112 of 113 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
Enjoy the good life (oh, and help save the planet), 29 May 2005
This is one of the handful of books that every gardener (and cook) should have. And I'm a professional gardener with almost 300 gardening books, so I've got more than most to choose from. It wouldn't hurt if some policy makers read it as well.
Ken Fern is a gardening pioneer. He's actually grown not just the dozens of perennial plants in this book, but hundreds more, all of them good to eat or do something useful with, and then shared his favourites.
Most of our food currently comes from a small number of annual plants such as wheat. Nothing wrong with annuals - I wouldn't like to live without tomatoes, or sunflower seeds, or wheat, come to that. But being overdependent on annuals means we have to start growing our crops all over again every year - and that means lots of hard work, and a bigger risk of crop failure in bad conditions. It also means less biomass, far fewer opportunities for other species, and above all far more soil erosion. And of course being dependent on only a few species and varieties is downright dangerous - in the classic example, even though it was made worse by uncaring landowners and politicians, the Irish famine was still originally caused by overdependence on one species and very few varieties.
Ken Fern's book is almost entirely dedicated to perennial species, and a huge diversity of them. His way of growing food means far less work, more resilience and food security, more biomass to absorb carbon dioxide, more wildlife, and almost no soil erosion. Think of fruit trees such as apples, nut trees such as walnuts, or herbs like rosemary and thyme. Think of willows for baskets. But Ken's gone further still, and found plants to give us perennial vegetables, edible flowers, unusual roots and tubers, edible water plants, and much more. The plants are often beautiful as well, so this isn't just utilitarian gardening. One of Ken's favourite edible flowers is the day lily featured on the cover.
There are 47 photos, though far more than 47 plants in the book - but they're excellent photos, and keeping the numbers down means the book's still affordable.
Plants For A Future is well written, too. Reading it is like having a good natter with a friend who just happens to be an expert gardener. (For pedants like me it's a pity the editor didn't stop the use of commas as if they were full stops or semi-colons, but for the sane unpedantic majority this won't matter at all.)
The main text is packed more full of information than most books many times its size, but when you add in the appendices, with all their checklists of plant uses, suggestions for further reading, useful contacts, and much more, Plants For A Future becomes perhaps the single most useful book for the sustainable food grower.
So get this book and get yourself some tasty easy pickings!
And there's always the superb Plants For A Future website, [...] for a taster.