Terre de Monaco: urban agriculture on the most expensive land in the world
No space left barren, meaning greens should fill every square metre of the prospering Principality on the Mediterranean coast. This blooming idea of the late Prince Rainier of Monaco is still fertile in the actions of the current Prince Albert II., who personally endorsed the activities of Terre de Monaco. The roofs of large condominiums, public gardens, hospital, schools and the rare private land here, are being cultivated with edible plants so diverse that it would be on par with any major botanical garden. If such a space-restrained country as Monaco can do this, any urban area can manage so on a much larger scale. Let’s get planting. Wouldn’t it be nice to snap up herbs on your way from work at your local communal garden or stop by an urban farm such as Terre de Monaco and buy any vegetables or fruits that the season offers? Much nicer than crawling inside the supermarket aisles.
Let’s plant the Terre de Monaco sustainably
Jessica Sbaraglia, a former tennis pro and Miss Jura of a Swiss descent, saw an opportunity to rejuvenate Monaco. With her micro farming business Terre de Monaco, she set to “integrate urban agriculture on rooftops, balconies and surrounding buildings of the Principality of Monaco and surrounding communities”, and selling to the local residents as well as to restaurants the fresh produce under its own label. Respecting the values of organic farming by buying AB certified seeds and creating a permaculture, meaning a self-sustaining sustainable agricultural environment, are the principles driving the enterprise. Hens and bees are being integrated to fertilise the soil, and now even turtle droppings from the Oceanographic Museum in Monaco are being included. What a genial ecological recycling cooperation! The warm climate requires more hydration, so “an automatic micro-irrigation system powered by electricity from solar panels” waters the gardens. Zero emissions, while water use is minimised.
Captivating Michelin chefs: locally planted and grown but also exotic and rare
After an efficient and successful crowdfunding campaign, the open doors from the sustainably-minded Foundation of Prince Albert II of Monaco donated a small start-up space of just 30m² at Villa Girasole, and later a larger area was secured at the luxurious Monte Carlo Bay Hotel. The fast moving founder established her “potager” right next to the hotel’s inner terrace (walk through the lobby into the inner gardens, on your right you will see the garden), where the diners or coffee drinkers now marvel at the edible greenery. Why all hotels do not have their own little garden? There is always some space left on the property, and it connects us with our food.
The herbs are tantalising: so far she grows four types of basil – genovese, purple, thai and lemon; coriander; parsley, tagette lemon, marjoram, four types of sage such as my favorite the aromatic pineapple. I am particularly infatuated by the tagette known also as Marigold Lemon Gem. Its bright small young leaves are perfumed with an intriguing orange citrus scent, while its flavour oscillates somewhere between an orange and orange peel. It provides a long lasting and intense gustatory experience. Use it in an infusion or salad. The aroma is quite intense so tame any additional urge for seasoning before tasting.
From the edible flowers, the sweetness of the Blackcurrant Sage Flower is incomparable with most sugary desserts. As with ripe fruit, bite into this deep pink, wide-mouth-open shaped flower, and you will be mesmerised. Berry tasting, like a Grand Cru wine enchants your palate with an incredibly long journey of flavours. Other edible blossoms and leaves include begonia and South African garlic.
The Michelin-starred chef of Monte Carlo Bay Hotel took up this opportunity of having specialist edible flowers at his doorstep, a wide variety of seasonal vegetables, pulses, and much more grown at his doorstep. Any plate will shine when such colourful floral feast is added. I tested the produce in my own kitchen, and easily elevated anything I prepared (photos further below).
Sustainable food chain: come, see how it is grown and buy
When all the supply to the Monaco restaurants are fulfilled, Terre de Monaco offers the produce through its social media (Instagram: terredemonaco; Facebook page; or newsletter on their website). Just make an appointment and pick whatever your palate desires. In addition to the common seasonal vegetables and some fruit, ready your palate for some never tried before plant delicacies, and all is organic.
For private or public clients with an available space under 100 m², Terre de Monaco can design, develop, educate and maintain their own personalised garden. Customised wooden crates made from recycled wood and the energy efficient irrigation system contribute to “a strong and sustainable act limiting the transport of food and product packaging.” They also assist in educating the local children about responsible agriculture.
Even through the winter, under the mostly clear skies of Monaco you get beans, bok choy, white cabbage, eggplant, green peas, purple kale, white and red pungent daikon radishes, potatoes, spinach, turnips, winter greens, and still some edible flowers.
Planting as much of Monaco’s ground as possible, but also covering any unused rooftops may not be an intangible goal. Jessica and her expanding team can take over larger gardens and spaces of private buildings, cultivate them either by renting the space or in exchange for a part of the produce, while the rest of the harvest will be sold under the brand Terre de Monaco locally. Having your rooftop planted with greens will “increase the lifetime of the roof by protecting and cooling it” where hot sun can alter the bare surface. It also insulates better and allows for a lower energy consumption. Let’s all have our roofs planted in any city or town, where securing local food supply can save lives at some point in the surely volatile future!
Visits only at Villa Girasole for the Foundation Prince Albert II, 16 blvd. Suisse, Monaco.
+ 377 97 98 10 19 or + 33 678 63 34 41