Iroquois Food

What kind of food did the Iroquois eat? We must remember that they were farmers even more than they were hunters and fishermen. Thus, much of what they ate came from the crops they grew.

Probably the most important crop was corn, which had many uses. It was cooked as a porridge, often with beans or other vegetables. It was used, either green or dried, in soups. Most important, the dried kernels were ground into flour and used in puddings or baked into a kind of bread. Sunflower seed oil or maple sugar was often added for flavoring. Squashes and pumpkins, cut into strips and dried, helped provide food for the long winter.

If our party of visitors had come to this village in the spring or early summer, they might have found many of the people absent. Each year at this time, Iroquois men and women traveled considerable distances to fish before the work in the fields began. Using nets, hooks, and harpoons, they caught as many fish as possible and preserved them for later use. The preserving consisted of drying or salting.

In the fall, after the crops were gathered, groups of families left the village to hunt game in the woods. The larger animals, such as deer and bear, were hunted with bows and arrows or caught in pits or nooses. Rabbits, birds, and other small animals were hunted with bows and arrows and blowguns, or were caught with snares and nets.

Other foods important to the Iroquois were found in the woods around them: hickory nuts, butternuts, chestnuts, acorns, berries, and several kinds of roots.

Meats and certain vegetables were cooked over a wood fire on an open hearth. Meat was also frequently broiled on open spits. Some foods were boiled in large clay pots. Others, such as ears of corn, were roasted in hot ashes.