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  • Print publication year: 2007
  • Online publication date: August 2009



Earth here is so kind, that just tickle her with a hoe and she laughs with a harvest.

Douglas Jerrold (1803–1857)

THE FIRST EUROPEANS to settle in North America survived on Native American staples until Old World favorites began to thrive. As Alfred Crosby has shown, practically all Old World plants, animals, and humans did well in regions with climates similar to those of Europe (he termed them “neo-Europes”) by shoving aside more fragile competitors, when there were any competitors at all.

However such “Ecological Imperialism” managed only a faltering start in Florida, and sixteenth-century Spanish soldiers and missionaries had to fill their stomachs mostly with native maize, squash, and beans along with sweet potatoes transplanted from the West Indies. Bitter oranges had been planted by early explorers and by the end of the sixteenth century sweet oranges were growing, although no commercial possibilities were foreseen until the English took Florida in 1763 and, in 1776, began shipping St. Augustine's oranges back to England. Sugarcane was also placed under cultivation but, as a rule, where sugarcane will grow, wheat will not, and wheat flour was always an import to Spanish Florida.

Old World plant vigor, however, was exhibited by peach trees introduced directly from Europe that raced across the American continent well in advance of the Europeans. Native Americans became fond of the fruits, and, by the time of the American Revolution, peaches were so well established that many assumed them to be American natives.

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A Movable Feast
  • Online ISBN: 9780511512148
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