Friday, October 01, 2010

The Alternative Kitchen Garden an A-Z

I’ve tried a few times to start this review but haven’t been happy with any of my attempts so far. So I decided to stop trying any “cleverness” and to come to the point. The Alternative Kitchen Garden an A-Z is an excellent book.

It is a joy to read, it is informative, encouraging and entertaining. It can be read one topic per sitting if time is short, or if circumstances and several free hours permit it could easily be read from cover to cover with barely a break.

Emma Cooper is an enthusiastic amateur gardener sharing her experiences and discoveries. Many gardening books have left me discouraged, making the garden seem like an alien environment needing detailed technical knowhow and abundant finances to maintain. This book helps make a successful garden seem more attainable.

There are sections covering many gardening related topics arranged in alphabetical order. A quick count reveals around 150 separate topics are covered. Different kinds of vegetables, garden pests, soil conditions, gardening practices, environmental issues and helpful resources are all touched upon in sufficient, but not overwhelming detail, most of them across two pages.

Cooper seems to have a particular interest in trying the unusual, from exotic fruit and veggies to using a Grow Dome instead of a traditional green house, but this does not distract from more common and widely familiar plants and gardening experiences.

While many readers wouldn’t see the need to grow Quamash (”an edible bulb, a staple food of native Americans”) or Tiger Nuts (an edible tuber related to papyrus), Cooper still makes them interesting topics to show we don’t need to stick to the common and predictable within the garden. Experimentation and discovery can add a new dimension of interest and maybe extend our diet beyond the handful of familiar veggies we tend to stick with.

The Alternative Kitchen Garden is a very personal account of gardening, and as the title indicates it relates mainly to the growing of edibles. I’ve wanted to increase the productiveness of my own garden by incorporating more food producing plants and I appreciate the help and inspiration this book provides.

For a very good idea of what the book’s content I recommend a listen to some of the Alternative Kitchen Garden (AKG) podcasts. The link will be provided below.
The podcast was my introduction to Emma Cooper. Her short broadcasts, and now her book, have been very helpful for my own gardening journey. Somehow she manages to discover and share basic information that the gardening “experts” somehow forget to tell us.
Before I discovered AKG I had been puzzled by the round garlic-lie balls that had grown in my garden. These I found are the product of bulbils, tiny cloves that grow on soft-neck garlic. If left in soil they grow into the single balls of garlic that I had found. When these balls are left a further year (or when replanted) they form into the more familiar segmented heads of garlic cloves.

Link to The Alternative Kitchen Garden Podcast:


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