The Four Seasons Farm Gardener’s Cookbook: From the Garden to the Table in 120 Recipes
By Adrienne Martini
As the book’s back cover announces, The Four Seasons Farm Gardener’s Cookbook by Barbara Damrosch and Eliot Coleman (Workman, 2013) is two books with one binding. Call it a duplex full of delightful pictures of both plants and plates. The first half is an exhaustive (but not exhausting) guide to growing your own foods. Damrosch and Coleman literally start from the ground up; digging their writing hands into what makes soil ideal, what to grow where, and how to make it relatively easy. There is no space too small and the authors offer plans for plots the size of kitchen tables through those the size of football fields.
The authors are remarkably thorough–their guides to growing each type of plant are worth the cover cost alone, frankly–but never overwhelming. For those who dream of a yard full of fresh produce, the authors suggest six customizable garden types, from the simple Salad Garden that focuses on greens to the Hard Times Garden that could feed a family of four handily and nutritiously. The plan that makes me drool, however, is the Savory Garden. Only the most succulent varieties, from Chioggia beets to Hakurei turnips make the cut.
The second half of the book is dedicated to cooking all you’ve grown. As the authors point out, “Cooking from the garden is not like cooking from the store.” In the garden, your biggest barrier is not cost but availability. That tomato may not be ripe when you need it. All those rows of beans may be perfect all at the same time. Here the authors offer spins on basic recipes–like salads, sandwiches and pastas–whose stars can be swapped in and out based on what’s good right now.
These 120 recipes are reassuringly straightforward with minimal fuss over technique. Any produce that has traveled only the distance between your garden and your stove already tastes pretty darn good. The goal is to enhance its flavors rather than to invent them. Like the section before it, the cooking half of the book is encouragingly pragmatic in the best ways.
Adrienne Martini writes about running, eating, knitting and parenting at martinimade.com.
A longer version of this piece originally appeared in our Spring 2013 issue.