"To Vanessa," runs the dedication to Anna Pavord's yardstick manual of creative kitchen gardening, "who planted a weed garden." None of your boring rows of antediluvian cabbages here, then: Pavord's vision of a "new kitchen garden" is a flexible contemporary version of that long-vanished institution, the potager, a garden where special vegetables were grown with flowering plants in arrangements that were both productive and pleasing to the eye. Pavord's contemporary spins on the theme include an alcoholic hedge and a city larder, but traditional designs get a look-in, too; even the oh-so-precious formal herb garden receives a much-needed fillip of imagination and color.
Pavord traces the historical accidents that set vegetables off from flowering plants, to the detriment of both, in an introduction full of the "buttery bonus" of artichokes and the "elegiac performance of a mature pear." Past the verbiage lie row upon row of well-tended plant lists; instructions on planting, growing, harvesting, and storing; recommended cultivars; and homely recipes to feed that Laura Ashley moment. DK Living's surgical house layout has set many a set of teeth on edge in the past, but there's no denying its clarity and usefulness in a book so rich in information and advice.
For Pavord, growing food is our last and best connection to the earth. Evoking the paradisal gardens of a time when growing food meant survival, Pavord assures the reader that "there is no reason why you too should not be in that same state of delicious fluctuation." And you can't say anything fairer than that. --Simon Ings, Amazon.co.uk