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Heirloom Vegetable Gardening: A Master Gardener's Guide to Planting, Seed Saving, and Cultural History Hardcover – June, 1997


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 439 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt & Co; 1st edition (June 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805040250
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805040258
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 8 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #626,406 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

William Woys Weaver has written an important book in Heirloom Vegetable Gardening--important for the kitchen gardener, the cook, the historian, and any American who might wonder what our forebears were up to when they sat down to eat. What was the food on their table? Where did it come from? How did they get it? All these questions are addressed in Weaver's elegant prose.

But there's another side to the story, and Weaver meets his reader there, too: Where is food headed, and what's an individual to do?

We have seen the rise of hybrid crops in the years since World War II. They are good for the seed business because the grower can't just let a few plants grow to seed, save the seed, then plant that seed next season. Hybridized plants don't yield seed that's true to the character of the plant, so the grower has to return to the seed rack year after year. Buying seed on a commercial level is a big deal, as is growing enough of it to meet the market. A lot of tillable land in South America isn't growing food for hungry South Americans, but growing corn seed for American farmers, and the biggest use of corn in this country is animal feed. Not many hungry South Americans get to eat corn-fed American beef and pork. In one sense, he who controls seed controls food. Or, he who owns seed owns food, and the highest bidder takes all.

Heirloom seed, then, is more than a trinket or curiosity from the past. It represents the chance of survival in the future. Should an as-yet-unknown plant virus come along and take out the American hybrid corn crop (something that has in fact come close to happening), it's the genetic diversity available in heirloom, open-pollinated seeds that will save the bacon. Governments maintain plant gene banks, but individuals can do much the same, and authors like Weaver show how.

What Weaver injects into the tale is the incredible pleasure that comes of growing heirloom crops and saving seed, and of eating from a table laden with 17th- and 18th-century foods. He shares his own history and his family's history, all of it tied up in gardening and sharing and caring. This lovely book is an extension that can reach into any garden being dug today. In other words, don't hesitate with this title, whether history, science, gardening, or a rich enthusiasm for constructive ways the individual can affect the future drives your interest. --Schuyler Ingle

From Library Journal

"The kitchen garden is the essential American garden," and "heirloom vegetables will never be safe from extinction unless we use them." These two statements from Weaver, a food historian and organic gardener, form the philosophical framework for his detailed treatise on vegetables from America's past. The history of the kitchen garden in America, the use of heirloom vegetables in today's gardens, and the heirloom seed-saving movement are a few of the topics covered, but most of this book is devoted to detailed profiles of approximately 280 heirloom vegetables. These profiles contain historical background, general growing and seed-saving information, and descriptions of specific heirloom varieties with an occasional old-fashioned recipe included. The section on tomatoes, for example, covers 20 different varieties, from the Acme to the Yellow Peach. A short appendix identifies commercial sources for seed and plant stock as well as some useful periodicals. The author's enthusiasm for and knowledge of his subject will inspire gardeners to begin including heirloom vegetables in their own yards. Highly recommended for libraries where there is an interest in heirloom gardening or gardening history.?John Charles, Scottsdale P.L., Ariz.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

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Well written and very informative.
Bosaapje
I had read this book a long time ago and I wanted to have a copy after losing the first.
Zap
Excellent book on heirloom vegetable gardening!
Alice Harris

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Margaret Anne on January 11, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I found the author to have a deep and delightful knowledge of plant lore and history. But as I read on, I was sad to find that the part I'm most interested in, growing my own, was not addressed closely or carefully enough to be useful to me.

Zone information is occasionally given, but not consistently, which as a northern gardener, I find too common and very frustrating in many gardening books. The author talks about growing things like chayote (normally zone 8 and higher) in his garden in Pennsylvania. Although he does describe an indoor coddling process to make up for his shorter growing season, I have no idea what zone he's referring to there (his state ranges from zone 4-7), or in any other vegetable section. Some of the plants and varieties are accompanied by thorough and useful descriptions for planting, and some are not. Towards the second half of the book, this improves somewhat, where he gives very detailed instructions for squash, etc. But again, he continues to talk about putting plants in the ground at a certain time of year without any reference point for zone.

I really wanted to love this book. The author is a wonderful writer; he clearly adores, lives and breathes this work, and knows his heirloom gardening. This is a superb book for the mostly armchair gardener. However, in too many of the sections (about half of them), he does not pave a clear enough path for gardeners who want to expand their practical knowledge to follow along with him. In my case, this led to more frustration than pleasure, and I'm left yearning for a gritier book, especially one that would more carefully address the needs of heirloom gardeners in different growing zones.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 9, 1997
Format: Hardcover
Heirloom Vegetable Gardening by W.W.Weaver provides detailed descriptions of cultivation and cooking of hundreds of varieties of old and ancient food plants. His narratives are wonderful, and make very interesting reading. His tips on cultivation, though primarily focused on his region of the country, are complete and helpful. Altogether a throroughly enjoyable book, that provides insight and tremendous expertise in an area that is vitally important.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By dave on April 7, 2010
Format: Paperback
This book is excellent for the history it provides. Many times when dealing with heirlooms you do not get a good history of the plant (where it is from, how it was named) This book gives a good background and was fascinating for me. I enjoyed the cultural information that is lacking in the basic HOW TO books.
If you are looking for a HOW-TO book for your region or area, this may not be helpful for you. I loved this book and enjoyed reading it. It is a must for any serious gardner, but again, you have to take into account your geographic area when planting. This book is a good addition to any small garden library.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By pakamama on October 2, 2002
Format: Hardcover
as an organic farmer of 8 years i strongly recommend this reading to all professionals whose selection is bound to a few seed sources. the book will infuse new knowledge in plant varieties and allow to improve your farming altogether. 2 examples are the mention of a vining watermelon which will allow treillising for better yield and the use of malabar spinach as superior in taste and ease of cultivation to all true spinaches..
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By guitargreg on October 6, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am an heirloom gardener at a 'Living History Museum', and we have used this book for reference constantly. I use it so much I just had to have my own personal copy. If you are at all interested in heirloom vegatables, don't wait another day, grab you a copy now. It was described as used, but could have been sold as new. Could not be more satisfied with book or quality of service.
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