Jefferson was a genius in most everything he did, but he was inherently a practical one. His studies informed his practice of law early in his career; his knowledge of botany came into practice in the gardens of Monticello; his appreciation of architecture (namely Palladio) manifested into Monticello, Poplar Forest, and several other buildings; his love of European art adorned the walls of his home; the French cuisine he feasted upon came back with him and its recipes introduced to a young America; his passion for math meant his calculations for the construction of Monticello was to the 6th or 7th decimal point!
I could go on, but the point is this – the knowledge Jefferson accumulated did not sit on a shelf gathering dust. He harnessed it and put it to work. And then he made it go back and do it right! Which brings us to our post for today: The Virginia Crab.
When Jefferson found a worthy food, he most probably tried to grow it, when possible. And when he liked what he liked, he often generously championed that food to any and all who would listen. There are four apples which are credited as being his favorite. This month we focus on the Virginia Crab.
More commonly known as the Hewes’ (or Hughes’) Crab, this cider apple was the most popular apple variety grown in Virginia in the 1700s. It is thought to be a cross between the native American crabapple (Angus augustifolia) and a domesticated apple.
Jefferson, whose eye for quality and value was keen, touted the Virginia Crab to hs son-in-law, Thomas Mann Randolph, in a letter in 1797, suggesting he focus his botanical attentions on it, as the Virginia Crab was superior to the cider sold in market.