No lie: Completely preserved historic cherries unearthed at George Washington’s Mount Vernon

Norman Ray

International Courant

MOUNT VERNON, Va. — Regardless of this, George Washington by no means reduce down the cherry tree the well-known story on the contraryhowever he did pack fairly just a few bottles of fruit at his dwelling in Mount Vernon.

Dozens of bottles of cherries and berries – impossibly preserved in storage pits uncovered within the basement of his mansion on the banks of the Potomac River – have been found throughout an archaeological dig associated to a restoration venture.

Jason Boroughs, Mount Vernon’s chief archaeologist, stated the invention of a lot completely preserved meals from greater than 250 years in the past is basically unprecedented.

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“Discovering what is basically contemporary fruit 250 years later is fairly spectacular,” Boroughs stated in an interview. “All the celebs should align correctly for that to occur.”

Complete items of fruit, recognizable as cherries, have been present in some bottles. Different bottles contained what gave the impression to be gooseberries or currants, though testing is underway to substantiate that.

Mount Vernon is working with the U.S. Division of Agriculture, which is conducting DNA testing on the fruit. They’re additionally analyzing greater than 50 cherry stones faraway from the bottles to see if any might be planted.

“It’s kind of of a bet,” says Benjamin Gutierrez, a USDA plant geneticist, concerning the odds of utilizing a cherry seed to develop a tree. Seeds are greatest preserved when dry, and most samples discovered at Mount Vernon have been soaked with water. Just a few wells initially examined weren’t viable as seeds.

Nonetheless, he stated the bottles are a exceptional discover. Along with DNA testing, he stated chemical testing could possibly present whether or not sure herbs have been used to protect the fruits.

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Information from Mount Vernon present that George and Martha Washington have been keen on cherries, a minimum of when blended with brandy. Martha Washington’s recipe for a “cherry bounce” cocktail survives, and Washington wrote that he took a canteen of cherry bounce with him on a visit by the Alleghenies in 1784.

Nevertheless, these cherries have been more than likely bottled to be eaten merely as cherries, Boroughs stated.

The standard of the conservation displays a excessive caliber of labor. Slaves ran the plantation’s kitchen. The kitchen was overseen by an enslaved lady named Doll, who got here to Mount Vernon with Martha Washington in 1758, in line with the property.

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“The enslaved individuals who tended the timber, picked the fruit and labored within the kitchen, these would have been the individuals who would have most likely supervised and carried out this course of,” Boroughs stated. “It’s a very skilled course of. In any other case they merely would not have survived this manner.”

The bottles have been solely discovered as a result of Mount Vernon was investigating $40 million mansion revitalization venture that they count on to be accomplished by the nation’s 250th anniversary in 2026.

“Once we do archaeology, it is harmful,” Boroughs stated. “So until we’ve got a cause to disrupt these assets, we normally do not try this.”

“On this case, on account of these essential structural repairs to the mansion, the land could be disturbed. So we seemed there first,” he continued. “We did not anticipate finding all this.”

They know the bottles date from earlier than 1775, as a result of then an extension to the manor led to the realm being coated with a brick flooring.

Mount Vernon introduced in April, firstly of its archaeological work, that it had discovered two bottles. As excavations continued, the quantity elevated to 35 in six totally different storage pits. Six of the bottles have been damaged, the opposite 29 have been intact. Twelve contained cherries, sixteen contained the opposite berries believed to be currants and gooseberries, and one bigger bottle contained each cherries and different berries.

Boroughs believes they’ve now discovered all of the cherries and berries that survived.

“There’s quite a lot of info we prefer to get out of those bottles,” he stated.


This story has been up to date to right that 29 bottles have been discovered intact, not 19.

No lie: Completely preserved historic cherries unearthed at George Washington’s Mount Vernon

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