Kitchen Garden Companion, Stephanie Alexander ~ A book review

Every once in a while a book comes along which we just can’t put down. Stephanie Alexander’s Kitchen Garden Companion published by Quadrille Books, is just one such book. Whilst many chefs may call for books from their idols filled with food porn, which they can gleam slight insights as to how these talented individuals work.

However, Stephanie Alexander’s book is a back to basics breath of fresh air, using the tagline

Dig, plant, grow, water, harvest, chop, cook

It couldn’t be more true. The writer seems to have covered every base, she doesn’t assume that everybody has access to a garden allotment or sprawling back garden. There are tips for people who would use window boxes & window sill plant pots, and how much you would need to plant to keep a family in produce. The variety of produce covered is expansive (although not exhaustive), and the author doesn’t just play it safe either. Yes there are sections on the relative easy to grow herbs, but there are also sections on such things as Asparagus, Kohlrabi, Grapes & Vine leaves and Olives. The Kitchen Garden Companion was originally written for the Australian market, with the obvious down falls with the differing climates & produce available. Not to worry Quadrille Books have thought of this and ‘translated’ (for want of a better term) into a northern European version including the URL’s for the worm farm (more on this later).

During the course of doing this review several people have popped in for tea & biscuits, and had a casual browse of this tome eventually leading to them not being able to put it down. The book holds some kind of hypnotic power with regard to us continually picking it up and flicking through it. The one section that we absolutely love is the section on the worm farm. Throughout the book there is references to ‘Worm tea’, but unlike so many others who would probably leave it there, for you to find out yourself, the author goes through the ins and outs of how to make it & how best to look after your worms (along with where to source them).

As many of you will know who are regular readers of our little blog, we normally cook one or two recipes from the books we review. This time we’re going to go one step further. As we alluded to on Twitter this will become a longer term project, so the hope is that we’ll be able to show you, the readers, the end results.

Moving on to the main section of the book, each individual chapter goes into great detail about various indicators and planting tips for each subject listed. Details such as soil types, soil preparation, climate, position, how to grow and the list goes on. The most interesting  aspect to this main information page is the combination planting. There are tips on how to get the best from planting (or not, as the case may be), other plants to put together to stop the use of pesticides etc & ways to encourage insects to pollinate your new found plants.

All in all this is a very well thought out book, from the front cover made of cloth to the glossary of terms, bibliography, individual sections concerning produce and the recipes for each of those individual vegetables & fruits.

As we’ve said we’ll be revisiting this post with the results of our endeavours over the coming 12 or so months.

As an author, Stephanie Alexander is an accomplished writer & foodie. She ran the critically acclaimed Stephanie’s Restaurant in Melbourne for 21 years and was awarded the ‘Order of Australia’ in1994 for her contribution to the hospitality industry. In 2000 she turned her attention to primary schools, initiating a kitchen garden program to embed the ideas at an early age in children. She now runs the Stephanie Alexander Garden Foundation which is a non profit organisation.

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