Tag: cook books

Recipes for a Cucumber Glut

Judging from customer feedback and the fact that my own plants are groaning under the weight of fruit, this seems to be the year of the cucumber glut. One of the healthiest of foods this low calorie food is packed with vitamins and is high in antioxidants. Being made from 95% water cucumbers are also a great hydrator on a hot day. Hence “She’s/He’s as cool as a cucumber.”

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The scented bliss of sweet peas

Garden resuscitation

Since I last blogged, it’s been perfect for gardening – neither too hot nor too cold, and with showers to refresh the vegetables. The flower patch has come into its own, too. Dead-heading when appropriate has meant that there is a continual supply of cut flowers for the  house. Joy indeed. But as I picked and weeded and made notes of things to do next month, it came to me that gardens – being living entities – do from time to time need resuscitating. A revamp. Gardeners themselves may also feel the need for rejuvenation; it’s all too easy to become set in one’s ways because “that’s how I have always done it.”  So garden resuscitation is the order of the day; the thought would never have come to me had I not been tidying ‘The Shed’ – not the one with tools and gardening paraphernalia, but the one in which I store a library-full of BOOKS.

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The shortest day, the longest night


Wishing all our readers and blog followers a happy holiday

Wishing all our readers and blog followers a happy holiday

Today – the Solstice –  so it’s now officially Winter, when the night (or hours of darkness) far outstrips those of daytime. Today is so benign yet the ground is far too soggy to work out of doors. Wet is oozing out of the orchard grass, mud clogs the feet of the hens. But it’s the festive season too, and for many the start of an extended holiday – maybe a time for a quiet read in snatched moments.

A favourite haunt for hunting down rather special books on gardening

A favourite haunt for hunting down rather special books on gardening

It’s at this time of year that I re-organise my gardening books, notebook in hand – I always mean to catalogue them all but as they ‘move’ around it would take forever. Books litter our house, are stacked on shelves, lie on tables or the floor, sit on stairs. Favourites of course, and newcomers. And I cannot pass a good bookshop without browsing in the gardening section. Will something tempt me? (It usually does!) We are all urged to support independent bookshops (I particularly love those with a seating area and a tiny café offering home-made treats), but also one cannot fault Amazon for their ‘Prime’ service. As a writer, speed is of the essence and for me, living some distance from town, to have a book in my hands within 24 hours of ordering online is essential.

Some current reading and research

Some current reading and research

New or old, there will always be favourites; titles one turns to time and time again. I acquire more than I discard through charity shops (I once had to buy back one I had thrown out by mistake!) or by recycling them as ‘altered art’. Books currently on my desk for pleasure and research, or because they continually inspire me, include all the ones in the pile above, plus the following oldies which I am working my way through of an evening for fresh inspiration.

‘Veg – the greengrocer’s cookbook’ cover

‘Veg – the greengrocer’s cookbook’

‘Veg – the greengrocer’s cookbook’ by Gregg Wallace is perfect for anyone new to growing veg, although it is not for gardeners! As well as presenting TV shows and writing about food, Gregg began his food-related career running a successful fruit and veg stall in south London’s Borough Market. He believes in using food in season and sourcing locally, a philosophy that shines through his writing and his methods of preparing fresh produce when at their very best. Forget the celebrity hype and snide reviews, this book is worthy of being on the cook’s bookshelf. Published in 2006 by Mitchell Beazley.



‘The Complete New Herbal’ cover

‘The Complete New Herbal

‘The Complete New Herbal’ edited by Richard Mabey is another golden oldie which I acquired in 1988. Published by an imprint of Penguin Books, it was described then as a ‘new herbal for the modern age’. It’s a practical guide to herb applications in everyday life and the identifying photos are as stunning today as they were then. A book you can trust and a good companion for anyone who is interested in the herbal properties of wild plants for medicinal or culinary purposes.




‘Bringing a Garden to Life’ cover

‘Bringing a Garden to Life’

‘Bringing a Garden to Life’ offers a topical and realistic approach to gardening for wildlife, whether you live in the centre of London, on the outskirts of Leeds, or in idyllic rural Herefordshire. Or anywhere between. Written by incomparable plant ecologist Jenny Steel and published in 2006 by Wiggly Wigglers, it explains step-by-step  just how simple it is to bring wildlife into any plot, to the benefit of all else that grows.





‘a taste of theunexpected’ by Mark Diacono cover

‘a taste of the unexpected’ by Mark Diacono

And back to food: ‘a taste of theunexpected’  by Mark Diacono is a book for today’s changing climate and the most recently published of today’s selection (in 2010, by Quadrille Books). Amongst other activities, Mark runs Otter Farm in Devon, home to orchards of olives, peaches, almonds and apricots, forest garden, vineyards and vegetable patch. So his tips on growing, harvesting, preparing and eating the sort of produce varieties that are increasingly becoming available from Dobies of Devon, could not be more appropriate.



Don’t forget as your read and make notes to keep re-visiting the Dobies website for latest special offers on seeds, plants and equipment. 

