Corn formed a majority of the colonial diet. Other native crops included pumpkins, squash and beans. European wheat, barley, oats and peas were also grown. In addition to the large-field crops, family gardens in the colonies contained herbs and vegetables, such as lettuce, parsley, carrots, spinach and turnips. In northern colonies farming produced less than in the southern New England colonies because of a shorter growing season and poor soil.
The Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth in November 1620 and were soon followed by more settlers, including the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630. Farming was literally a life and death matter for the early colonists, as nearly half of the 102 original Plymouth arrivals died the first winter. The deaths resulted from diseases such as scurvy and malnutrition in combination with the harsh conditions that existed on the Mayflower.
The New England colonies of America, which eventually became the states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts, took many of their crops and planting knowledge from the Wampanoag people who lived near the first colonies in Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay, according to the Plimoth Plantation. Those who lived in the northern colonies depended more on the sea and gathering nuts and berries for their primary foods.