When the Dutch crossed the Hudson River from Manhattan in the early decades of the seventeenth century to settle what is now Bergen County, they discovered hills of corn and beans planted by Minsi natives of the Leni-Lenape tribe. And when the Quaker land speculator John Fenwick walked down the gangplank from the English ship Griffin in 1675 and set foot in what is today Salem County, he found Unalachtigo natives of the same tribe gathering wild cranberries and feasting on oysters and clams they had brought back with them after spending the summer at the shore.
The gardens of the Garden State go back that far—and perhaps a lot farther, to whatever time the Leni-Lenape (meaning the Original People) drifted east past the Appalachian bumps along the upper Delaware River and spread south into the flatlands that end where the same river joins the sea. The search—the farming legacy—begins, then, with the Leni-Lenape tribe, a branch of the Algonquian nation, a generally peaceful people whom the more contentious Iroquois derided as “old women.”
It was the Leni-Lenape women, old and young, who tended the gardens. They were not gardens the newcomers from Europe would ordinarily recognize, because the women cared little about neat