Le Potager du Roi, a Kitchen Garden Fit for a King

Versailles, The King's Kitchen Garden (Photo credit: Pete Reed)
Versailles, The Kings Kitchen Garden (Photo credit: Pete Reed)

Winter still chills those of us north of equator and so the time has come to dream of gardens and kings and and cabbages and things like seed catalogs.

A while ago (OK, more than a while!), because of the burgeoning trend nowadays for local foods and backyard gardens — the most famous being the Alice-Waters-inspired White House veggie garden, a news story about Versailles came to my attention via Rachel Laudan’s excellent blog on food history. Published by The Times Literary Supplement (TLS) in the UK, the Versailles article exposed the misery, and not the myth, of the opulence at the court of Versailles during the times of Louis XIV and after. Yes, misery, believe it or not.

In follow-up comments on the post, a brief discussion arose, initiated by Sonia Bañuelos de Siguenza, author of Stella Dolce (an excellent jam and preserves company),  about the Potager du Roi, the King’s kitchen garden, not mentioned in the TLS article (actually a review essay of three books pertaining to Versailles). A response from Adam Balic, the author of Art & Mystery of Food, stated that the Potager du Roi initiated a profound change in French cookbooks: “This single garden is one reason why French cookbooks suddenly had huge sections on vegetables by the end of the 17th century.”

That’s an invitation, is it not, to peruse not just French cookbooks, but English as well?


For more on kitchen gardens, take a look at some of the following resources:

Websites

Harvest of Freedom: The History of Kitchen Gardens in America

Kitchen Gardeners International

Kitchen Gardening, by Tracy L. Yockey

Library of Congresses references (pathfinder)

Medieval Kitchen Gardens

Wikipedia on Kitchen Gardens

Books:

The Art of the Kitchen Garden, by Jan Gertley (1999)

The Food-lover’s Garden, by Angelo M. Pellegrini (1970)

In the French Kitchen Garden: The Joys of Cultivating a Potager, by Georgeanne Brennan (1998)

Kitchen Gardens of France, by Louisa Jones (1991)

Moosewood Restaurant Kitchen Garden, by David Hirsch (Revised, 2005)

The King's Kitchen Garden
The Kings Kitchen Garden

© 2011 C. Bertelsen

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6 Comments Add yours

  1. Hi Cindy, just saw this post. Many thanks for the link.

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  2. I wondered who still has the time to do all that work … !

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  3. Hi Cynthia,

    I did watch the video and I giggled at the images of their potager. I always associated a small patch of garden outside someone’s back door as a kitchen garden. That one was immense!

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  4. HI Charles, so good to hear from you. Did you look at the video about the potager at the Chateau de Villandry? I am trying to get geared up to plant my own potager here, as I have 9 VERY sloping acres with my new house. I feel for you being in a condo, but I am sure you make up for it with miracles in the kitchen, no matter how small!

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  5. I first learned what a potager was when I lived in France and have loved the idea ever since (sadly I live in a condo with no outside space to have one). So interesting to learn that the Versailles kitchen garden changed how cookbooks were written!

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  6. Yes, Adam’s statement sent me searching the on-line library! The Potager is so inspiring, and a garden I like to visit in every season as it has something to teach throughout the year.

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