Book Review: The Alternative Kitchen Garden
Popcorn Homestead - January 27, 2011
The Alternative Kitchen Garden by Emma Cooper could well be a similar book producing similar results. For gardeners feeling like it's getting to be a bit of the "same old, same old" even as those seed catalogs come pouring in, this could put the heat back in your compost pile, so to speak. An A-Z guide of ideas for the garden and home, The Alternative Kitchen Garden informs and inspires. Like any good gardening book should do, it had me jotting down notes about things to research (trefoil as a green manure), things to purchase (borage is the newest perennial to be added with comfrey to follow in short order), and things to do (interplant chamomile to improve soil). In short, it gave me a boost after a difficult growing season when I needed it to start planning for the season ahead.
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The Alternative Kitchen Garden Book Review
Jackie's Secret Garden - January 1, 2011
The author of this book started a weekly podcast called "The Alternative Kitchen Garden" a few years ago. Emma provided vegetable growing tips that were primarily for those with a similar climate to her native Britain. But the most interesting topics of the podcasts (to me, at least) were those such as "Goji Berries", "Achocha" and "Oca". Podcast listeners were entrained into Emma's adventures in growing these and other usual food crops. These podcasts inspired me to grow things like ground cherry and pak choi.
The book originates from the podcasts that Emma created and it's full of interesting topics. It is not, however, a step-by-step guide to growing fruits and vegetables. It is a collection of short (1-2 page) discussions of various topics related to gardening told from a sustainable (yet, witty!) point of view. The part I love best is the honesty of the text. Readers are not only told about the successes in the garden, but also the failures. This is so important, and something that gardening books usually do not include. For example, "From my two containers, I got what looked like a reasonable harvest of tiger nuts (about 200g in total). However, they were very hard and not at all sweet. They were fiddly to clean and not at all tasty. I don't know what went wrong, because tiger nuts are supposed to be nice…"
Successes in the Alternative Kitchen Garden include leaf beet and Welsh onions, which can be harvested almost all year long. I plan to find seeds of each and grow them in the spring.
The writing style is highly conversational, which may be pleasant or off-putting, depending on your preference. When discussing decomposers, the author states, "If they didn't munch their way through all of the dead animals, dying plant material and (let's face it) poo then we wouldn't be knee deep in the stuff because we wouldn't be here - there would be nothing left for us to eat." I find this style more engaging, personally.
The Alternative Kitchen Garden an A-Z is for garden newbies and veterans who are interested in trying something new.
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The Alternative Kitchen Garden: An A-Z
Subsistence Pattern blog - December 15, 2010
I have been thinking about reviewing a few of the gardening and self-sufficiency related books that I so dearly enjoy reading. One of the things my wife and I love to do during the winter months is to "try" and catch up on our reading so that we can justify spending a day every so often tooling about the used bookstores in our area in an attempt to uncover more of those hidden gems that are tucked away on dusty shelves just waiting for us to find. Some of my most rewarding accomplishments are those that I have taken from the page of a book and turned into a reality, having an idea manifest from mere words to an actual tangible creation is always an enlightening experience.
That said, I thought it would be fitting to start off with a newer book I just finished reading that, in my mind, truly exemplifies the pure unadulterated joy of gardening, The Alternative Kitchen Garden an A-Z written by Emma Cooper. This young author tends a very diverse garden plot where her and husband Pete can be found enthusiastically growing and experimenting with a wide variety of different vegetables, herbs, fruits, and berries...anything that can possibly be grown in their climate. Emma also keeps plants going in their geodesic dome greenhouse and raises chickens on her property in the UK. I have found that some of my favorite gardening books come from this region as the climate is so very similar to our own in the Pacific Northwest, thus the advice given is most pertinent.
One of the things I like about this particular book is that it's an especially valuable resource for those with small garden plots, showing the limitless possibilities of what can be achieved in a modest area of land. Emma shares her personal thoughts and experiences growing organic food and raising chickens on her small homestead with a refreshingly witty and down to earth sense of humor that sets this read apart from many of the stodgy and strictly serious gardening books out there. I should also mention that all of the information in this book is presented in a very environmentally conscientious manner.
