Since Monday’s book was about seed to table with children, I thought I’d talk about the “adult” version today. There are many of these books around and as edible gardening becomes more and more popular, there will be more of them. The Complete Kitchen Garden, by Ellen Ecker Ogden, published last spring, is one of the best, however, and I think it will continue to be one of the better ones even as newer books are published.
The danger in having the word “Complete” in the title of a book is that it will fail to live up to expectations. Happily, this is not so in The Complete Kitchen Garden. Its author, a co-founder of the seed catalog The Cook’s Garden, is amazingly complete in this book, taking the reader from the garden’s very beginning of how to get started (with compost and learning about soil basics, of course), to how to select seeds and tools.
From there, 14 different garden designs are given. Each design tells who it might be ideal for—the organic rotation garden is ideal for beginning gardeners and those who love order, for example, while the heirloom maze garden is for gardeners who like to connect to the love of greenery and history.
What is particularly well-done in this book is that the designs, advice and even the recipes are integrated within each section. That might drive some folks crazy—orderly cooks, for example might prefer that all the recipes be in one section of the book. But I found that the recipes integrated into each garden section worked well for me.
If, for example, I were growing her salad lovers garden (heavy on the lettuces) I would be grateful to find recipes for vinaigrettes and wilted chard and that sort of thing clustered together. There is a recipe index at the back of the book so that more serious cooks can find recipes in the conventional way as well.
The book ends with a resources section and a brief section on preserving the bounty. Of the very many types of “grow it, then cook it” types of books that are out there, this is definitely one of the best. The fact that it is well-written, beautifully illustrated and well-photographed, makes it even more of a joy to own.