The Salt at NPR:
After Jefferson retired from public life to his beloved Virginia hilltop plantation, the garden “served as a sort of this experimental testing lab where he’d try new vegetables he sought out from around the globe,” says Peter Hatch, the estate’s head gardener. Hatch recently wrote a book about Jefferson’s garden and its history called A Rich Spot of Earth.
Somehow, the author of the Declaration of Independence and the nation’s third president found spare time to meticulously document his many trials and errors, growing over 300 varieties of more than 90 different plants. These included exotics like sesame, chickpeas, sea kale and salsify. They’re more commonly available now, but were rare for the region at the time. So were tomatoes and eggplant.