Fort de Chartres Heritage Garden

Un journal d'un Jardin Potager du Pays des Illinois

Tag: automne

D’Automne Heirloom Produce Saturday

You are invited to the Fort de Chartres Jardin Potager and sample heirloom produce on Saturday, October 22,  10 AM-Noon. Some produce and recipes available.

Welcome to our Jardin Potager outside the walls of Fort de Chartres! Join us in our garden planted in the style of a French l’habitant kitchen garden. This type of jardin was generally tended by the women of the Illinois Country for family sustenance through the seasons.

Heirloom herbs, vegetables currently in season:
Beets, Eggplants, Leeks, Lettuce, Radishes, and Turnips

Please join us and and share in the fall’s bounty. Autumn Jardin produce recipes are listed on the Recettes page in the postings of October Heirloom Jardin Produce Saturday and Haute Louisiane en Automne recipes.

Fete at the Fort

October 1, Saturday

64 degrees F

Sunny, Light Wind

Save Illinois History’s 2nd Annual Fete at Historic Fort de Chartres dawned under sunny skies on the strength of cool breezes. This annual fundraiser was a perfect opportunity for some of the Midwest’s top brewers to showcase their brews in a unique 18th Century environment, and they did not disappoint. A lively crowd of attendees savored the libations offered while enjoying the ambience of our French fort. 18th century reenactors that included natives, French Marines, British soldiers, Cannon crews, Fife and Drum Corps, and Dennis Stroughmatt et L’Esprit Créole entertained the crowds throughout the day. Our merry party was kept busy at the Fort’s stone bake oven throughout the event, offering samples of 18th century confections, breads, cakes, and tarts. Many visitors expressed interest in the technique of firing the bake oven and were enlightened by John Hancock and Nicholas Kuntz.

John and Nick offering samples.

They described the procedure by which the oven is prepared and readied for a day of baking. Antoinette Hancock, Renea Davis, and myself, shared our 18th century baked goods, many featuring among their ingredients beer, beer barm, or hops, all in keeping with the celebration of the day. Sugared comfits, honey cake, spiced honey beer cake, wigs, beer cornbread, a citron preserve tart, and variety of breads samples were offered. Please visit the recette page of this blog for recipes and photos of these offerings.

A nice respite taken among the day’s activities, were sunny moments stolen to

Leeks, lettuce, radishes and turnips.

join visitors strolling in our jardin potager behind the bake oven. It was nice to share and show the produce we are harvesting this fall. Vegetables still thriving include: beets, eggplants, leeks, lettuce, radishes, and turnips, winter squashes. We look forward to the remaining fall season ahead and the continued garden bounty.

Thank you to Renea Davis for the images of the Fete!

Haute Louisiane en Automne

28 October, Thursday

52 Degrees F

Partly Sunny, Strong N Winds

With changes of the season sweeping through the bottomlands on strong northerly winds, that night would be the first strong frost of the fall. Work in the garden focused on the harvesting of the garden’s seasonal crops, while leaving some to withstand the colder temperatures. Carrots, leeks, lettuces, radishes, spinach, turnips and one last watermelon were pulled from the beds. Produce was gathered, compost and leaf mulch were added to amend the soil and to prepare for next year. While clearing the beds, a few visitors lay among the ruins of this past growing season.

Black Swallowtail Caterpillar

They were a reminder of the ever renewing cycles of nature, each with its own season and form. Even as there was much to be enjoyed in the autumn’s harvest, a bittersweet pleasure lingered as we realized this year’s growing season was coming to an end.

Once home from garden travels, my thoughts turned to the uses for these vegetables of the past. Using as a guide the ingredients that were on hand, recettes were reviewed to determine what could be prepared with our historic and heirloom vegetables. A warm beginning for our harvest meal would be a white turnip soup, potage aux navets blancs.  Next a salad was made utilizing jardin lettuce, spinach and carrots making a simple dressing of the juice of a lemon, mustard and oil. A souffle of gruyere and leeks accompanied with a black Spanish radish remoulade and freshly baked bread prepared for the main course. The last of our Georgia Rattlesnake melons completed our autumn repast with its perfect sweet taste as a final reminder of the summer past. 

