As many as four thousand people are expected at Monticello this weekend for the 13th annual Heritage Harvest Festival featuring tastings and tours.
Last week’s rain delighted Peggy Cornett, the curator of plants at Monticello.
“It’s just heartbreaking to see the garden looking dry and the grass all burned up," she explains. Precipitation "has really livened things up, and I’m always grateful for rain.”
It revived some of the 330 crops Jefferson grew at Monticello, from tobacco and cotton to snake squash and sesame.
“He was always interested in introducing an oil crop, and he tried olives, but they are not hearty here," Cornett says. "He did have some success with sesame, and he was incredibly excited about sesame seed oil. They had a blind taste test when he was president, and the sesame oil was the favorite.”
Saturday’s Heritage Harvest Festival will allow visitors to taste other crops and farm products, to tour and learn more from guides like Stu Wilson.
“I can show you a page from the garden book from 1809," he tells a crowd visiting the mountain. "Jefferson lists everything he’s growing here. He’s a compulsive record keeper. Look at this table: ‘failed, failed, failed, failed, failed, killed by bugs’ my personal favorite. He generally doesn’t know what he’s doing, so he’s going to fail, but he’s going to learn over time.”
Friday’s program features historians, gardeners and celebrity chefs giving talks titled In Defense of Okra, Fundamentals of Floral Design and the Secrets of Successful Beekeeping among others. Saturday, the guru of sustainable and organic – Alice Waters – and critic Corby Kummer will speak at noon.