Most of the produce the Calvert household consumed was of necessity local, seasonal, and organic. There were many mouths to feed, including not only the Calverts’, but also free and enslaved workers and houseguests. Mrs. Calvert mentioned two gardeners in her letters— John, an enslaved African American, and an unnamed German immigrant—however, it is likely she employed several workers to help with the strenuous task of cultivation.
In addition to their large garden the Calverts owned hundreds of acres of land where they cultivated a wide variety of food, forage, and cash crops including corn, wheat, oats, clover, timothy, hay, and tobacco.
While it is not possible to replicate the extensive gardens of the Stier and Calvert families, you can today enjoy strolling among food plants and flowers as they did. The garden invites visitors to see first-hand how food was, and still is, grown. It also provides inspiration and ingredients for the Riversdale Kitchen Guild members who demonstrate period foodways in the recreated Dependency kitchen. Surplus garden produce that is not used for museum programs is donated to local charities or and often shared with the surrounding community.
Interested in learning more about the garden? Check out the Riversdale page at the National Gallery of Art's History of Early American Landscape Design site.
The Riversdale garden is currently under going some exciting new interpretation! Keep an eye out for new signage as we continue to expand, but in the meantime, read more about it here.
Maintenance of this garden would not be possible without the help of many committed volunteers, most of whom are members of the Prince George’s County Master Gardeners. The kitchen garden you see today is dedicated to the memory of Betty Gossett, longtime Riversdale volunteer and local resident. Would you like to volunteer in the Riversdale garden? Find out more information here!