After the hidden-away potager at the grand Chenonceau castle, it was off to a much smaller castle featuring the potager as the main attraction. The destination was none other than the castle and garden of the Tomato Prince. This garden has been on my list since I saw it featured on an episode of Recreating Eden (which, by the way, is the best garden show ever made and I’m still anxiously waiting for seasons 4 and 5 to be released on DVD – are you listening Merit Motion Pictures???)
The Tomato Prince has earned international renown for his unbridled passion for the tomato. In the walled garden of his Château de la Bourdaisière (which incidentally also has the dubious claim to fame of being the castle used in the TV show Joe Millionaire), the Prince grows no less than 500 different varieties of heirloom tomatoes.
The garden itself is not much to speak of – hundreds of tomato plants intermixed with a few flowers enclosed by a centuries old wall pretty much describes it. However, we lost ourselves for a few hours wandering through the rows and marveling at the variety of strange shapes and colours. It’s pretty amazing that from a single wild species, Solanum lycopersicum, we now have bred varieties from tiny, sweet cherry tomatoes to melon-like beasts that can barely hang on to the plant, and everything imaginable in between. The tomato must have inspired passion in many plants people over the centuries to result in such rich diversity.
The highlight of the year at the Tomato Prince’s is the Tomato Festival. This attracts quite a few international tomato fans, and features the Prince himself expounding his passion, as well as exhibitions, sales and tomato tastings (in the lovely shop shown below which is a renovated stable). Since we were too early for the festival by a week, a covert, self-guided, taste test was very tempting. However, I’m proud to report that we held out and not a single tomato was harmed during our visit.