Since I have begun blogging about my gardens and food, I’ve met so many interesting people who I learn from daily. I’ve had mystery plants identified for me, been given family recipes to try, been inspired by creative design ideas, and received so much wonderful feedback on this site. It’s this aspect of connection and sharing that has brought so many gardeners online to social media and now a collaboration of some of these “Social Gardeners” have published a book food wisdom called Grocery Gardening: Planting, Preparing and Preserving Fresh Food.
First let me say how fascinated I was by the story of how this book was put together for publication. The author, Jean Ann Van Krevelen, and the main contributors, Amanda Thomsen, Robin Ripley and Theresa O’Connor, have never met except online through Twitter. Not only that, but the input for the book (i.e.: tips and recipes) were collected via social media and the whole thing was brought to print in 60 days. Pretty cool, eh?
I found the format and content to certainly reflect the collaborative voices and many times it felt as if I was reading the transcripts of a meeting among friends sharing their advice on to starting an edible garden. I too have never met any of the authors of contributors of this book, but I do feel like I know them though chats on various social media or by following their blogs. This book certainly points out the interesting new dynamic to the gardening culture has been created through Twitter, Facebook and the blogosphere, allowing for sharing of time honored ideas and exposure to gardens and cooks from around the world. I could go on and on, but it’s best now to get onto the review.
Grocery Gardening is laid out in 5 sections:
- Gardening 101: A valuable set of basics important for any first time vegetable gardener.
- Organic Disease and Pest Management: This section highlights the importance of using organic practices to ensure you are growing the healthiest possible food.
- Purchasing Quality Produce: Although it’s only a few pages long, this was certainly my very favourite part the book and essential reading for anyone who is interested in re-educating themselves on what food really should look and smell like. I was happy to see the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen (Regarding Fruit and Vegetables Most and Least Contaminated with Pesticides). Ever since I first saw these lists on http://www.davidsuzuki.org/, I have carried it around in my wallet. While this list doesn’t help you make a decision based on the environmental impact of choosing organic or non-organic produce, it is such a handy way to limit the toxins I put in my grocery bag and helps me choose what I should grow organically myself.
- Edibles: The main section of the book outlines the basics of growing, harvesting, and then preparing a selection of herbs, fruit, and vegetables. The sidebar tips from the contributors were my favourite part of this section as I learned some handy new tricks—like that you can root store bought basil in a glass of water—plus the recipes were simple and in line with the real food ideas of the book. The list of produce chosen is fairly short and therefore I found that some of my favourites were missing (radishes, beets, and potatoes I noticed specifically because I went looking for them) but certainly the basics are there for a novice gardener and the recipes look great. In fact there is one recipe that I’ve been thinking about since I read the book: Best Broccoli Quiche in the World by Shawna Coronado. Really, who wouldn’t want to try it with that title? Mmmm.
- Preserving Your Harvest: While this feels like eons away right now, I remember how I scoured my bookshelves for this exact information last fall when I was knee deep in berries, apples, tomatoes and squash. This section again, is basic information but a handy set of notes for the first-timer nonetheless.
I found the voice was refreshing in the book, and while the photos and layout are beautiful, the content to me feels more like a veggie gardening notebook that I would keep with me, to jot down notes I’ve learned from other savvy gardeners. I believe that this collection of ideas would be a great book for anyone who wants to start a vegetable garden, who wants to know how things are grown, and then have an arsenal of basic recipes to get started with. I also think it will make a great gift for those who show a spark of interest in food gardening but don’t know where to start. Now on to that Broccoli Quiche…