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Le Potager du Roi – Versailles’ Hidden Gem

Situated within the coronary heart of town, not removed from the Château de Versailles, Le Potager du Roi (the King’s Kitchen Backyard) continues to be a hidden gem in Versailles, unknown by the day vacationers. Listed as a Historic Monument, Le Potager du Roi continues to supply the vegatables and fruits that made King Louis XIV’s desk well-known!

Don’t miss this distinctive web site, probably the most prestigious gardens in France, the place the gardeners perpetuate the artwork of pruning they usually domesticate all kinds of vegatables and fruits in a French-style backyard. You possibly can go to Le Potager du Roi on a self-guided go to or with a tour by one of many native guides (guided go to in French).

Le Potager du Roi - Versailles

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Potager du Roi Historical past

Le Potager du Roi was constructed between 1678 and 1683 by the gardener and botanist Jean-Baptiste de la Quintinie on the request of King Louis XIV. The primary function of this backyard was to provide the King’s desk with vegatables and fruits.

The positioning chosen was not ultimate for the institution of a vegetable backyard: a marsh nicknamed ‘stinking pond,’ not removed from the Palace and the Swiss Pond. The King wished it near the Château in order that he may go to it simply.

The development works price one million liards and required 5 years and the work of 1000’s of males to empty the pre-existing swamp and fill the bottom with good high quality soil from the plains of Satory. This additionally explains the usage of an underground aqueduct, rubble drains, and raised beds. Important masonry work, for the development of terraces and excessive partitions, was carried out by the architect of the Château, Jules Hardouin-Mansart.

A Manufacturing Backyard

View of Le Potager du Roi (1700)

The creator and sponsor of the Potager du Roi had been inseparable and their affect within the fields of horticulture and gastronomy was main.

Certainly, till then, greens had been thought of meals for poor folks. They had been rising on the stage of the bottom or, worse, beneath the bottom, whereas fruits rising in peak had been nearer to God. This nonetheless medieval thought was swept away by the style of King Louis XIV and La Quintinie’s abilities, who turned the manufacturing, harvest, and consumption of vegatables and fruits modern each in France and in Europe.

The Kitchen Backyard produced greenery (cabbages, perry, bonne dame, sorrel, persistence, borage, spinach, and so forth.), root greens (beets, carrots, chervil, parsnips, salsify, turnips, Jerusalem artichokes, turnips, parsley, and so forth.), salads (lettuce, celery, chervil, purslane, lamb’s lettuce, rapunzel, chicory), completely different sorts of onions, aromatic herbs and positive herbs (basil, hyssop, thyme, lavender, fennel, marjoram, sage, rosemary, wormwood, bay leaf, lemon balm, savory, violet, and so forth.), peas, broad beans, beans and lentils, fruit greens (melon, cucumber, pumpkin, squash), and crimson fruits (strawberries, raspberries, currants). Purslane, mushrooms, and nasturtium capers had been pickled in vinegar.

The King was not keen on apples, he thought of apples a fruit for the poor. As a substitute, he beloved the fruits with suggestive, feminine shapes like pears and peaches. The backyard had an unimaginable number of peaches, nectarines, and pears, typically named with suggestive names.

Over time, the Potager du Roi has stored La Quintinie’s design virtually identically. With an space of 9 hectares, Le Potager du Roi is split into completely different sections:

A central Grand Carré dedicated to the cultivation of greens. With an space of three hectares, the Grand Carré is split into sixteen squares organized round a big round basin (used as a reserve for irrigation water) adorned with a central fountain. This space is surrounded by 4 raised terraces beneath which vegatables and fruits had been sheltered in winter, together with artichokes and cauliflower. Every of the sixteen squares is bordered by summer time, autumn, or winter pear timber. The excessive partitions of the terraces are lined with Muscat grapes.

Passageways open onto small gardens planted with apricot timber, cherry timber, fig-trees, peach timber, pear timber, apple timber, and plum timber grown into dwarf timber or espaliers.

Alongside the north terrace, eleven enclosed backyards (known as “the Eleven”) sheltered greens, berries, and above all fruit timber, primarily pear timber, partly trellised in espaliers on the partitions or in free type or led in espaliers.

The primary winters in Versailles had been significantly harsh, therefore the necessity for these partitions to guard the vegatables and fruits from freezing. In the course of the reign of King Louis XV, winter temperatures had been milder so, in 1785, six partitions had been eliminated within the southern half, which was too humid and insufficiently ventilated. Then the “Eleven” turned 5 enclosed gardens.

On the finish of the 18th century, the east and west terraces had been reworked into ramps to facilitate the motion of carts.

La Desk du Roi – The King’s Desk

Hall of Mirrors - Versailles

King Louis XIV beloved every kind of salads. The King seasoned them with tarragon, burnet, and basil, however he additionally favored them sprinkled with violets. Meat and fish had been boiled or roasted. The dishes had been seasoned with plenty of spices: salt, pepper, curry, and different unique flavors. Sweets and pastries had been most welcome.

