“They were growing peanuts here way before it was in vogue or even considered a cash crop,” executive director Caroline Lewis says. Peanuts were introduced to the area after they came over on slave ships from Africa and were grown by the Foys because of their value as a source of oil. The Foys didn’t consider peanuts to be a food crop until they began looking for alternative sources of protein during the Civil War, Lewis says. Peanut farmers — even wealthy ones who owned land and slaves — were not considered in the same social class as the owners of cotton and rice plantations, Lewis says. The Foys’ Unionist leanings didn’t help their social standing, either. “Certainly they weren’t rubbing elbows with the Bellamys,” Greene says. “Forget going into town for dinner.” In town, families like the Bellamys also ate lots of pork, seasonal produce and preserved foods. The Bellamys’ comparatively small parcel of land in downtown Wilmington included a small herb garden, a fig tree and a chicken coop, says Gareth Evans, the Bellamy Mansion Museum’s director. The family also kept a dairy cow on the property and paid someone to take the cow out to pasture in the country during the day and then return it in the evenings. Much of the produce eaten at the mansion likely came from Grovely, a plantation the family owned near Winnabow. But Evans says the wealthy Bellamys also purchased imported foods such as sugar and tropical fruits, which came into the nearby river port on ships from the Caribbean. Hoppin’ John RECIPE COURTESY OF POPLAR GROVE PLANTATION Recipes combining rice and beans, such as this one for Hoppin’ John, are just one example of how West African slaves influenced the cuisine of the Antebellum South. This filling dish is traditionally served with collard greens. INGREDIENTS 1 cup dried black-eyed peas 6 cups water 1 dried hot red pepper 86 WBM april 2015 1 smoked ham hock 1 medium onion, chopped 1 cup rice PREPARATION Wash the peas in a colander and sort them, removing any small rocks. Place peas in a pan, add the water and discard any peas that float. Gently boil, uncovered, with hot pepper, ham hock and onion, about one hour. Add rice, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, never lifting the lid. Remove from heat and allow to steam with the lid on for another 10 minutes. Peanuts were one of the main cash crops at Poplar Grove Plantation, where they had many uses including feeding slaves, fattening hogs and being sold for use as oil. PHOTO COURTESY OF POPLAR GROVE FOUNDATION, INC.
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