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Here’s What People Ate To Survive In The Dust Bowl

Updated May 31, 2019 7.5k votes 874 voters 28.3k views14 items

List RulesVote up the Dust Bowl foods you can't believe people ate.

The Great Depression was an era of financial toil for nearly everyone in the United States. But those in the Dust Bowl were hit particularly hard - the Southern plains region of the US experienced a drought that led to severe dust storms. Farming grew difficult because of the lack of rain, and people who lived in the Dust Bowl became desperate for food, even more so than others who lived during the Depression.

Dust Bowl meals focused on nutrition over taste. They often included milk, potatoes, and canned goods. Some families resorted to eating dandelions or even tumbleweeds. While not as difficult as finding food as a pioneer, these Dust Bowl meals demonstrate the scarcity with which US citizens had to contend during the 1920s and '30s.

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  • 1

    Canned Tumbleweed Leaves

    Almost nothing would grow in the Dust Bowl, but weeds like lamb’s quarters and tumbleweeds continued to thrive. Families resorted to brining the weeds and storing them to eat during the winter. The Ball Canning Corporation spearheaded an effort to spread canning skills to families affected by the Dust Bowl.

    Nearly 4,000 community canning kitchens provided food to struggling families.

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  • 2

    Popcorn With Milk

    Popcorn With Milk is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Here’s What People Ate To Survive In The Dust Bowl
    Photo: Arthur Rothstein / Library of Congress / Fair Use

    Popcorn was once considered a breakfast food, and in the Dust Bowl, people ate it like cereal - in a bowl with milk. Popcorn was cheap - it often went for 5 to 10 cents a bag - so it was affordable even for families hit hard by the Depression.

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  • 3

    Beef and Gelatin

    Beef and Gelatin is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Here’s What People Ate To Survive In The Dust Bowl
    Photo: Lindseymatteo / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

    Because it was necessary to prioritize frugality over taste, food was cheap, filling, and questionably flavored. If they weren’t entirely tasteless, recipes combined ingredients we likely wouldn't consider pairing today.

    One such recipe included canned corned beef, canned peas, gelatin, lemon juice, and vinegar.

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  • 4

    Carrot Marmalade

    Carrot Marmalade is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Here’s What People Ate To Survive In The Dust Bowl
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0

    Oranges were scarce in the Dust Bowl - Mildred Armstrong Kalish recalls that while berries were plentiful, oranges and bananas were a rare treat. Because there wasn't enough citrus for a proper marmalade, families instead opted to make carrot marmalade. 

    The recipe called for just one orange and a little honey.

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