Summer Reading

The long light evenings of Summer always seem to me to be a good time to catch up on reading. What better opportunity is there when gardening tasks are done than to sit down with a good and informative book? Time to discover more, new techniques perhaps, for with gardening there is always something new to learn. So here is a gardening book update – not new (for I always have a pile of books on my desk waiting to be included) but each of the three titles is worthy of re-visiting if you already have it on your shelf. Links are provided for you to purchase online at reduced prices.

no nettles required cover

no nettles required cover

‘No Nettles Required’ by plant ecologist and university lecturer, Ken Thompson, is sub-titled ‘the truth about wildlife gardening’. It’s highly informative and written as a series of very readable chatty essays – and just the right size to slip into a pocket if you are headed for the beach or other holiday venue and wish you were still at home in your garden! KT quite rightly states that “encouraging wildlife is entirely compatible with ordinary gardening, costs next to nothing and is entirely effortless. Don’t leave home without it. Published in 2007 by Transworld Publishers, buy it here.



‘Making the most of your Glorious Glut’

‘Making the most of your Glorious Glut’

‘Making the most of your Glorious Glut’ is more recent, but one that has been awaiting a suitable slot – and of course Summer is the perfect time for “cooking, storing, freezing, drying and preserving your garden produce”. On far too many occasions we just do not know what to do with all we grow. Indeed, it was a gift of a bag of runner beans that inspired the author, Jackie Sherman, to write this book. There are dozens of tasty meals – warm salads seem perfect for the wet June days we are experiencing as I write. Variations on a theme and unusual recipes will prevent your partner and offspring from commenting “not again!” JS covers storage methods, preserves, dried fruit and beg, sauces and spreads, drinks, and, on the recipe front, starters and salads, side dishes, main meals, desserts, bread and cakes. She also offers tips on actually reducing gluts and planning what you sow and grow according to harvesting times. Published in 2011 by Green Books, buy it here.


‘The Herb Garden’

‘The Herb Garden’

‘The Herb Garden’ is one of those books that you never tire of re-reading, if you are passionate about herbs. I was reminded that I had at least two copies sitting on my bookshelf when the author, Sarah Garland (whom I had never met) unexpectedly turned up at the end of our drive to buy eggs and started asking about keeping chickens! We got talking about gardens, as one does when gardeners get together; and the fact we were both authors emerged as we chatted. Looking at SG’s book again, I realised why I so love it, for it is a complete (and scholarly) illustrated guide to growing scented, culinary and medicinal herbs in beautiful garden settings.  The history of herb gardens is included plus plans for creating a number of topic-related herb plots with instructions for constructing different features.  Cultivation is attended to as well, plus a catalogue of over 250 herbal plants; and an excellent index. Published by Frances Lincoln in 1984 (hardback) and 2003 (paperback), it is sadly no longer in print but second-hand copies are readily available online.

Your help URGENTLY needed


This is serious! There are two pieces of Parliamentary legislation currently under consideration, both of which will affect gardeners: allotments and wildlife protection / climate change. Please take a look at the following websites. We urge you to read and consider the implications, then if you wish, petition, email or whatever else is asked, to safeguard ourselves and our children, grandchildren and future generations.

Allotments: “The government has decided to undertake a ‘Review of statutory duties’ with the aim of reducing the burden on local authorities. However they are considering removing the statutory duty to provide sufficient number of allotments for people in the area who want one. This would have the effect of putting all allotments under threat. There is a consultation process but it closes on 25th April 2011 so you need to ACT NOW and let the politicians know that allotments are important and should be protected.” Written by John Harrison in his allotment diary. He urges you to email your comments before  next Wednesday to burdens@communities.gsi.gov.uk. But if you don’t have time, sign the petition being organised by City Cottage.


Environment: On Monday, it was revealed that the government might scrap vital laws which protect wildlife and the countryside (the Wildlife and Countryside Act) and help to stop climate change (the Climate Change Act). “We need to work together to make sure our wildlife, our countryside and our planet are protected”, says the ‘people, power, change’ group, 38 Degrees. It only takes a few seconds to add your name to their petition. Just click here.

'The Therapeutic Garden' book

‘The Therapeutic Garden’


Writing personally, with tongue in cheek, and whilst acknowledging the severe lack of government funds (politics aside) – perhaps politicians don’t have time to garden! So probably they just don’t realise the benefits of growing our own food, being ‘green’; maybe as they “busy giddy minds with foreign quarrels”, they have lost the home plot, the garden plot. And they are probably unaware that gardeners save NHS costs, for gardening aids health. As author Donald Norfolk (a Fellow of the Royal Society of Health) wrote in ‘The Therapeutic Garden’: “dedicated to my green-fingered patients, who inspired me to write this book when I noticed that their love of gardening seemed to imbue them with an above average level of cheerfulness, contentment and physical fitness.” The book is a collection of fascinating and illuminating essays and well worth reading, whether you are a politician or not. Copies can be obtained second-hand from Amazon. (Just enter author and title.)

As ordinary ‘Jo Public’, and a gardener, your opinion DOES count. The public’s petitioning to save the sell-off of Forestry Commission woodland worked (via 38 Degrees), and the Government reversed their decision.