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In between authoring the Declaration of Independence, contributing to the founding of the United States, and serving as our third president, Thomas Jefferson found time for another hobby: vegetable gardening. In his home garden at Monticello, Jefferson grew more than 90 varieites of plants, carefully documenting each of their successes and failures. He planted exotics like sesame, chickpeas, and sea kale, as well as over 130 varieties of fruit trees in his orchard. He once said, "The greatest service which can be rendered any country is to add a useful plant to its culture."
Peter Hatch, the director of the gardens and author of a new book, A Rich Spot of Earth, says that the farm "served as a sort of this experimental testing lab where he'd try new vegetables he sought out from around the globe."In Jefferson's time, having good, fresh vegetables was essential to having good food, because the predominate method of cooking was boiling. Spices were rarely used and most recipes were served with a side of cabbage pudding. The only way to eat well was to start with good produce - let the flavor of the vegetable shine through. Nowadays, the farm that Jefferson built supplies a cafe at Monticello and acts as a seed bank to several varieties of since forgotten vegetables that were dear to his heart.
Jefferson's Vegetable Garden from NPR