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Grow Cook Eat

January 18, 2012

GARDEN INSPIRATION!

Even though there’s snow on the ground, I look out to my garden and imagine this year’s crops. I know that in a couple of months I’ll be able to plant my first seeds and it comforts me to know that, eventually, the gray Northwest skies that blend night into day, will eventually turn to sun. But right now, I need something to start me thinking about garden logistics: the chores that need to be done to prepare the soil, removing sod to enlarge the garden, figuring out what I did wrong last year, remembering the crops that were a success, and discovering the new veggies I want to try growing.

Over the years, I’ve bought more than my share of gardening books for inspiration and guidance. Most have been tossed aside for a more laissez-faire approach, because it all seemed so complicated and most were so boringly dull. That is, until I got the recently published book, Grow Cook Eat: A Food Lover’s Guide to Vegetable Gardening, by Portlander Willi Galloway. One glance at the cover told me that this was no ordinary how-to book. Its beautiful jacket would make any bookstore browser pick it out from the rest of its brethren.

Galloway is a garden wizard who writes about gardening and cooking on her popular blog, DigginFood.com. She also gives vegetable gardening advice on Seattle’s NPR call-in show, Greendays. I should mention, too, that she’s a former editor at Organic Gardening magazine. She’s the real deal.

Her book is divided into nine chapters: Gardening Fundamentals, Herbs, Greens, Legumes, The Squash Family, The Cabbage Family, Roots, Tubers and Bulbs, Warm-Season Vegetables and Fruit. Those fundamental categories hold the promise of everything a successful gardener needs to know.

The best part of this book is that, not only does it tell the reader how to prepare the soil and plant the vegetables, it also provides recipes so you know what to do with them after they’re harvested. And lots of tips. The tips – wow! I’m marching right out to buy myself a soil thermometer, and I have to say I’m pretty excited about it. I see now that soil temperature is the key to solving a lot of my growing problems. Plant too soon and the seed will whither; plant too late and you won’t get any veggies. Also, did you know you shouldn’t till nutrients into your soil and never, I mean NEVER, take a shovel to your frozen garden soil – it will ruin its structure. Want to know how easy it is to lengthen your growing season? Galloway can tell you. Does your basil go to seed faster than you can say “pesto?” There’s not a problem she can’t solve.

I expected the recipes to be pedestrian vegetarian fare but here again, Galloway steps up to the plate to knock restaurant-worthy dishes out of the park. How does Crispy Pot Stickers with Garlicky Asian Greens sound? What about Steak Sandwiches with Gorgonzola Chive Sauce and Caramelized Onions? For dessert try, Strawberry-Basil Ice Cream. I want to try each and everyone of them.

I should mention the other reason why this is the perfect book for every gardener you know: the photography of Seattle-based Jim Henkens. It’s sublime and makes this book beautiful and decadent. Even if you don’t garden, the photos are so gorgeous, you will be tempted to cut them out and frame them.

Grow Cook Eat is equally as valuable for gardeners with years of experience under their belt, as it is for the novice who’s been wanting a vegetable garden but was too overwhelmed to start. It is easy to follow, inspiring, and a valuable resource for all.

Sasquatch Books, 2012

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