Market gardens of Touraine

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287. The market-gardens and orchards of Touraine have long been celebrated. Those in the neighbourhood of Tours are numerous, and extend in some places to a considerable distance from the town; most of them are small, and they are for the greatest part cultivated by the proprietors. A very interesting description of these gardens is given by Mr. Moggridge in the Gardener's Magazine for 1831 (vol. vii. p. 89. and p. 487.). Early in spring, the almond, the apricot, the peach tree, the cherry, and the plum beautifully chequer the scene with their blushing and delicate blossoms. They are planted freely in the vineyards, as well as in the gardens; are generally standard trees; and most years yield their respective fruits in great abundance and excellence. In the market-gardens, not only do nearly all of the hardy and spring vegetables which we cultivate find a place, but the cardoon and many other plants (used chiefly for their soups and salads, of which we know little, and cultivate less,) are intermixed in almost endless variety. Excellent and cheap, surprisingly so, are the vegetable productions of these gardens; and, in general, they are taken to market at least a month earlier than the same articles are in the most favoured parts of England. On the 1st of April, 1830, asparagus was served up at table, and had been in the market a week before; the heads were sold on that day for a franc (10d.) the botte, containing from seventy-five to eighty well-grown asparagus shoots; and by the 16th two larger bottes, of from ninety to 100 stalks each, were to be had for one franc four sous, equal to a shilling of our money. Vast quantities of this excellent vegetable were by this time not only exposed for sale on the market-day, but hawked about the streets daily. The cultivation of the asparagus plant in the neighbourhood of Tours, if cultivation it can be called, is curious, as affording a striking proof of the peculiar excellence of the soil, the general mildness of its winters, and the early warmth of its springs. After the seeds are once sown, no other care is bestowed upon the beds but to keep them free from weeds. Every stock cut throws up several, and continues to do so for many years, without renewal of the plants, or change of the beds; and in the winter they are scarcely ever covered with manure, as in England, either to protect them from the effects of frost, or to hasten their sprouting early in the spring. Green peas were plentiful in the market by the end of April; and I was assured by English persons who had resided many years in Tours, that peas were late this year.