The Gardener's Table: A Guide to Natural Vegetable Growing and Cooking Paperback – Mar 1 2000
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Not for the faint-hearted, The Gardener's Table requires a commitment to vegetables that starts in an ecologically balanced garden and then proceeds to the table as the fruits of one's labor. Committed cooks who want to understand how their kitchen can interact with the seasons will find that this guide's most compelling revelation is the ancient, long-forgotten understanding that flavor starts in the soil. Opening chapters explain in detail composting, seasonal variation, and ecologically responsible fertilizing and planting methods, while recipe sidebars and pantry suggestions remind the reader that, yes, this is a cookbook too--albeit one whose primary focus is to teach the cook how to be a gardener as well. Once upon a time, these two skills were inextricably related, but all an enlightened cook of today need remember is that if one begins with the best ingredients, 90 percent of the flavor has already been achieved. --Sumi Hahn Almquist
From Library Journal
The natural link between kitchen gardening and cooking is seamlessly conveyed by Merrill, who directs the horticultural department at Cabrillo College, and Ortiz, who wrote the award-winning The Village Baker: Classic Regional Breads from Europe and America. Assuming nothing, they start with basic instructions for designing a garden and outfitting a proper kitchen. Organic methodsAfor building the soil, starting and growing vegetables, and controlling pestsAdominate the book, but the authors also include instructions for using fresh produce and recipes for condiments, stock, and vegetable dishes. Finally, a "Grow-It & Cook-It Compendium" conveniently lists vegetables by plant family, culinary uses, botanical name, detailed growing information, and harvesting and storage tips. This book isn't as extensive as Anna Pavord's classic, The New Kitchen Garden (DK, 1996), which includes fruit and herb information, but it's still a good general guide. Recommended for public libraries.ABonnie Poquette, Shorewood P.L, WI
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top Customer Reviews
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
While I have read and reviewed hundreds of cookbooks and am much more familiar with the culinary content of this book, I have read a few gardening books in my time and turned a few clods of dirt in summers past, so I am not a complete newby with the gardening advice. I say this because it may have influenced my impression that the gardening advice is a lot stronger than the culinary advice. It may simply be that I am much more familiar with the culinary material, so it impresses me less. That being said, I will summarily say that I think one will have to look far and wide to find a book that does as good a job as combining these two closely related disciplines. I have reviewed only two, `The Arrows Cookbook' by culinary professionals who are horticultural amateurs with a good sized kitchen garden in Maine, and `Oriental Vegetables' by Joy Larkcom who seems to be an especially talented amateur at both cooking and gardening. Both are good books in their own little worlds, but neither can hold a candle to the wide world opened by this excellent volume.
The book is organized with alternating horticultural and culinary chapters where each author discusses his specialities at a pretty high level of expertise. There is no dumbing up of the material here. There are a few weak attempts to show similarities between culinary and horticultural techniques as in the analogous methods for producing a stock and a compost tea. These are cute, but the real common platform for the two disciplines is nutrition. How do you get the greatest yield of nutrients out of either a patch of ground or a batch of cooked veggies?
There are four major chapters, each beginning with a horticultural exposition followed by a culinary exposition. The first chapter may have the most important horticultural section, as it deals with climate and microclimates, choosing the best plants, planning your plantings, starting seedlings, planting in season, and rotating crops around your garden. One of the symptoms that this is not rote gardening advice is the agonizing over interpreting all the various planting zones. There are three with very different criteria and the most common, the USDA scheme based on the number of warm days can be very misleading. The culinary section to the first chapter is a bit weak and until I got to the second chapter, I thought maybe gardener Merrill was doing all the heavy lifting in this book.
The second chapter begins with a horticultural section devoted exclusively to getting to know your soil and improving it. In this chapter, the culinary section really picks up and offers us something really new. The section is primarily about pantry preparations such as gremolata, bouquet garni, harissa, fines herbes, and lots and lots of vinaigrettes. The high point of the culinary section in this chapter is what is called `The Mesclun Wheel' that places greens on a circular scale of most tart to sweetest with dandelion being at the sharpest and butterhead lettuce being the mildest. This would be interesting in itself, but the author doubles the interest by plotting vinaigrette ingredients against types of greens to show how to match up dressings with greens. This is the kind of wisdom that is rarely so effectively summarized and which is commonly acquired only after years of reading and experimenting with salads. This is the kind of schema a cook probably pulls forward in his mind when they plan a salad based on available ingredients.
The third chapter opens with every organic gardener's favorite topic, composting, and its related topics, humus and mulching. Having taken a few turns with a compost pile and having read a few Rodale Press items on the subject, I was still surprised to find something new to me, which was vermicomposting, or creating an environment which encourages worms to actively work on composting your biological waste. The culinary section deals with stocks and soups. The things which distinguish this section from your average introduction to soups are the discussions of combining vegetables to get the healthiest result and tips on preparing to cook in bulk. I find the emphasis on steaming as a method to preserve nutrients in vegetables to be pretty depressing, but the author redeems himself a bit by pointing out that cooking by several different methods is superior to eating raw vegetables, as cooking releases the nutrients in most veggies and makes them more easily available to our digestion.
The opening to the fourth chapter deals with garden pests, both animal and vegetable, and plants and animals that can assist in the battle with pests. For a book that is sharing its 470 pages between horticultural and culinary material, this discussion is remarkably detailed, including sidebars on equipment and techniques for examining garden fauna and a display of the life cycles of some of the most common pesky insects. This book would be superior on its own, but it enhances its value immeasurably by offering a detailed chapter by chapter bibliography which has more details on the many different topics touched upon in this book.
The second half of the book is something of an encyclopedia of the growing and eating attributes of the plants most commonly grown in the United States. Even this section has its pleasures to the casual reader, as it is very nicely organized by type of plant rather than by the alphabet.
To an old `Whole Earth Catalog' hippie like me, this book is pure gold. To anyone interested in both subjects but who is weak in one, I highly recommend this book!
The chapters are easy to read and understand. It makes a great foundation book for first timers wanting to expand a small foray into veggie gardening into a real kitchen garden.
Easy to read, understand, and put into practice; this book is great as a gift or for yourself.
The other nice part of this book is the recipes. I love growing things, but have not always known what to do with what I grow. The recipe section is inspirational. Not every recipe has turned out good for me, but I have found that I can adapt the recipes to fit my taste.
I bought this book when it came out in 2000 and it sat on my shelf until I got really into vegetable gardening. I now have a huge kitchen garden and I use this book all the time. I learn something new every time I pick it up. It's a keeper.
The vegetables are split into types with all care/problems clearly explained and useful tips/recipes.
If I had known what a great book this was, I would have bought sooner. I will probably pass on to the next generation after I have used it for a while.