A couple weeks ago, I got an email from amazon.com with the subject line: “Jessalyn: Best Cookbooks of the Year So Far.”
Don’t you love it when amazon’s auto-emails actually recommend something good? Suffice it to say, I was intrigued enough to open the email and see what had been chosen as the best of 2012. So far.
And in the interest of full disclosure, there’s one more on the list that I couldn’t fit in the screenshot called The Mom 100 Cookbook by Katie Workman. If you click on the picture to be linked to the live list from Amazon, you’ll see that the list has actually changed since I got the email in my inbox a couple weeks ago!
Anyway. I wasn’t surprised by two of the books on the list. But one of them, that I hadn’t heard of before, caught my eye. It’s toward the bottom of the list: Grow, Cook, Eat by Willi Galloway. I read through the reviews and sighed contentedly at descriptions like “instructions for harvesting all the edible parts of the plant,” “color photographs accentuate the most appealing qualities [of the produce],” and “This is the gardening book you absolutely want to have on hand,” (that last one from one of my recent favorite bloggers, Ashley English at Small Measure). I found my mouse going clickity-click-click, and the book was on its way to my house.
I haven’t been disappointed.
When it comes to gardening, I suppose you could call me a laissez-faire enthusiast. I’ll water when it hasn’t rained in a while. I’ll dilute neem oil and spray down the tomatoes or potatoes every couple weeks when I think about it. But that’s it. My tomatoes are growing willy-nilly (very well, thank you, just a little disorganized looking). There are weeds in my garden pathways. I’ve never pruned my rosemary bush except to trim off a sprig or two when cooking. The potted chives and mint are sort of doing their own thing, silently crying “pick me, pick me!” every time I walk by. And the blueberries have turned a sort of pink-purple color, probably rotting on the bush; not that I could get to them anyway since Alex and I have inadvertently created a happy place for weeds when we set up a bamboo teepee and bird netting to prevent the birds from eating all the berries.
But no more! Galloway’s book is simple, clear, and exactly what I needed. It has helped me to put into practice the very principle that I strive to follow in taking the steps to grow our food: don’t waste it! Particularly when it comes to harvest time and preserving the things that I have worked so hard to grow.
It’s easy to grow chives and think, oh, I’ll just snip some when I need it–isn’t that convenient? That’s all well and good, but what happens when the first frost comes and I realize I didn’t actually use that many chives this season? Did I lose money by not using them? If I had any background in economics, I’d insert an intelligent statement about yield and maximum potential and market value and investment here.
Thanks to my new book, I am whipping my garden, winter stores, and mosquito-bitten self into shape. I’ve trimmed my chives and will be turning them into chive butter later this evening. I fertilized the remaining stumps so they’ll grow for me once more before the fall.
I’ve also pruned my rosemary bush and have hung the sprig bundles in my pantry to dry.
And that’s just two things that I took care of before my day job this morning! See how easy and practical it is? I’m beside myself with a budding self-sufficiency glow. I haven’t even raved about the vegetables part of the book yet, much less the recipes! (But aren’t you intrigued by strawberry-basil ice cream or gorgonzola-thyme steak sandwiches?)
Perhaps my epiphanies are novice and boring (in fact, I’m sure they are, if you don’t garden). Perhaps I’m still a city-slicker for relying on books to help me get back to nature. There are countless people doing the homesteading thing far better than I, and probably with lots of advice and lots of tricks gleaned from lots of devoted garden time. But I’m on my own learning journey here. Each year I convert a little bit more of my backyard into garden and tackle a few more projects. If you are also starting from scratch and learning as you go, I think that’s really the way to do it to avoid being overwhelmed.
I’m only growing less than 10% of our produce right now. Eventually, eventually I’d like to be closer to 99%. I feel more confident that I could get there, thanks to the advice from this book. I can’t wait for my next garden task.
What have you been inspired to do lately? If you grow your own, how are you managing your harvests? If you don’t currently grow anything edible, what’s one thing that you wish you could? Do tell.