Perhaps what really piqued my interest was the wide diversity of topics and plants that she covered. Do you know what xynophyl is? Want to try growing Achoca? Well, besides covering all of the "normal" garden veggies one of Emma's passions is to try new and unusual varieties in her garden...me too. All in all I thoroughly appreciated this book for the reasons listed above plus the fact that Emma is a fellow blogger whose thought provoking posts about gardening always impart on me a little more knowledge than I started with. So check out her book and blog sometime...you just might like it too.
Emma's gardening blog can be found at http://coopette.com/blog/ and she also produces The Alternative Kitchen Garden podcast (an online radio show).
Read the original review here.
By Jasmine Worth
Emma Cooper takes the term "A-Z" literally. The Alternative Kitchen Garden begins with "A is for Apple," "B is for Bean" and ends with, you guessed it, "Z is for Zucchini." Each subject is given page-and-a-half, accompanied by a lovely picture.
The plants, insects, herbs covered here seem to be picked --- so to speak --- at random ... and there aren't enough of them. The author doesn't even stick to those she likes, often admitting that the item in question is "not one of my favourites," not usually grown in her garden because "I don't like them." By "B is for Broccoli" Cooper has already covered three veggies and herbs she would happily never pop in her mouth, including aubergines, basil, and borage. With so few plants covered, you would think she would at least stick to her favorites.
There are some beautiful if tiny pictures in the book, and some very interesting tidbits of information dispersed throughout. "Watercress beds went out of business in the 1980s, a victim of the modern food supply system that can easily provide vegetables from all over the world, every day of the year."
Prior to that, watercress was a staple vegetable and prized for its nutritional value. After a decade or so of neglect, the Ewelme watercress beds are being restored as a heritage site and wildlife sanctuary.
"U is for urine" covers the practice of using your own diluted wee to water your garden. After all, "you can't give yourself a disease you don't already have by coming in to contact with your urine." But it might rule out inviting your friends and neighbors over for a salad from your own freshly soaked garden: they may not thank you for it. Cooper opts to leave out the nose-wrinkling practice of creating humanure, and, instead, advises us to pick up a copy of the Humanure Handbook for further digging into it.
The Alternative Kitchen Garden can be used as a sounding board for whatever topics may be of further interest to you (and which ones may not). For instance, "S is for Seed Saving" tempted me enough to go our and get a copy of Seed to Seed by Suzanne Ashworth, an in-depth look at the techniques of separating and storing seeds. Cooper begins the seed chapter with somewhat confusing information for a beginner, i.e. the difference between inbreeders and outbreeders, cross-pollination, annuals vs. biennials --- but she later reassures us that seed saving need not be all gardening jargon and research:
Although it may seem daunting, it doesn't have to be. A lot of seed saving can be done from happy accidents --- radishes and brassicas that have run to seed, or flowers that you've forgotten to dead head. The first seeds I saved were from my achocha, which has hard, black seeds that are easy to remove. The were followed by the welsh onions (hang them upside down in a paper bag to catch all the seeds as they dry out) and dwarf marigolds. In most cases you will have plenty of seeds to share.
The Alternative Kitchen Garden covers a wide, and seemingly random selection of information pertaining to numerous aspects of gardening. From climate change to the ravages of mold in your garden to achocha --- "one of the Lost Crops of the Incas, an ancient food crop from the Andes" --- no subject is covered in depth or breadth enough to satisfy our curiosity. The book might be described as a coffee table book ... minus the advantage of an eye-popping hardbound cover and large photographs.
Read the original review here...
Kitchen gardening: an A to Z
Review by Alex McDonald; book extract by Emma Cooper
15th April, 2010
A is for allotments; B is for brocolli; C is for climate change… and U is for urine. 'The Alternative Kitchen Garden: an A-Z' is a companion for both inexperienced and expert gardeners
Growing your own food is not just about sustainability; it is a state of mind. As anyone who grows their own veg knows, you only have to start simple and before you know it you're hooked.
If you don't know where to start, The Alternative Kitchen Garden: an A-Z shows that there isn't really a start, just an experiment. And if you have been experimenting, this book will take you a step further.
Through trial and error, writer, photographer and keen gardener Emma Cooper brought her garden from an unloved tangle of brambles to an experimental kitchen garden - hooked from the first harvest.
Read the whole article here.