Dales Plants and Gardens 1900-1960: growing food
'Plants had to earn their keep', is a phrase often repeated as people tell us about the food their parents and grandparents grew in the North Yorkshire Dales of Swaledale, Arkengarthdale and Wensleydale. [For more information about each of the Three Dales, please view the individual records by clicking on the live links]
Woven into these memories, are the stories of the food they ate - pig killings and black pudding made from the warm blood; cleaning intestines for sausage skins by pulling feathers through them; the cows and hens kept; how milk was stored as cheese and butter; eggs laid down in bran and waterglass for winter baking.
They tell us about haymaking picnics and the harvest suppers at the end of long, hard days of work in the field. The ‘elevenses’, ‘dockins’ and ‘drinkins’ that kept people going in the field all day. And the food they ate everyday - potatoes. The tales told 'are the plain truth', a twinkle in the eye from the storyteller alerting us to any deviations from the remembered facts.
Knowing what was eaten and how it was prepared and stored tells us about the importance of what was grown. In two-bedroom cottages with six to 12 in the family, there was no space to store food. Most families had no electricity, and if they did then it was used only for light.
Summer gluts of fruit and vegetables, as well as the pig and its parts, were shared with neighbours and family. Children were constantly hungry, and everyone was hungry the day before payday. If you weren’t canny in the spring, hunger could stretch into months, winter crops having ended and the growing season not yet begun.