Heirloom Tomato and Watermelon Salad

gardenfogThomas Jefferson actively sought out new varieties of  vegetables and cultivated them in his garden at Monticello. During his retirement, he marked his days with time spent in the gardens.  Jefferson wrote about his pastime to Charles Willson Peale, an artist, in an August 20, 1811 letter.

“no occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, & no culture comparable to that of the garden. such a variety of subjects, some one always coming to perfection, the failure of one thing repaired by the success of another, & instead of one harvest a continued one thro’ the year. under a total want of demand except for our family table I am still devoted to the garden. but tho’ an old man, I am but a young gardener.”

As the summer begins to heat up, try this crisp salad filled with tasty heirlooms. This fresh take on tradition is inspired by Jefferson’s Revolutionary Garden and is sure to make your next neighborhood BBQ or family gathering a success.


Heirloom Tomato and Watermelon Salad

1 ½ cups 1-inch cubed watermelon

2 Heirloom tomatoes, any variety, sliced vertically

¼ cup thinly sliced red onion

¼ to ½ cup fresh goat cheese, crumbled

¼ cup fresh basil, roughly torn

3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


    1. In a large bowl, lightly toss the watermelon, tomatoes, and onion together.  Refrigerate.
    2. Thirty minutes prior to serving, add the goat cheese, basil, olive oil, and salt and pepper.  Toss to combine.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Add variety to your garden and your palate by growing your own ingredients! Seeds from Jefferson’s Revolutionary Garden, including  Moon and Stars Watermelon, heirloom tomatoes, Sweet Basil, and Red Wethersfield Onion seeds, are available online and in store via the The Shop at Monticello.

For fun summer project, try making the goat cheese for this recipe on your own with garden-fresh herbs–it’s easy with the Urban Cheese Craft DIY Cheese Kit.

MonticelloRecipe_BlogKaty Woods is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where she studied psychology. Though always an avid foodie, it was not until Katy came to UVa that she fell in love with the local food movement. Through an internship at Monticello during her third year at UVa, Katy was inspired by Jefferson’s ingenuity to cultivate crops and introduce French cuisine to the United States at the turn of the nineteenth century. Since this experience, Katy has demonstrated Jefferson-era recipes for the Heritage Harvest Festival and continued to adapt Monticello classics for modern cooks.

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