Homemaking Activities

Carver's Methods for Crop and Food Preservation

In 1906 and 1907 Carver had published bulletins on preserving sweet potatoes and wild plums. Now [in 1912] he turned to meat preservation….For generations, farmers had waited until cold weather to slaughter hogs, lest the meat spoil in the heat. The delay meant that they had to continue to feed the hogs after they had matured and thus run the risk of the animals contracting hog cholera. With Carver’s new process for preserving meat, slaughtering could take place as soon as the hogs were grown….

By 1915, he was experimenting with drying foods. Carver had advocated eating raw fruits and vegetables long before such advice was in vogue among doctors; however, since fresh fruits was available only in summer, he began investigating all possible ways of preserving it. His work with dehydrated food coincided with shortages caused by the Great War—shortages of tin cans, glass containers, and especially sugar, which had become a commodity beyond the budget of poor folk. Carver gave simple instructions that anyone could follow for drying sweet potatoes, and he taught farmers how to roast and grind them for a coffee substitute.

Vella, C. (2015). George Washington Carver: A Life. Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, pp. 146-147

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Carver authored four bulletins that took up food preservation explicitly as a central topic. In 1906’s Bulletin Number 9, Saving the Sweet Potato Crop, he also created illustrations designed to demonstrate the results of his scientific observations underlying his advocacy of specific crop preservation methods.

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Saving the Sweet Potato Crop (1906)

"Of the many vexing problems with which the Southern farmer must deal, there are probably none more troublesome than the saving of his sweet potato crop.

Some years, all methods, from the simplest to the most complex, seem to succeed. Probably the very next year just the reverse is true, and all spoil, leaving in many instances hardly enough for seed.

The above conditions have been made the subject of investigation by our station, covering a period of five years, and we submit the results with a considerable degree of satisfaction, as we feel that certain facts have been brought to light, which, if observed, will render the successful saving of this crop much less problematical.


Much time was spent in riding over the country to ascertain just how the farmers kept theirs. They bank in the old-fashioned way almost universally. Some said they would not keep if planted in a certain kind of soil. Our investigations showed there was but little, if anything, to support such a statement. Others declared they would not keep unless planted, dug and banked on such and such a time of the moon. This, like the above statement, was proven false. Several other infallible methods were investigated, but suffered the same fate (disappointment) as the others to which I have referred.

It was observed, however, that the potatoes dug and banked after a long dry period, as a rule, kept well, while those dug and banked after, and during a rainy season, almost, without exception, kept poorly.

It was further observed that if potatoes were cut or broken, and the milky juice turned a dark greenish color after being exposed to the air until dry, they would keep poorly; but the juice dried white and the cut place showed a tendency to heal over, they invariably kept well.

Feeling that sufficient information had been secured to furnish material for an intelligent line of investigations, we therefore, began by examining (microscopically) a large number of potatoes, such as we have described."

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Saving the Wild Plum Crop (1907)

"Nature endows or blesses each state or section with an indigenous flora and fauna best suited to that particular soil and climatic conditions.

Applying the above to Alabama, Macon and adjoining counties have been unusually blessed in the quantity, variety and quality of its wild plums. They vary in size from a half to one inch in diameter, and in flavor from sugary sweetness to sour and bitter. In color, from lemon yellow to crimson, scarlet and black, making possibilities for many pleasing combinations for the eye and palate.

I feel safe in saying that in Macon County alone there are many hundred bushels of plums that go to waste every year that there is a full crop, which is almost one year with another.

In a commercial way there is a great opportunity for jam and jelly factories.

No fruit improves with cultivation more satisfactorily than the wild plum, both the size and flavor is improved, and under cultivation some of the yellow and red types compare favorably in size with the Wild Goose and other cultivated varieties of that class.

No fruit makes more delicious jams, jellies, preserves, marmalades, etc., and it is the purpose of this bulletin to set forth in a practical way a number of recipes by which every housewife may be successful in the saving of this splendid article of food."

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When, What, and How to Can and Preserve Fruits and Vegetables in the Home (1915)

"There is without doubt no activity connected with the farm or garden of greater importance than the canning and preserving of fruits and vegetables. The following are some of the strongest arguments in its favor:

1. It is the easiest, cheapest, quickest, and best method yet devised by which we can have plenty of good, wholesome fruits and vegetables at a time when the fresh article is out of season.

2. Fruits and vegetables can be preserved, dried, and canned that otherwise would go to waste, such as that which is below marketable size, lop-sided, specked, or deformed in other ways.

3. There is always a market for choice, home-canned goods, and many are the quarters, dimes, and nickels that can be taken in in this way.

4. It is a noticeable fact (all other things being equal) that those who partake freely of fruits and vegetables every day have the clearest minds and the strongest and healthiest bodies.

5. With plenty of fruits and vegetables in the pantry or cellar, there is absolutely no excuse for suffering from hunger. It is astonishing how it cuts down the cost of living.

It is estimated that fully two-thirds of our fruits and half our vegetables go to waste every year, which, if canned, preserved, or dried, would furnish nutritious and palatable dainties sufficient to last throughout the winter and spring months."

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Pickling and Curing of Meat in Hot Weather (1912)

"Many and varied are the methods of curing and otherwise preserving meat in the fall and winter months when the weather is cold enough to insure success.

All the methods examined were successful and some of superior merit, but the notion of killing and preserving meat in hot weather had scarcely been given a thought; “impossible” seemed to have been written across the face of any such proposition. However, two great problems demanding a solution seemed to be ever before us.

The entire South has been slow in the matter of pork production for the following reasons: First, the feedstuff for fattening hogs is especially plentiful in summer; the hogs grow off and fatten rapidly; they soon reach the killing point, and become a loss in dollars and cents, besides having other disadvantages whenever an attempt is made to carry them over till cold weather. Second, cholera, which rarely fails to make its more or less destructive appearance in the fall, seems to be especially partial to fat hogs.

I think possibly that these two things have done more to keep the South from being a great pork-raising center than all the others combined. With this situation before us, a pickling solution seemed the most feasible; so, therefore, we set about to find one.

A large number were found for the corning or pickling of beef, but those for pork were rather meager; but by taking those available in this and other countries, particularly those found in the United Kingdom of Great Britain, Ireland, Denmark, Holland, Scotland, England, and Canada, I was able to work out the following which has worked admirably with us."