Around the World in 80 Plates: King Louis XIV Garden, Versailles, France

Captain Create missed our wind storm in his hot air balloon because he was in the Potager du roi, the kitchen garden to King Louis XIV (the 14th) of France! (look how tiny the people on the pathways are as they tour this huge edible garden!)

This huge garden was created between 1678 and 1683 by Jean-Baptiste de La Quintinie, the director of the royal fruit and vegetable gardens, to please his majesty. This kitchen garden is built on the site of a swamp in Versailles that was known as ‘the stinking pond’. They had to get creative to build a garden in a swamp in the 1600’s. Almost completely by hand, they built the king’s garden with an underground aqueduct, rubble drains, and raised beds to move out the swamp and move in fresh food. King Louis even had heated greenhouses and a glass orangerie, where orange trees were carefully tended just for the king to eat and share. These heated greenhouses allowed the gardeners to produce coffee, bananas, and even pineapples right in the middle of Versailles. France is not a warm place, and this was a major scientific feat.

The chefs at Versailles could not call and order food to be delivered to them. They had no refrigerators, freezers, or electric ovens. Bananas could not be flown to France for the king to eat. It was all grown at the palace and cooked over a fire. For a king to have enough food to feed himself, and the people of the court, he needed a team of gardeners and chefs that were always working to make enough food! The Palace at Versaille has about 2,300 rooms, so you can imagine how much food they had to make each day.

Luckily, we have farmers, refrigeration, and science on our side. We don’t need palace gardens to get oranges in January in the mountains. We are also lucky to have backyard gardens, and farmers markets, which are just bursting with vegetables!

Lets try Soupe de Pistou, a French Style vegetable soup that even King Louis XIV may have eaten! This style soup is most famous in Nice, on the southern coast, but its likely the king at vegetable soup too! The best part of soups like this, is that once you know what you like, you can mix and match any vegetables and any herbs to make your own secret family recipe!

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