Book Review: The Alternative Kitchen Garden

I was lucky enough to 'score' a copy of this book when Emma Cooper, the author, offered some copies for review.

Confession time - I have an insane number of books about fruit and vegetable gardening. I could probably build a shed from them alone. So what possible value-added could there be to yet another book appearing on my shelves?

Well, I've come up with three added values from Emma's book:

1 - it's a personal account by a non-professional. I'm increasingly disturbed by the professionalisation of two areas of life - growing and cooking. We have famous gardeners growing food and famous chefs cooking it, and yet we seem to buy ever more food in supermarkets and bung it in microwaves to eat as we watch other food being grown and eaten. Most of us are capable of growing some of our own food, and cooking it from scratch without the intervention of specialists, and the more we share the experience of amateurs, the more likely we are to become brave, competent and willing to do it.

2 - it's alphabetical. This may not mean much to you, unless you too are a committed grower, but I really do get fed up with 'how-to' books that don't have a good index. I grab half-a-dozen of them, trying to find out, say, if my apple tree has canker. Some have only 'apples' listed. One has canker, but when I turn to the page, it's citrus, not apple. The others don't list it at all and I have to browse the pages, trying to guess if it's mentioned in 'pests and diseases', 'autumn tasks', 'spring tasks' or 'fruit: growing and harvesting'. It's sometimes just wonderful to have a book that gives you a straightforward overview of a simple subject. To be fair, Emma doesn't mention canker in her book either, but it's not a 'how to' so much as a 'how Emma did' and that's fine by me.

3 - it's honest. I just love it when a writer tells the truth - especially if their truth resonates with mine. Emma describes her blueberry-growing failures and it made me grin, because I'd had exactly the same experience after being blithely assured by any number of TV experts that blueberries were 'easy'. Hmph. It gives me confidence in the rest of a writer's output if they are willing to be truthful about the bad as well as the good of their horticultural experience.

So I commend this book to you. The Alternative Kitchen Garden has travelled around the house with me for a fortnight now, and while each section is short, they also pack a jolly punch and contain ideas that provoke thought as well as smiles.

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Posted by The Allotment Blogger on Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Anonymous said...

sounds interesting...I went over and read the review on Amazon so I may check this book out...Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

September 15, 2010 at 11:08 PM  

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