26 February 2011

The Complete Kitchen Garden by Ellen Ecker Ogden

Ellen Ogden, the co-founder of The Cook's Garden, sold her seed company to Burpee and moved on. Her most recent accomplishment is the publication of this new book for foodie gardeners like me.

I've made no secret of the fact that the reasons I became more interested in gardening include: Food safety scares and the fact that the move from CA to OK sharply cut into my ability to buy vegetables I would eat.

Our dozens of local farmers markets and growers do a great job of bridging the gap and yet, many of us want to grow a bit of our own.  Many of us are growing vegetables in order to have the most nutritious choices and the prettiest tables available, right at hand.


The Cook's Garden - Seeds and Plants for the Gourmet Gardener puts the focus on us foodie gardeners in its name. We want delicious food with its nutrients still present.

Ogden's book, The Complete Kitchen Garden is just right. She had a team of contributors put together an easy reference on garden styles plus 100 recipes for using the produce. Of course the references are all from the northeast U.S., Vermont, to be exact, so her advice is not 100% relevant for the rest of the country. The northeast has unique growing conditions that the rest of us cannot relate to.

The structure of the book: the first 35 pages include the usual introductory stories that are fun to read, then a brief history of gardens, a bit on how to site your first garden, build the soil, set up compost, select seeds, fertilize, maintain the space, create attractive boundaries, choose tools, and decide on a style.

Then, comes the meat of the book, from pages 35 to 235, Ogden and her friends describe 14 kitchen garden themes, how to lay them out and what to grow in them. Each garden theme has photos, illustrations and recipes for the produce grown in them.

The recipes are fantastic - Fresh fennel salsa over herb crusted haddock, Tricolor scalloped potatoes, Arugula pesto with herbed ricotta gnocci, Fall spinach with spicy Mediterranean vinaigrette - all inspiring the reader to grow new things and serve them in fresh ways.

The bed layout designs are east-coast centric but easily translated for other climates.

Credit goes to the photographers, designers and recipe chefs for creating a welcome addition to the culinary garden bookshelf.

I do have one complaint about the book. The photos and illustrations to not have captions to identify what we are enjoying visually. We are supposed to be able to refer to the plot design and infer, but captions would have been so nice.

This is a 250-page paperback, 7 by 9-inches. List price $24.95 Barnes and Noble online has this and Ogden's previous books. Help Barnes and Noble come out of bankruptcy!

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