Thomas Jefferson’s plantation, Monticello, is situated on top of a mountain on the outskirts of Charlottesville.
Ol’ TJ was on the forefront of the agrarian movement way back in the day. The dude liked to grow flowers and have beautiful gardens. He also liked to push the boundaries of what would grow in central Virginia and his fields were full of artichokes and gherkins.
What better place to hold a Heritage Harvest Festival then the very spot where Jefferson so meticulously detailed varieties of eggplant and growing seasons over 200 years ago?
I got a festival preview this morning as part of a group of local food bloggers and media to participate in a garden tour and tasting party.
Monticello gardeners Pat Brodowski and Eleanor Gould gave us a wonderful sampling of whats growing this fall. Here she is showing us French Sorrel.
Salsify! I think this is one vegetable I have yet to try…rumor has it it taste like an oyster.
West African Gherkins. This little grenade cucumbers are said to have been brought over by slaves.
Pat broke open a cuc to show us how to seed save.
These little hot peppers are called Texas Bird and the original seeds were a gift to TJ from a Texan in 1812. Apparently these peppers grow like crazy around parts of Texas and get eaten up by the wild turkeys, which in turn get a certain spice to their flesh!
Gabriele Rausse is the new Director of Gardens and Grounds at Monticello, has his own wine label, is a fantastic chef, and an impressively nice guy. He met us in the garden and shared this TJ quote with us;
“It is neither wealth nor splendor, but tranquility and occupation which give happiness.”
And then we were treated to a tasting party fresh from the garden.
Gail of Caromont cheese was there, providing us with samples of her incredible product. She makes goat and cow cheese and while I’ve always been a fan I was thrilled to find out that she sources her cow milk from local grass-fed Silky Cow. Grass fed rocks.
American Heritage Chocolate was there demonstrating the good stuff, old school style.
Cider is big these days, especially here in apple country.
Albemarle Ciderworks shared a bit of their brew.
And Joel Salatin stopped by to say hi and give us a quick rundown on what’s happening around Polyface Farm these days (remember Polyface from An Omnivore’s Dilemma?).
Thanks for a lovely morning Monticello!