometimes considered new is in fact old again.. its just that we can share our information so much faster these days.. and Ah, Microclimates.. you rock! in so many ways..

The old garden drills are still visible alongside long-abandoned homesteads in southern Labrador. Now grown over by grasses, these rows of raised soil lie nestled in dips and on southern facing slopes, valuable microclimates in an ecosystem determined by the Labrador current



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2 Responses to Lettuce in Labrador- A study in history

  1. Penny O'Rielly says:

    My inlaws grew up in a small island community in Bonnavista Bay. Less than 60 years ago they still grew almost everything they ate. Vegetable gardens, berry foraging, sheep for milk, a pig or two yearly for a change from fish. All stored for winter in a root cellar in the side of a hill – just like all the other families on the island. By this time people were either still fishing or working away seasonally and cash was replacing trade for the rest of the food and goods they required.

    My own French and British Upper Canada roots were already buying all their bread, meat and produce from grocery stores. The stories from my mainland parents’ childhoods are drastically different.

    I love hearing the stories and sharing them with our own children. We try to teach our children about food sources by our own backyard garden, visiting farms where we buy our CSA and meat direct and making and preserving a greater amount of local food each year.

    My father-in-law gets a good chuckle out of our “pioneering” ways when convenience has become the norm. But I love reading stories of perseverance such as this historic article and following your blog demonstrating that living off your land can not only be done, but enjoyed and inspiring to others.

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