Food from Your Garden and Allotment: All You Need to Know to Grow, Cook and Preserve Your Own Fruit and Vegetables, London/New York/Sydney/Montreal: Reader’s Digest, 2011, £19.99, ISBN 978-0-276-44336-7, 320 pp.
As you would expect from a Reader’s Digest book, this is attractively produced with plenty of illustrations and photographs. The book provides details on how to grow more than 100 types of fruit, vegetables and herbs, as well as giving recipes for making use of the produce. The crops are covered alphabetically in a survey which has a contemporary bias, including such plants as olives and sweet potatoes, since increasingly warm summers mean it may be feasible to grow them in British gardens.
There is a section providing a month by month plan of what needs doing in the vegetable garden, as well as a chapter on pests and diseases.
The book is particularly strong on information on what to do with your crops. As well as covering such widely used practices as freezing and making jams, there is also plenty of advice on drying, bottling, making jams, jellies, pickles, sauces, relishes and flavoured vinegars, as well as on wine making. There is a wealth of recipes, from modern ones such as mixed fruit Chinese style chutney and sauteed sweet potatoes to more traditional methods of dealing with a glut of garden produce, such as marrow jam and green tomato chutney.
In a book of such wide scope it is unsurprising that there is relatively little information on the varieties of the crops mentioned, so while 22 varieties of apples are described only one variety of parsley is listed.
Overall, I would strongly recommend this to anyone starting out with their first vegetable garden or allotment, or to more experienced growers who would like suggestions on what to do with their crops. For those with an interest in discovering new and unfamiliar varieties of vegetable, it may be necessary to supplement a book like this with a more specialist publication.
Malcolm Allison, BA, MSc