Though this meal was created from modern sources, the recipes were not far off the historic mark. As seen in regionally historic recettes and in 18th century French cookbooks, a meal of the French ancestors of this region might have easily included a ramekin, slaw made of turnips or radishes, a chicken bouillon or a potage of leeks or turnips, and sallet of greens. Historic harvest meal recipes are listed in our new blog recette file. The recipes for the modern versions made for the harvest meal can be viewed by clicking on the individual dishes mentioned above.

The next Jardin posting on the Fort events page will feature a late fall holiday spent at the Fort and the activities and food we enjoyed as we made our annual journey into 18th century Pays des Illinois.

Season of the Hunter’s Moon

19 October, Tuesday

65 Degrees F

Sunny, Light N Wind

Bonjour! What a beautiful day in our jardin potager, there is a coolness to the air and a clear view across the recently harvested plains to the bluffs beyond. In this season of the Hunter’s Moon (the first full moon following the Harvest Moon), the trees are donning their fall palette of subdued golds and reds, spreading across the fields and forests, adding color to the valley. As always when I first arrive in the jardin, a moment is taken to observe and relish the moment, similar to unwrapping a package anxious to see what is hidden within. Walking in the jardin this day, I observe the new growth in our main beds, even though rain has been scarce. The snapdragons along with the leeks, lettuce, radishes, spinach, and turnips are thriving.  Vegetables are harvested quickly so beds can be weeded and deeply watered. The beds most recently planted with lettuce and spinach are just now sprouting and their new growth is breaking through the soil. I am much relieved that the lack of rain has only slowed these new plantings. Interestingly, the seed germination of earlier plantings of late August and early September had mixed success in the dry weather. The colors of the heirloom Merville de Quatre Saisons  Cimmaron, and Forellenschluss lettuces are vibrant and strong with deep purples to bright greens and the leafy tops of the Spanish Black radishes and Navet des Vertus Marteau turnips look healthy and strong.  The Golden and Crapaudine beets and some of the lettuces and carrots just could not get enough moisture to thrive in the simmering heat of this past late summer and early fall. Their growth is sporadic at best. As the carrots are watered, I accidently splash a visitor to our garden. This Pipevine or Blue Swallowtail Butterfly has been making himself at home, feeding heavily among the St. Valery carrot tops. But his handsomeness makes it difficult to complain.

The last of the Black Beauty eggplants, Georgia Rattlesnake, and Missouri Heirloom melons are still ripening as we come to the close of their season. Next week will be the time to pull up the last of the remaining melon plants and turn over the unplanted beds, adding new organic matter to replenish the soil. The native garden and the melon beds in the fields beyond our main garden will be ready to be tilled with the last of the surviving Crenshaw melons soon to be being harvested. While making notes on the jardin’s successes and challenges of this past year, already thoughts are skittering along to next spring and the ever hopeful promise of a new season.

We were happy to meet new visitors to our jardin potager at the SIH Fete at the Fort earlier this month. This event was very successful and we doff our caps to the organizers for a job well done. Many first time visitors were impressed with our Fort and enjoyed the vendors and the music of L’Esprit Creole featuring Dennis Stroughmatt and Rob Krumm. This month, ongoing in the Illinois Country, visit the Haunted Creole House Experience, 7-11 p.m., Creole House, Prairie du Rocher. “A Tragedy Beneath the Bluffs.” $7. Sponsored by Randolph County Historical Society. Halloween with a historic twist!

In the next journal entry, I have some recipes to share that feature the heirloom vegetables currently being harvested in our jardin potager of the Illinois Country. Enjoy the season of the Hunter’s Moon, the views and tastes it offers!

Inaugural Post


1 October, Saturday

55 Degrees F, Cloudy

Moderate N Wind

Bienvenue dans notre jardin potager. In the inaugural garden journal post, a bit of reflection upon our heritage garden journey, as cooler temperatures descend into the valley and our focus turns to the fall season at Fort de Chartres. Our early fall plantings are beginning to mature and we are looking forward to the late season plantings of radishes, lettuces, spinach, leeks and beets, prolonging the growing season as l’habitants might – providing fresh greens for the fall, while growing roots crops for substance in the upcoming winter.

