“A fruit that the Inhabitants call Maracocks,” John Smith noted in his 1612 diary, were a “pleasant wholesome fruit much like a lemon” that ripened in the summer and were a part of the diet of Native Virginians and James Fort’s first colonists. Maracocks, what we call passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) or maypop today, is a variety of passionfruit which is native to Virginia. Forty-six of these small seeds were found in the colony’s second well, where the waterlogged anaerobic environment kept bacteria from degrading uncharred organic material such as these tiny artifacts.
Finds such as these seeds help us understand the exchange of food and food knowledge between Native Virginians and the colonists, and highlight the colonists’ adaptation to their new environment. The Englishmen’s diets changed once they reached Virginia and depended upon what was available seasonally around them. The tart maracocks fruit would have been a source of nutrition missing from an otherwise sparse diet.