What Were the Staple Crops of the American Colonies?

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The main staple crops of the American colonies were tobacco, corn, wheat and cotton. A variety of fruits and vegetables were also grown on a smaller scale.

The cultivation of tobacco as a primary cash crop contributed greatly to the livelihood of colonial settlers. Although tobacco required more work to harvest than other crops, it was still very profitable. Various types or flavors of raw leaf tobacco were exported for use in chewing tobaccos, pipes and snuff.

Corn was a major crop grown by early settlers. Also referred to as maize or Indian corn, it was a dietary staple. Corn was used as an ingredient in porridge, bread, grits and other dishes. In addition, the blades from ears of corn helped to sustain livestock.

Wheat was grown from the beginning of colonial times on a relatively small scale. Used to make flour for baking, it eventually became a big cash crop.

Cotton was one of the first crops cultivated by American colonists. Grown in rich soil that needed to be highly cultivated, cotton was difficult to grow. Although it was harvested yearly, it accounted for a minor portion of the crops grown in the northern states. Because it flourished more readily in warmer weather, it thrived in the South.