Thursday, July 3, 2008

Book Review: Heirloom Vegetable Gardening by William Woys Weaver

You'll notice that, though I only first read this book a few weeks ago during the family illness, it's already made it into my sidebar as one of my favorite gardening books. I could NOT put it down, and I kept it for as long as the library allowed so that I could keep going back to it again and again.

The book starts off with a discussion of the kitchen garden and its unique place in American history. It's interesting to note the differences in this account if you're used to reading about kitchen gardens in France or England. Much of the information on how various seed varieties came to be was entertaining and insightful. There is also a chapter discussing the place of the heirloom vegetable in today's society, which will be nothing new to those of you who are already growing or have an interest in growing heirloom vegetables. It is vital that we keep this diverse mix of seeds going if we are to keep ourselves and our planet healthy, and Weaver makes it clear why.

The portion of the book that really interested me, though, was titled "A Grower's Guide to Selected Heirloom Vegetables." In this section, Weaver discusses a variety of heirloom plants individually. Each group of plants is preceded by a discussion of the family throughout history (i.e., asparagus, beans, etc.), then the author dives right into discussions of his selected varieties, including history of cultivation, historical uses, and even some historical recipes. For example, did you know that cardoon (Cynara cardunculus) can be used in place of rennet in cheesemaking? Useful information for the homesteader, eh? :)

If you love garden history, I highly recommend this book. It's on my Amazon wishlist now... :)

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