45 of 46 people found the following review helpful
Inspirational and an instant classic,
This review is from: A Taste of the Unexpected (Hardcover)
I wish I could award this book more than 5 stars because it is the work of genius. Mark Diacono has crafted a rare thing: a non-fiction book about food, growing and cooking that's a cracking page turner. I returned home yesterday evening after a 320-mile round trip to a day long seminar to find this long anticipated book had arrived. I opened the package, was instantly hooked and finished reading it in the early hours of this morning.
After writing the widely acclaimed Veg Patch: River Cottage Handbook No.4 last year, Diacono has turned his attention away from the standard grow your own fayre to his major love, the growing of the more unusual fruit and vegetables. His philosophy is simple: why waste so much time and effort on growing the usual (usually cheap to buy) suspects only to find they don't taste that much different to what's available at the shops? Instead we should turn our attention to the tastes and foods we savour the most and use these as our guides to drive out the list of things we really want to grow. If the list still contains potatoes or carrots then that's fine, but do make sure they're varieties that can't easily be found in the shops.
If flavours and what you like to eat are your guide, then Mark argues you'll also find that more of the unusual foods available for cultivation will then be added to your must-grow list. He's the ideal candidate to show us the possibilities this offers as this is exactly what he has been doing over the past few years at Otter Farm, his smallholding in Devon which is billed as Britain's first climate change farm. He's saved us hours of work by revealing nearly 40 of his best tried and tested more unusual crops.
Mark's a canny writer: in his introduction he guides us through the best way to come up with our own wishlist of what to grow. From lists of unbuyables and transformers (foods which turn the other ingredients into a sensational meal), through seasonal highlights, gambles, uncertainties and quick returns he maps out the possibilities for us. Each crop in then thoroughly introduced, bundled together under the headings of Tree Fruit, Nuts, Soft Fruit, Herbs & Spices, Beans & Greens, Leaves & Flowers and Buried Treasure. You'll already be familiar with some of them like almonds, asparagus and apricots, but I'm sure that only the most experimental amongst you will have tried oca or yacon.
This is another canny tack: by describing some of the more familiar options and how to grow them, the best varieties to choose etc. Mark builds up trust between himself and the reader which in turns gives you the confidence to not only to try to grow the more familiar foods which suit your garden's conditions, but to also try some or all of the other ones described. I have already radically altered the plans for my allotment next year.
The final masterstroke is to provide mouthwatering recipes for all of the crops featured. I can't wait to try Fesanjan (a rich chicken dish from Persia using the featured Carolina Allspice), Stir Fried Pork with Kai Lan (a perennial member of the brassica family) or Wineberry Trifle.
All of this is generously illustrated with photographs of both crops and recipes which will make you want to eat the page. The book is also well seasoned with warmth, wit and a treasure trove of anecdotes and experience.
My gardening AND foodie book of the year.
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Initial post: 13 May 2011, 09:04:44 BST
Nicola F (Nic) says:
Fabulous review- thanks! Will most definitely be getting this now :)
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