Walking through our garden beds today, the last of the Early Golden Crookneck Squash were harvested, finishing a prolific summer season in which our heirloom squashes (including white and yellow scallop varieties) grew with abandon. We did wage an unsuccessful war with squash bugs these last few months and unfortunately, a toll was taken on late summer production. Happily, the melons have somewhat survived somewhat the onslaught and we are observing a few of the remaining melons in a race against the recent cooler temperatures to finish their season and mature before the first frost. It was ever so intriguing to grow heirloom French melons and discover their fragrance, appearance and taste as they ripened throughout the summer. After suffering through the premature harvesting of the French rock melons not quite ripe, it was a pleasure to finally slice, inhale and taste their mature aroma that was often amazingly floral and sweet. So interesting to learn the look and feel of heirloom produce, with local wildlife often providing the lesson as to ripeness of a new crop. A gardener’s typical lament and frustration is to oversee crop growth with patience and care, only to have the regret that the fruit was left on the vine one day too long and finding melons half eaten! On a positive note, our watermelons were particularly successful earlier this summer and this success was a reminder of a first hand account of the region by Jesuit Fr. Julien Binneteau in 1698, “I am almost forgetting to tell you of our gardens one of their finest ornaments is what we call the watermelon, which grows to an extraordinary size. It has a very sweet taste, differs from our melons because it does not turn yellow. These melons are eaten without salt and are harmless even eaten in quantities.”

In a summer season bearing little rain and an abundance of heat, the gardens all survived in one fashion or the other, but with one regret – our native garden. Clever raccoons put short shrift to our maize, knocking over stalks just as the ears were ripening. Pole beans also did not fare well in that location but we hope to harvest some of our winter squash and pumpkins (citrouilles) soon. Our bush and pole beans in general did not succeed this season, whether due to the heat or lack of moisture. The Scarlet Runner Beans in the raised beds were the exception, thriving throughout summer, at times brightening the garden with their bright red flowers with eggplant ripening underneath.

Our spring and early summer season was a happy success, glorious with lovely asparagus, cabbages, beets, lettuces, radishes, abundant peas, and carrots. Temperatures were cool and timely rains made the beginning of our gardening project a success. At this juncture, I must acknowledge and thank the many helping hands that steered this project in the right direction. I am very grateful to Fort de Chartres Site Superintendent, Darrell Duensing, for his support in allowing and encouraging this unique opportunity to relive the past through this gardening adventure. Asst. Site Manager, Dennis Thomas, was invaluable – turning beds, trimming and watering all spring/summer long. Merci to Les Amis du Fort de Chartres, the Fort’s volunteer organization, for their financial assistance as well as time spent in the garden beds, especially Jeremy, John, Jill, Rachel, and the Prairie du Rocher Girl Scouts.  Special appreciation for friends James Mikel, Toni, and Renea, helping to present the illusion of a moment in a long ago era.  James created lovely reproduction tools and Toni and Renea spent time at Fort events working in the garden, enhancing the events, while accomplishing much needed garden tasks. As a lifelong gardener, having spent many hours researching 18th century garden methods, plants and recipes, this endeavor has been a road of discovery. To my husband Nick, and my family, thank you for providing much needed assistance whenever it is needed. Many hands are indeed the foundation for a successful garden project.

This heritage project pays homage and encourages remembrance of those long ago French habitants and salutes their abilities and skill. Gardens of the region were noted and written of, as remarked in a first hand account by Henry Brackenridge, in his account of a nearby French garden in Ste. Genevieve: “It was indeed a garden – in which the greatest variety and the finest vegetables were cultivated, intermingled with flowers and shrubs: on one side of it, there was a small orchard containing a variety of the choicest fruits.” As we travel this garden path and aspire to the French gardens of the 18thcentury in the Illinois Country, you are invited to follow the maturing of our heritage fort garden and garden blog.  Please check our weekly garden posts and photos in the journal section, as well as the updating of the garden layout page, soon to feature updated plans and plant varieties of our garden – past, present and future.  A bientot!

PS  If you are traveling in the Illinois Country this Saturday, Oct. 9 – visit Fort de Chartres, 11 AM – 4 PM. Toni, Renea, & I will be using the bake oven as part of the demonstrations at the Fort during the Save Illinois History’s Fete at the Fort,  A Beer Tasting at Historic Fort de Chartres: Stop by, say hello and wander through our garden.