Nothing makes my day like a "hold available" notification from CCL for a crisp new garden book, and this week I got my hands on a real gem. Grow for Flavour by James Wong (of Grow Your Own Drugs fame - not nearly as dodgy as it sounds) is a fresh ray of light in a forest of glossy gardening books that look pretty, but can sometimes be a bit guilty of repeating much the same information.
Don't get me wrong, Grow for Flavour is very a attractive volume indeed (who can resist an author who photographs his Star Wars figurines in his garden shots?), but it's not just a pretty publication. It's full of interesting facts and innovative ideas for getting the best flavours out of your home produce.
Wong argues that much of our gardening 'wisdom' is based on (British) Victorian gardening practice - essentially the time when yield was beginning to be prized over flavour, a sad trend that's come to its lacklustre fruition in our supermarkets today. This book is a strike back in defense of taste. It's full of simple ways to boost flavour in all sort of fruit and vege crops - and the thing I love best is that all of its tips are firmly rooted in science. (You see what I did there?)
Yep, Wong is a scientist as well as a herbalist and a gardener, which means that his observations, remedies and treatments all have solid scientific research behind them - a nice change in this subject area, where solutions are so often presented without a lick of evidence stronger than "Well my great Aunt Hilda swears by it!"
It's one of those books I think my partner secretly hates. Inevitably, when I get hold of a volume like this, his quiet evening will be peppered with interruptions along the lines of "Hey, did you know I hate coriander because I have the OR6A2 gene that makes it taste like soap and bleach?" or "Can I turn the laundry bin into a fungus farm?" It's not uncommon for these exclamations to turn completely nonsensical, like "Aspirin and molasses on tomatoes? Genius!" (Well, it made sense to me...)
We're well into planting season now, so grab a copy today. You too can be making inscrutable garden related exclamations in no time...
- Find other titles by James Wong