Bermuda Food

Bermudians don't really like to farm, and agriculture on a large scale has rarely been very popular. Most of the cultivated land is used for Easter lilies and bananas--and potatoes. Ninety per cent of the Colony's food is imported. In the late nineteenth century Bermuda onions, potatoes, celery and tomatoes were frequent luxuries in the New York market. Eventually U.S. tariffs hurt this trade, but it really died out when the southern states, principally Texas, moved in and started growing these vegetables more cheaply than Bermuda could. Perhaps Bermuda's most notable agricultural claim is that the first potatoes ever cultivated in North America were shipped from Bermuda to Virginia in 1621.

Today less than 900 acres are under cultivation, only onethird of the land farmed in 1900. There are some 200 "farm," but they average less than five acres each. Much of the agriculture is done by Portuguese who have come from the Azores, and most of the farming is truck gardening. You can have ripe strawberries in January, tomatoes from the garden in February and corn-on-the-cob for Christmas. In addition to well-known vegetables be sure to try such local triumphs as paw-paws and cristophenes.

When the first settlers arrived the found some wild hogs, whose ancestors were probably left by Portuguese sailors equipped with more foresight than navigational ability. There were no snakes, and except for the pigs, no land mammals. There still are no snakes in Bermuda and not much more in the way of livestock. The cost of importing feed is so high that it is generally cheaper to import meat than feed stock. A few pigs are raised and there are small poultry and dairy industries.

Since Bermuda is fed by the world, housewives often plan their menus just by watching the ships come in. If a Lady boat arrives on her way south from Canada to the West Indies, they can anticipate meat, fresh salmon, Nova Scotian eggs, and apples. But if the Lady boat arrives on her way north, there may be avocados, mangoes and pumpkins in the market. On her weekly trips the Queen brings green vegetables from New York, so during the off-season for Bermuda gardens, vegetables are always fresher early in the week. The arrival of a ship from Australia invariably means a greater variety of inexpensive meat. A rough day in Bermuda will keep the small craft of the fishing fleet in the harbor and there will be no fish the next day.

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