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Customer Review

75 of 78 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A siren song for vegetable gardeners, would-be gardeners and lovers of vegetables, March 15, 2013
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This review is from: Vegetable Literacy: Cooking and Gardening with Twelve Families from the Edible Plant Kingdom, with over 300 Deliciously Simple Recipes (Hardcover)
If you have created a vegetable garden, and worked it even just one year or worked it more years than you care to count, you will be hooked on this book by the second page of the introduction. It contains a wealth of information; so much information, that you should not wait for your local library to get a copy: You need it NOW, and you will refer to it way too often to have to rely on the library's copy. If you are considering putting in your first vegetable garden, or if you often buy from a farmers' market or a local produce stand, you need to order this book, too. You will love it and, not only will you cook its recipes; you will be able to create your own favorites from all the tips included.

If you buy your produce from the grocery store, you will find a lot of great recipes and a lot of information on unfamiliar edible plants, grains, grasses, herbs, beans and vegetables. But (I'd roughly estimate that) a fifth of the information provided will not be of value to the grocery-store-buyer, since the book provides information on varieties available and how to make use of all parts of the plant: From seedlings that you weed out, to leaf tops of edible roots, to roots of edible tops, to bolted stems and flowers, etc. In other words, parts of the plant that grocery-store-buyers don't often see. But, I'd bet good money that anyone who reads this book and doesn't have a garden, will be hurriedly searching for a sunny piece of earth in which to pitch a shovel!

I won't go into the great information that you can find by reading this product page on Amazon. Definitely take advantage of the "Look Inside" feature. And definitely take a look at Deborah Madison's other published books. I find it a waste of space to list chapters and covered topics and ingredients in a review when it's all there in the "Look Inside".

Deborah Madison has been writing quality cook books for ages. It was her book Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone that helped me convince the men in my family that they were not going to die if there wasn't meat on the dinner plate (that was back in the 1990s). But the point I'm trying to make is this: Madison has vast experience with veggies, grains, grasses, herbs, and beans. She has the necessary expertise, writing style and refined taste buds to put together a valuable and worthwhile cook book.

What may not be obvious by browsing through the Contents and Index pages:

--Besides the main star ingredient, other ingredients that flavor the recipes are not hard to locate. They are not necessarily limited to everyday ingredients with which we are all familiar: For instance, if you don't already know ghee and miso paste, you will be introduced to it in some of these recipes.

--For most of the plants, you will find what I call a "food thesaurus" listing or section; "good companions" is what Madison calls them. You will have to remember those "companions" yourself, because they are not listed in the index.

--You won't find recipes where the featured vegetable is NOT the primary flavor. In other words, you won't find chicken, salmon, sausage recipes with accompanying veggies and herbs or sauces made of the highlighted veggie or herb. You might find fish and meats mentioned in the "Good Companions" listed, but, again, you won't find them listed in the index.

--This is not a vegan book: There are eggs, butter, cream and such. Actually, there are some very nice egg recipes. We've tried the egg salad with tarragon (I used Mexican tarragon, because that's what grows in my Southern garden and eggs from our own hens.)

--This is NOT a how-to-garden book. Although it does list some seed recommendations.

--This is NOT a book that is slanted towards where Madison lives and gardens in New Mexico. Meaning, you will not find information that is inappropriate for your area. (I think that is a great accomplishment on Madison's part: That she was able to make the book very personable, but still refrain from giving us information--stated as fact--that is unsuitable or different for the various parts of the U.S. (For instance, I must plant my summer squash and tomatoes in early March. My zukes are finished in June and my tomatoes are over in July. Your tomatoes may last until the first frost.) It is a pet peeve of mine that so many vegetable gardening cookbooks assume I have tomatoes in August...

--Cooking techniques are explained. And many, many techniques are employed: Steaming, sauteing, roasting, baking, grilling, braising and pressure cooking. If there are recipes for breaded and fried veggies, I don't remember seeing them. (Thank you for that!!!)

--There are so many fantastic and helpful tips: How about this one? The extra-long stem on an artichoke is meant to be used: Peel, slice, drop in acidulated water, then braise, saute, or toss them into a soup.

-- The simplicity of the recipes that forces the focus onto a specific vegetable, sort of reminds me of Tender: A Cook and His Vegetable Patch by Nigel Slater. But I like this book a whole lot better because it is definitely slanted towards American ways, names, places, available ingredients, available seeds and measurements***. (Slater's book, while it is filled with wonderful recipes and ideas, is slanted towards a British audience.)

--***There is an adequate conversion chart of measurements at the very end of the book. Being on the last page, it is very easy to flip to. (It's a bit hard to read: Green ink and not a large type point size.)

--Unlike the two books by Lawson, this book does NOT have many photographs, as it is meant to be a wealth of information, not just pretty pictures to look at. (I think it could have used some more pictures, though. But then the book would have weighed a ton.) It is definitely not a coffee table book.

--There are many soup recipes--and that is important in our family. There are all kinds of salads, side dishes, and main dishes. Best of all: I'm very happy to see there are hardly any pasta recipes. They seem to be a dime a dozen these days...

--We've become fans of quite a lot of Asian greens lately--they do so well in our gardens; and of course some are mentioned in this book--bok choy and Chinese broccoli and perilla (shiso) to mention a few, but I will still be referring to my favorite Asian cook books (and the Kitazawa Seed catalog) for most of them.

I've only had this book a short few days, but we've already sampled several recipes. We cook from our garden, so I was kind of limited in the recipes I could choose from--it being mid-March in the Coastal Plains of Texas. But follows is a list of what I created so far, and the recipes have worked and so have the flavor combinations: Grilled Onions with Cinnamon Butter (using the first of the 1015 Texas Onions from down in the Valley); Braised Parsley Root (with the last from the garden--had to get them out to make room for two very special cherry tomatoes, both originating from further down south); Chard Soup with Cumin, Cilantro and Lime; and to use up two lonely rutabagas, I combined ideas from the Winter Stew of Braised Rutabagas Carrots, Potatoes and Parsley, and Rutabaga Soup with Gorgonzola Toasts.

I'm really looking forward to trying almost all the recipes in this book. And, much to my delight, we've got quite a few of those mentioned in this book already planted in our garden.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Apr 2, 2013 3:52:55 PM PDT
Jane Collins says:
Not very important, but it's Nigel Slater, not Lawson (maybe thinking of Nigella Lawson).
If found this book very similar to Tender, both in the introduction to the vegetables, in the garden and in the kitchen, and the simplicity of the recipes. And some seem very similar, but I think that's fine.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 2, 2013 5:04:53 PM PDT
Jeeze, how in the world did I do that!?! What a slip: I had his book sitting right beside me as I contemplated the two books' similarities. And I reread the review several times before posting. Two lines down I got his name right...Thank you so much for pointing out my mistake. I've already made the change. Really, thanks!
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