Monday, March 22, 2010

Book Review: The Family Kitchen Garden

The Family Kitchen Garden: How to Plant, Grow, and Cook Together
By Karen Liebreich, Jutta Wagner, and Annette Wendland.

I found this to be a good guide for anyone interested in growing their own fruits and vegetables. It's written in a simple language and covers most of the basics. A true novice, as in someone who lived in the city all their life, might be overwhelmed with some of the info. But over all I think it's a great place for a young gardener to start out. It's better to have the info than not after all.

The first 51 pages are devoted to defining terms and discusses issues like children in the garden. They discuss assorted soil types, how to improve it, composting and so on. Propagation is covered, namely the difference between seeds, division and cuttings, that sort of thing. So these are all things every gardener should know.

The next 100+ pages are probably the most useful. It's a month by month list of what to plant inside, what to plant outside, what to harvest, what maintenance needs to be done, what fun craft things can be done, and even offers a recipe or two. I haven't tried any of the crafts but they're casual little things I could see people doing. They're geared towards garden things like simple bird feeders and plant labels.

What to plant and when seems to be in order, though this book is based in the UK which strangely enough has a climate more similar to the southern US. For those of you living in USDA growing zone 6 and up I'd say do things a month late. Those of you in zone 4 and up give it two months and so on as conditions allow. They're at least in some sort of an order after all.

Recipes I haven't tried because a lot of them call for things I don't grow, like rhubarb. Most months only have 1 recipe, some have 2; and they all lean towards vegetarian. One has shrimp in it though. To their benefit they all seem easy to prepare, but I feel as if the authors missed an opportunity to really make this book shine. I would have loved if they'd thrown in a few easy to prepare proteins and sauce recipes to show how flexible cooking can be, and how interchangeable some items are on the dinner plate. But this is a gardening book and perhaps that's a topic for another tomb.

The last third of the book is a dictionary of plants. Simple things like apples, borage, mint, tomato, squash and so on are all categorized here. How to grow, how to propagate, what varieties are available (though limited), and what types of pests they get can all be found here. The only notable omission from the normal things we grow seems to be water melon. Corn is found under "S" for Sweet Corn. But what it lacks here it makes up for with some obscure plants like gooseberry, currant, and parsnips. Though they're not really obscure I'd say not everyone is growing them. Fruiting trees are also covered, as are the convenient ways to train the branches so even people with small yards can grow them. Herbs and Flowers (some of which are edible) are the last bit.

So I would recommend this book to a friend or even gift it to a new gardeners.