Book Review: Grow Cook Eat

March 28, 2014 | By | 4 Replies More

gardening booksI’m a sucker for gardening books. Peruse my book collection, and you’ll find no shortage of garden inspiration, homesteading how-to, and landscape design primers. My garden inferiority complex and unrealistic expectations came about when I started reading gardening books crammed with artsy photos of perfect gardens that are likely unattainable for someone who can’t spend all day, every day in the garden.

 

In my collection there are a few standouts with a fresh perspective on gardening. One of these is Grow Cook Eat: A Food-Lover’s Guide to Vegetable Gardening, Including 50 recipes, Plus Harvesting and Storage Tips by Willi Galloway.

Willi Galloway is a Master Gardener, public radio personality, and writer based in Portland, Oregon, and her passion for organic gardening and good food fills every page of her book. What makes this particular book so cool is that it transcends gardening instruction and delves into cooking and eating plants at every stage of their growth.

Galloway teaches us that the produce we buy in the store is often at the stage that requires the least amount of effort to harvest. When we grow our own food, we become intimately familiar with how it develops from just a tiny seed and each stage of a plant’s growth offers unique culinary opportunities. For example, did you know that beets aren’t just about the roots? Their young greens are delicious raw and mature greens can be sauteed or stir-fried. And, arugula flowers and bean flowers make delicious additions to salads.  Who knew?

Before I got into gardening, I suffered from a profound disconnect with nature that’s not uncommon for someone who lives in today’s cities and suburbs. I had never stopped to ponder what beans look like before they become beans or even that arugula plants produced flowers and, subsequently, seeds. After only a couple of years of getting my hands dirty handling and caring for vegetable plants, I’ve learned so much about the awe-inspiring circle of life that can happen in my own backyard.

gardening books

When my garden looks like this, I read gardening books!

Grow Cook Eat begins with solid gardening advice intended to help you become a “good gardener” – one that doesn’t need the crutches of noxious pesticides, weed killers, and fertilizers. While I  still struggle with this concept myself, a good organic garden will have its share of weeds and pests, but they will rarely be fatal to your plants. There is a level of tolerance that develops over time and you realize that a bunch of aphids isn’t going to destroy everything in your garden from now until the end of time.

Ms. Galloway discusses techniques for safely building good soil, extending your growing season and excluding pests with row covers and cloches, proper watering and feeding, and the basics of succession planting. Perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned from the book is the importance of soil temperature. This year, instead of planting seeds and transplants based on the number of weeks before or after our first frost date, I’ll be using soil temperature as my ultimate go-ahead.

The rest of the book is divided into plant groups with individual planting, growing and harvesting guides for more than 50 crops and delectable recipes. Galloway even suggests her favorite varieties of each crop to help whittle down an often overwhelming annual seed selection process. So far, my favorite recipe in the book is the potato, apple, and fennel gratin. It’s the perfect compliment for fall roast chicken or on its own as a vegetarian main course served with a simple salad. With treasures from my own garden, I can’t wait to try the bucatini with fresh peas and garlic scape pesto or the steak sandwiches with gorgonzola chive sauce and carmelized onions.

I want to grow, cook and eat everything in this book thanks to Galloway’s straightforward advice that makes it look easy and the beautiful photography that will make you long for a garden of your own. This book is a must-read if you strive to garden in harmony with nature, are looking for a fresh perspective and new ways to enjoy your favorite crops, or just want to try fresh new recipes.

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Category: Book Reviews, General, Home and Garden

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