King Louis XIV beloved peas that an envoy would have introduced him as a gift sooner or later. Asparagus, figs, and strawberries had been additionally in style! He had them despatched in baskets when he was out of Versailles. The Bon Chrétien pear was the fruit that the “Most Christian King” favored to supply to ambassadors.

Right here’s what a Royal dinner appeared like in Versailles beneath the Solar King:

First got here appetizers, loads of them, then 4 soups. Subsequent got here what was known as “roasts,” often poultry and fish. After, there have been introduced the entremets (dishes served between the roasts and the dessert), the salad, and the cheeses.

Lastly, the King favored to be served a hard-boiled egg to complete his meal, earlier than consuming some sweets.

In the course of the meal, the dishes weren’t served one after the opposite. They piled up on the desk in order that it was by no means empty. Within the heart of the desk, there was the “surtout,” a sort of basket that was completely stuffed with small snacks and delicacies to eat. The visitors had been selecting snacks from the “surtout” all through the length of the dinner, along with the dishes that had been introduced to them.

Le Potager du Roi A Place of Experimentation

Le Potager du Roi was designed as an intensive manufacturing backyard for the King and his courtroom. La Quintinie delivered repeatedly his manufacturing to the Palace of Versailles when the King was current and despatched it to him in giant appropriate baskets when he was not within the Palace.

La Quintinie developed cultivation strategies that enabled him to supply Louis XIV’s favourite vegatables and fruits produced out of seasons, similar to strawberries on the finish of March, peas in April, cherries in Could, figs in June, asparagus, and head lettuce in December.

To do that, he introduced collectively dozens of various varieties to acquire the very best fruits. The fruit timber had been educated in fan-shaped espaliers alongside the partitions, to benefit from good publicity to the solar. He used recent fertilizer from the royal stables. The land had been drained and it was equipped with water by pumping from the plains of Satory.

In the course of the winter, the greens had been introduced beneath a bell or beneath a glass shelter to seize the daylight whereas within the enclosed gardens, the development of partitions protected vegatables and fruits towards frosts and preserved the warmth of the solar. For Louis XIV’s favourite fruit, figs, La Quintinie constructed a Fuiguerie (fig home) on the mannequin of the neighboring Orangerie, and the timber had been put in bins in a greenhouse.

“Warmth, each within the earth and within the air, can solely repeatedly come from the rays of the solar. I dare say, nevertheless, that I’ve been fortunate sufficient to mimic it in a small method with regard to a couple small fruits: I ripened them 5 and 6 weeks forward of time, for instance, strawberries on the finish of March, early ones and peas in April, figs in June, asparagus and head lettuce in December, January, and so forth.”

extract from JB de La Quintinie in his Instruction for fruit and vegetable gardens, in 1690.

The extraordinary outcomes obtained by La Quintinie made the repute of Le Potager du Roi in Versailles. The King himself repeatedly visited the vegetable backyard to talk together with his pal and he discovered easy methods to prune fruit timber there.

Descending from the citadel by the “Hundred steps” bordering the parterre of the Orangerie, the King arrived by way of the King’s Gate which you’ll nonetheless admire (that is the one authentic gate that survived the French Revolution). He then went up an alley punctuated with pear timber earlier than discovering, from the terrace the Grand Carré the place the gardeners had been busy. King Louis XIV was so happy with his Kitchen Backyard that he didn’t hesitate to point out it to illustrious visitors just like the Doge of Venice or the Ambassador of Siam.

La Quintinie was ennobled by the King in 1687. His successors continued their analysis and developed improvements that allowed the cultivation of unique vegetation introduced again by worldwide vacationers.

Le Potager du Roi At present

A kitchen backyard of uncommon class, the Potager du Roi is above all an unimaginable landscaping library, which goals, specifically, to protect old style pruning practices with greater than 60 completely different fruit shapes. With round 4,000 espaliered timber, Le Potager du Roi is the biggest assortment of timber on the planet grown in historic fruit type!

At present, 450 fruit varieties and 400 vegetable varieties are grown within the Potager du Roi, with 15 tons of fruit and 25 tons of greens produced every year.

Since 1991, the place additionally housed the Ecole Nationale Supérieure du Paysage, the place college students can apply with the latest and outdated vegetable species which might be grown.

The vegetation within the Potager du Roi are grown the old style method. The gardeners and panorama college students domesticate the vegetation by hand, and there’s no use of phytosanitary merchandise. Gardeners additionally settle for the presence of sure types of flies, bumblebees, fungi, micro organism, mammals, and vegetation relying on their usefulness. They don’t hesitate to take away bugs by hand if they’ll hurt the timber and vegetation.

A lot of the harvest is bought within the store on the entrance for the enjoyment of the inhabitants of Versailles: recent, in canned model, or in juice, in addition to a number of books on gardening and vegetation.

The Potager du Roi is open to the general public from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to six p.m., from the primary weekend of April to the final weekend of October. Guided visits (in French) are run by one of many fundamental gardeners and mix historical past and plenty of fascinating details about the fruits and vegetation grown there.

The Potager du Roi – 10, rue du Maréchal Joffre – 78000 Versailles – Yvelines.

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