The first direct absolute dates for the exploitation of several summer crops by Indus populations are presented here. These include rice, millets and three tropical pulse species at two settlements in the hinterland of the urban site of Rakhigarhi. The dates confirm the role of native summer domesticates in the rise of Indus cities. They demonstrate that, from their earliest phases, a range of crops and variable strategies, including multi-cropping, were used to feed different urban centres. This has important implications for understanding the development of the earliest cities in South Asia, particularly the organisation of labour and provisioning throughout the year.