What Crops Sustained the Colony of Delaware?
29 SEP 2017
In its colonial days, Delaware was largely an agricultural and industrial colony. The colony was especially agricultural because of its fertile soil and agreeable climate, which allowed the early settlers to grow great bounty from the earth. During this time, its major crops were rice, wheat and indigo, a plant used for dying things blue.
When it was first introduced to colonial America in the 17th century, rice required a great deal of labor to produce. Originally, rice was primarily produced in the southern colonies, along with some of the middle colonies, such as Delaware. However, rice was primarily grown for export, and it was one of colonial America's biggest international commodities under the American brand "Carolina Golde." It served as a global standard for rice excellence. Thus, the rice that Delaware grew would have helped sustain the colonists' bodies, but it did more for sustaining their wallets.
Wheat was a crop that could be grown back in England, so most of what the colonists grew they kept for their own sustenance. In fact, Delaware was part of the group known as the "Bread Basket" of the first 13 colonies because of the amount of wheat and rice that it produced. New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania were the other colonies in this "Bread Basket."
Indigo was not grown for human consumption. Instead, farmers grew it for dying cloth. The leaves of the indigo plant could be processed to produce blue dye, and this dye would go into coloring cloth. This plant was particularly valuable to England because of its own booming textile industry, and because many European military uniforms used blue cloth. So, before the American Revolution disrupted the American supply of indigo to England, it was a profitable cash crop for the colonials of Delaware.
Though not something grown out of the ground, fish can still be a crop because it is a natural resource best harvested in its proper season. Because Delaware had a sizable border on the Atlantic Ocean, fish was as plentiful a crop as those grown in Delaware's fertile soil. Also, because England had no shortage of fish -- being an island itself -- this was a crop that helped to sustain the population of Delaware more bodily than financially.