greentapestry : 'The Alternative Kitchen Garden'

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

'The Alternative Kitchen Garden'

I came across mention of this book some time ago, either via my internet or kitchen garden magazine reading and made a mental note to look out for it on my bookshop travels. As usual though the shelves of local book shops yielded only the works of television gardening personalities or those of famous horticulturalists. This is one of my favourite gripes as it often makes it impossible to have a peek inside books by authors outside the mainstream and to decide whether to buy. It makes me think how difficult it must be for new gardening authors to get their titles on the shelves of Waterstones and the like. By one of those quirky chances of fate, I read on the UK Veg Forum that Emma was offering bloggers the chance to review her book. I contacted Emma through her blog and was delighted to be offered a copy to review.

If you are looking for a serious comprehensive 'how to' tome this is not the book for you,although having said that there are still lots of useful growing hints, advice and information within its pages. There are though plenty of other titles which cover the whens and how tos of edible growing in greater depth. Emma's book comes across to me as a very personal cornucopia of thoughts and observations on an eclectic range of topics. She touches upon a number of subjects under each letter of the alphabet and writes engagingly on various crops, terms, living creatures, techniques, processes, organisations and places. The book is is made up of independent but linking bite sized snippets which you can read at your own leisure. There are two fundamental rules underlying' The Alternative Kitchen Garden' these being "be kind to the environment and have some fun in your garden", both of which resonate with me.

There is not only much useful information for the just starting out kitchen gardener but also food for thought for somebody like me who now has a few years of allotment growing behind them. I had often wondered what the bead like structures on the end of my French bean roots were when I pulled them out at the end of the season - well now I know why they appear and what their purpose in life is! I have come across new to me crops such as the jelly melon which I am tempted to grow in the future. At the back of the book there is an extensive directory of blogs, podcasts, recommended reading, suppliers, gardens and organisations some of which are unfamiliar and have been noted for further exploration.

 My only minor quibble was that there were a number of unfilled pages throughout the book, which could potentially have contained more of Emma's thoughts on certain subjects. What I especially liked about the book is that it is written by somebody who obviously enjoys growing and experimenting. All the observations are first hand and a sense of humour pops up throughout. On the subject of  hens Emma writes " If you really want to make your chickens jump for joy, then open a tin of (sugar and salt free) sweetcorn. It's not an everyday food (it goes straight to the thighs!)but it is the perfect chicken treat".

Emma has recently posted on her blog that she has a new book due to be published in June this year,entitled 'The Allotment Pocket Bible', which I am really looking forward to reading perhaps as I take a break for refreshments at the lottie this summer.


  1. This sounds like a book I would enjoy. I'll have to look out for it along with the new book which is due out in June.

  2. How nice that you have sought a not-on-front-tables book to review. It must be very frustrating for new writers that is is so hard to bring books to public attention.


  3. Anna, I am glad you enjoyed the book as it is on my wish list. I also enjoy Emma's blog. Now I just need to save the pennies!

    Best wishes Sylvia

  4. Should like a good read

    I also wonder how you get published let alone get your book on the shelves of Waterstones if you arent a celeb.

  5. Dear Anna, I do so agree that although the shelves of these major booksellers are filled with countless thousands of titles they do not seem to veer far from the mainstream. A reason why I much prefer, although it is not always convenient, to support independent bookshops that carry a more personally selected offering. This author is not known to me and I shall certainly look her up following your comprehensive review.

  6. Sounds a good book! I'm just starting Wildwood by Deakin, which I got from the library a while ago and haven't had time to read yet!

  7. For someone who hardly grows any veg, this was an enjoyable and very well written review Anna. You should do more of it (as if you have the time!)Take your point about celeb authors - our choices are limited by media hype in so many ways.

  8. Just found your blog - via Janet at Plantilicious - wonderful blog - I'm subscribing - and off to find out more about the book you mentioned - sounds ace.

    Off to read more........



All your comments are much appreciated and treasured. I wil try to reply to everyone who leaves a comment, but it may take me a few days, especially when I start spending more time in the garden and at the lottie. I know that you will understand :) I am sure that I will also visit your blog if I have not already done so. If you have any specific questions I will either reply to them here or you can email me at :


- Anna.