When Europeans first settled in North America, they had to learn how to grow food in an unfamiliar environment.  They planted many kinds of seed to determine what would grow in the Canadian climate. Vegetables, greens, and herbs were tested in small gardens scattered across present-day Manitoba. Upper Fort Garry held several of these gardens over the years. A kitchen garden was located east of the main Gate in the northern section of the fort.

Gardens like this one grew vegetables including potatoes, corn, turnips, onions, cabbage, beets, parsnips, carrots, beans, and radishes. Most of the seeds used in testing crops in Hudson’s Bay Company posts came all the way from London! Gardeners used traditional tools such as spades, hoes, rakes, and sickles.

Growing local foods was important to the Hudson’s Bay Company. Importing goods for settlers was expensive! Nuts and fruits, including brazil nuts, almonds, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, watermelons, tomatoes, plums, and peaches were often brought to Upper Fort Garry from Europe, but they did not come cheap. Fresh produce helped to ensure people wouldn’t starve if there was a bad hunt, or larger fields of grain crops failed. And the extra vitamins and minerals in fresh vegetables contributed to a balanced diet and helped keep people healthier.

Hardy vegetables like potatoes and turnips were staples of the Red River kitchen table. These kinds of vegetables can last a long time without going bad which made them very valuable. While vegetables stay fresh in today’s air-conditioned cupboards and refrigerators, nineteenth century cooks had to be more creative. Many root vegetables were kept in “roothouses” or cellars. One of these cellars was built into Upper Fort Garry’s old Main house. There was also at least one roothouse built into the river bank near the Fort. Riverside dugouts like these were used to keep vegetables cool and fresh.

Location in the Park