Derek – Friday 25th June 2021

All the Americana plants are in place, a display of food plants that originated on the American continent. Most were brought to Europe by Spanish and Portuguese explorers in the late 15th and early 16th centuries. A spin-off in the conquistadors’ main quest for gold, land, and dominion.


The plants on display are (see photo):

Top row: maize, sweet potatoes, dwarf beans, peppers, sugar cane

Bottom row: potatoes, quinoa, tomatoes, peanuts


In the square raised bed are sunflowers and butternut squash.

Snails are munching our butternut squash, sunflowers and peppers. We are giving them some protection and hope they will survive. Both peanuts and sweet potatoes are subtropical, so how they fare will depend on the heat of our summer.

We bought the peanut seed from Chiltern Seeds, and wondered whether we were wasting money, and tried germinating the peanuts from monkey nuts. To no avail; it may be they are heat treated and so won’t grow. The sweet potato we grew was from a local greengrocer. One end of a sweet potato was put into a jar of water, where over a few weeks it grew roots and side shoots. We cut off the side shoots and planted them.

Our Americana display has information panels on Dibond. This is printing onto aluminium sheet. The major advantage is that Dibond printing can withstand whatever the weather throws at it. Rain, sunshine, cold or heat, it will bear up. Paper displays, even if laminated, will fade in the sun.

All the plants originated in America, except sugar cane, which was brought by the Portuguese from East Asia to Brazil. Their desire to increase profit on the plantations instigated the slave trade. Sugar cane was soon picked up by the English colonies in the West Indies and what is now the USA. Slavery followed. The British were involved in slavery for over 250 years, on sugar, cotton and tobacco plantations and in the trading of slaves.

A local connection to the slave trade is with the Lee family. Richard Lee went to the English colonies in America in the mid 1600s. He built up his estate in Maryland with slave labour. In the 1660s, he returned to England and bought an estate in Stratford, calling it Maryland after his colonial holdings. An unusual reversal of naming, as mostly English names have been taken across the Atlantic, in such place names as Boston, New York and New Hampshire.

Richard’s grandson, Thomas Lee, had over 200 slaves and built a large mansion in Virginia in 1742, calling it Stratford Hall, named after his grandfather’s estate in Stratford. Born in Stratford Hall in 1802 was Robert E Lee who became the Commander in Chief of the Confederate army, who were fighting to break away from the Union and to retain slavery.

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