Grow You Own Food book review

Richard Gianfrancesco is a writer for Which? Gardening so he knows his stuff. I tend to test allotment type books by what they don’t include and Richard really covers the ground (in every sense of the word, and I promise that’s the last pun I’ll use today) which is refreshing in a period where most books seem to suggest that growing food is a bit like shopping for food – a clean and tidy consumer experience that involves little more than picking things out of the ground. Not so, or at least not in my experience!

I absolutely fell in love with this book for three key reasons: the section on nuts, which are rarely mentioned in any book and yet which were once a key feature of our landscape, and our diet; the section on soft fruit which has good and simple pruning instructions as well as excellent information on where to site all kinds of fruit; the herb section includes some of those herbs that I grow that I’ve hardly ever seen mentioned in the average book, such as lovage and chervil, which are really valuable in addition to our native foods but which have fallen out favour. For those three areas alone, this book is worth the purchase price.

My concern about Grow Your Own Food is one that I’m having increasingly with gardening books generally – the size and structure of this book makes it almost impossible to have to hand when you’re actually working: it’s just a bit too big to carry around and it has one of those spines that stops it lying flat when opened, so the pages tend to flip around a bit. This is a great shame because for new growers, the pages that show how to undertake unusual tasks (planting out asparagus crowns, staking raspberries etc) are very useful, except for the fact that the photographs run across a double page and the book is big so you need a big area to lay it down. I can imagine the scenario of hanging onto a whippy raspberry with one hand and a stake with the other and then the page flipping over and the poor novice cursing and letting go of the plants to flip it back …

And yet this is no coffee table tome. It’s an intensely practical book that is grounded in experience of growing. Richard’s advice on growing sweet potatoes is entirely honest and sensible, his enthusiasm for tender fruit is inspiring and his guidance on how to store foods is detailed and valuable. So as usual I’m trying to work out exactly how the publishers expect the book to be used, if it’s not a ‘take to the plot book’ but as a reference work it’s definitely a good investment.

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Posted by The Allotment Blogger on Thursday, September 22, 2011


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