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Archaeologist uncovers George Washington's 250-year-old stash of cherries

SCOTT DETROW, HOST:

Finally today, you know that whole thing about George Washington not being able to tell a lie and fessing up to damaging his father's cherry tree? Yeah, that is a myth. But we do know that there were cherries at the first president's home.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

That's right. Last fall archaeologists were excavating the cellar at that historic home in Virginia known as Mount Vernon. And they spotted two glass jars in the dirt, which isn't itself unusual, but these jars contained liquid. And when those jars were excavated this spring, they held that mystery liquid - and cherries.

DETROW: And these were 250-year-old cherries that actually looked like cherries, according to archaeologist Jason Boroughs. They're plump. They have flesh. They have pits and stems, he told USA Today - sounds like a cherry to me. To confirm it all, the liquid inside smelled like cherry blossoms.

CHANG: Mount Vernon doesn't fully know what the liquid is. Boroughs says the cherries were probably picked by enslaved laborers sometime between 1758 and 1776 and then stored and buried dry to be served at the dinner table at a later date. It's possible groundwater got in there after the cork deteriorated, or there's a smaller possibility that it could have been a cherry-infused alcohol.

DETROW: The liquid will now be tested. As for the cherries, Boroughs says, it might be possible to eat them still, but he says nobody wants to try. I don't know. Try a presidential Manhattan. I'd try it.

CHANG: (Laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF ADRIAN YOUNGE AND ALI SHAHEED MUHAMMAD'S "THE SUMMERTIME (INSTRUMENTAL)") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Michael Levitt
Michael Levitt is a news assistant for All Things Considered who is based in Atlanta, Georgia. He graduated from UCLA with a B.A. in Political Science. Before coming to NPR, Levitt worked in the solar energy industry and for the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington, D.C. He has also travelled extensively in the Middle East and speaks Arabic.
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