The other night I shared dinner with my friend Willi Galloway before her presentation to a packed house of weather-weary, cooped-up gardeners at the March meeting of the Northwest Horticultural Society.
Willi, a remarkably talented garden communicator and creator of the blog Digginfood.com, used to be my neighbor before she and her husband Jon, along with their 4 chickens Inky, Clyde, Bumble and Boo Boo, and their lovable lab Domino moved to Portland a few years ago. Over salads, pasta and way too much bread, Willi and I caught up about life and her new book Grow Cook Eat: A Food Lover’s Guide to Vegetable Gardening, Including 50 Recipes, Plus Harvesting and Storage Tips, Sasquatch Books, 2012.
I received a copy of Willi’s book in January courtesy of the publisher and its been by my reading chair ever since – a warm and inviting look at garden abundance that’s helped me through yet another cold, dark, wet winter. Some people fantasize about tropical locales and swaying palm trees — I dream of warm soil and the sticky green smell of tomato plants; fresh fava beans and tender salads.
This is one dog-gone gorgeous book! Can a gardening book actually be sexy?!? I’m mean really; I’m used to earnest, hardworking, serviceable gardening books or slick, lavish, overly-styled aspirational cookbooks. Grow Cook Eat – and the photographs of Jim Henkens, are in another class altogether. Soft, friendly, close up shots put the reader right on their knees in the garden, in the kitchen or — best of all — at the table(!) with Willi as she instructs and inspires gardeners to grow their own groceries.
Grow Cook Eat begins by briefly covering Gardening Fundamental then gets right to the point with chapters on Herbs; Greens; Legumes; The Squash family; The Cabbage family; Roots, Tubers, and Bulbs; Warm Season Vegetables; and Fruit. 50 comprehensive growing guides are accompanied by 50 easy-to-prepare recipes that make the most of seasonal harvests.
As behooves any experienced Pacific Northwest gardener, Willi and I share a love of KALE! Let’s face it, we can spend a ton of time wishing for warmer weather but stunted corn, and beefstake tomato no-shows win in the end. Good old kale; earnest, hardworking, serviceable kale always produces a bumper crop. With spring weather threatening – well, sort of, between blustery windstorms and snow flurries – my kale plants planted last summer are just beginning to throw up blossoms atop their now nearly 3 foot stalks. On the advice of my friend Willi, and inspired by the pages of Grow Cook Eat, I now know to harvest the delectable kale flower buds for an especially delicious “extra edible” from this versatile and healthy green. Slightly spicy with a delicate floral note – even kale has a sexy side!
Go here to read how Willi loves to prepare this delectable, fleeting backyard crop that sings of that moment when winter is almost behind us and the promise of spring is luring out to begin another year in the garden.