Monticello Heritage Harvest Festival Garden Tour and Tasting

by Sarah on September 15, 2012 · 9 comments

It’s acceptable to play hooky from school as long as you are hanging out with a former president, right?

T.J. is my Homeboy. (Wahoowa!)

After all, it isn’t every day you get to take an ‘educational field trip’* to Monticello for a special media/blogger preview of the 2012 Heritage Harvest Festival.

*Did anyone else go through a school system where every family vacation–even to Disney World or a beach resort–had to be called ‘educational’ in your absentee note?A morning spent in the gardens of Jefferson’s Monticello was an absolutely blissful way to spend a personal day (off).We were led on a shortened version of the new Revolutionary Garden Tour by gardeners Pat Brodowski and Eleanor Gould, who not only educated us on the Jeffersonian-era produce–including peanuts, which I’ve never seen growing–but also gave us wicker-esque baskets to pick herbs, vegetables, and edible flowers straight from the garden!*

*Note: It is a good idea to stand as close to your guides as possible because you’re basket will overfloweth with beautiful bounty!In addition to learning fun facts like this cushaw squash is commonly used as a pumpkin subsitute in commercially packed, canned pumpkin……or having a lightbulb of “Well, that should have been obvious to me before now” go off when the name ‘eggplant’ was told to come from the resemblence of growing white eggplant to a hen’s egg……we were treated to an introduction and welcome from Gabriele Rausse, Monticello’s new Director of Gardens and Grounds.I’m no gardener, but I certainly love fresh vegetables, so I was simply overjoyed to be frolicking through the rows of Jeffersonian plants……and picking radishes straight from the ground.

We were also treated to a special “Taste of The Festival” (!!!!)

I was so excited, I didn’t even know what to do with myself.

Serving on salad plates at a buffet often reduces the amount your guests eat...except when Miss Smart comes over.

…except pile my plate high…

…and attempt to discreetly continue adding spoonfuls of the Nasturtium Capers (paired with a historically recreated tarragon-infused dressing I only found out later was made so delicious by the non-vegan addition of egg yolk)…

Yes, fresh figs. (I know.)

…and slices of orange glow watermelons to my plate.

I thought I tasted a hint of pumpkin, but I was told by one of the gardeners that was silly. I stand by my tastebuds.

There were also sips of lavender lemonade

…and there must have been a dozen heirloom tomato varieties to try.Some of the festival vendors and demonstrators came to give us all a little preview of their wares. I was able to watch chocolate made by hand using an ancient metate.From cocoa pod to chocolate bar, the whole process is accurately recreated.The American Heritage Chocolate is formed into sticks or bars with authentic spices and additions–including cinnamon, orange peel, sea salt, nutmeg, anise–all to create either a bite (or a sip, as we sampled) that will blow your bittersweet-chocolate-loving mind.*

*Or tastebuds.The perfect way to wash everything down was with a tasting of five varietal from Albemarle Cider Works.

Cider before noon? Why not?

A HUGE thank you to the generous folks at Monticello who invited me to come taste the garden and get a sample of the Heritage Harvest Festival.As I said to a friend on the way ‘down the mountain': “I never want(ed) to leave!”

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