Book Review: Kitchen Garden Companion – Growing

Stephanie Alexander’s Kitchen Garden Companion: Growing
Review by Kylie Thompson

Genre: Lifestyle, gardening

Australians love their fresh foods, but more often than not, the so-called fresh fruits and vegetables we pay dearly for aren’t as fresh as we’re led to believe. The desire for foods unburdened by pesticides and freezing has seen a rise in the backyard farmer- the industrious sort capable of turning the tiniest garden or balcony space into a culinary haven.

There’s a growing scientific argument for gardening, regardless of the amount of space you have. Whether you’re on acreage or in a high-rise, gardening is a form of meditation with the ability to minimise stress, and improve focus and outlook.

Having said that, gardening has a reputation for being an intimidating, overwhelming affair. Every plant has different soil and sun needs, requires different amounts of water, and needs planting, fertilising, and harvesting at different times. It sounds exhausting, especially if you have a growing collection of plants to care for. But, after the initial shock wears off, it’s fascinating to see how little work it actually takes to create a sustainable kitchen garden. Wander outside a few times through the day to see which parts of your garden get the most sun, and you’ve figured out where to plant everything. Use coloured or patterned pots as a visual reminder which plants need the most water, and you don’t have to worry about remembering the specifics for each plant.

All of a sudden, it doesn’t sound quite as scary.

Taking the overwhelm out of creating a kitchen garden is at the heart of ‘Stephanie Alexander’s Kitchen Garden Companion: Growing’. Alexander’s ethos is simple: any scrap of space can become a kitchen garden. All it takes is a little effort and know-how to turn wasted space into a green thumb’s delight.

‘Growing’ was originally part of the larger ‘Kitchen Garden Companion’, which included both gardening and cooking information in one rather intimidatingly large tome. When it came time to update the information Alexander had gathered, the single companion became two volumes: gardening and cooking. For those who haven’t had the pleasure of Alexander’s wit and wisdom, it’s a lighter introduction to her philosophy of good food and happy lives. For those who already have a copy of ‘Kitchen Garden Companion’, this new edition and format brings with it new tips, and updated information about how to get the best from your garden.

Stephanie Alexander is the sort of writer you can’t help but love. She’s a fan of the straightforward, jargon-free teaching style, and works hard to make sure her books are as easy to use as possible. ‘Growing’ feels less like a how-to guide than a down-and-dirty cheat sheet to creating a sustainable, successful garden with only the bare minimum effort. Each of the fruits, vegetables, and herbs are listed in alphabetical order, making it easy to flick back and forth to the information you need. All of the usual suspects are discussed, but Alexander includes some less common additions, as well. Whether you’re looking to grow parsley or myrtle, ‘Growing’ is designed to help you create the garden that best suits your needs, and your tastebuds.

To keep things easy, there’s even a rough guide to the amounts of each plant you’ll need to feed a family of four. If you’ve ever tried your hand at gardening, and found yourself with either a severe lack or overabundance, it’s the sort of little detail that can save a lot of frustration.

And that’s kind of the point of ‘Growing’: taking the frustration out of kitchen gardening, no matter what form it takes for readers. In the end, this isn’t a book about creating a commercial garden, or a perfect magazine version of a home garden. Instead, it’s more like a scrapbook of advice about how to get the most out of your space, complete with tips on using up the harvest.

‘Stephanie Alexander’s Kitchen Garden Companion: Growing’ is published through Penguin Random House/ Lantern Press, and is available in selected stores nationwide.

Rating: 4 stars

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