In the spring of 1623 the first settlers from England, landed at Little Harbor Point and established a settlement. In 1631 the settlement was enlarged by a new group of settlers who came to nearby Strawbery Banke, which grew into Portsmouth.
From the Rock Maple trees comes the famous maple syrup and maple sugar. The Indians were the first ones to make sugar, with records going back to the early 1600's, when the colonist called it Indian molasses and Indian sugar.
The settlers learned from the Indians and made their "sweetening" in their own backyards. They emptied the buckets of sap into wooden tubs placed on sledges. The sledges were then pulled by oxen to the sap house for boiling down...It takes thirty-two gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup.
In the early days, the apple was considered a neccessatity for the winter diet. Along with a diet of meat, fowl, potatoes, and corn meal. Apple cider was thought to be particularly beneficial to good health. Every home had its own orchard and cider mill, with many families storing up to one hundred barrels for winter use.
By 1670 apple cider was plentiful and cheap, and is said to have been given out freely to any passer-by. Some of the early varieties of apples grown were the August Sweet, Pound Sweet, Porter, Early Harvest, Tolman, Russet, Sheepnose, Yellow Bellefleur, Snow Apple, and the Blue Pearmain.
The Irish potato was brought to America in 1719 from Ireland, and the first planting was in Londonderry, New Hampshire. The Murdock Homestead claims to have grown the first Irish potatoes in America.
Many magnificent homes and gardens were built in Portsmouth in the early 1700's.
John Moffatt sailed into Portsmouth harbor in 1723. He was a captain on one of ships for the Royal Navy. He resigned his command with the Royal Navy to stay here. He got married and prospered as a ship owner. In 1758 he built a house for his son Samuel, the Moffatt-Ladd Mansion, which was not finished until 1763. The gardens were laid out when the house was built, and are equally famous.
The state flower of New Hampshire is the purple lilac (Syringa vulgaris). The very first planting of lilacs in the state, and in America, was at the estate of Governor Benning Wentworth in Portsmouth.
Upon taking office in 1750, Governor Wentworth had some lilacs brought over from England on one of his own merchant ships. He planted these lilacs around a terrace just off his new council chambers, on the estate. The mansion was originally built in 1690 by Governor Wentworth's grandfather.
Herbs were grown in every old garden. Between 1800 and 1850, herb growing produced a million dollar crop here. Many of the herbs and vegetables were grown by the renowned colony of Shakers at East Canterbury. They are credited for the first sale of vegetable seeds in New Hampshire.
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