Virginia may not be strongly associated with blueberries, but wild blueberries have grown here for hundreds of years, and these seeds are proof that that they were part of the diet at Jamestown. Recovered from bottom layers of James Fort’s second well, these blueberry seeds (Vaccinium sp.) may even predate the earliest written records of blueberries in North America, recorded in 1615 by Samuel de Champlain. Champlain made his observations of North American life far to the north of Jamestown, however, his record of indigenous practices of blueberry harvesting, drying, and preparation may reflect how blueberries were consumed farther to the south as well. He wrote specifically of a dish called “Sautauthig,” a combination of dried blueberries and cracked corn mixed with water. A total of 69 blueberry seeds have been recovered from Jamestown — not many, however their extremely small size may account for this — they measure only about 1.5 millimeters long!
John Josselyn, writing during a trip to northern New England in the 1630’s, also described blueberries consumed in various dishes and used for medicinal purposes. He suggests that English colonists in the area traded for dried blueberries and used them in ways similar to how they would have used dried currants. Dried currants and other dried fruits were popular in English dishes at the time, having a tariff of around 18% imposed on their import to London in 1605 and becoming the center of a legal debate over whether the Crown or Parliament was responsible for instituting tariffs on imports and exports. Blueberries were not commonly known in England at the time, so they would have been an interesting new discovery and taste for the colonists at Jamestown. Consumed raw or preserved for wintertime months by drying, blueberries would have been a small, but important source of nutrients.