“If well managed, nothing is more beautiful than the kitchen garden.” ~William Cobbett, The English Gardener, 1829
Friday my inspiration was piqued after watching UK chef Jamie Oliver’s new show “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution,” in which he explores the introduction of healthy food into an elementary school luncheon program in West Virginia. Challenging! Apparently Jamie has done this successfully in the UK. I was fascinated by his approach and found myself thinking, “Oh, my goodness. This is an incredible project. I’m a gardening blogger! What can I do to support these ideas?” That night I found myself tweeting, “There needs to be a community garden in every town and every school in America.” The next day my gaze fell upon a book Timber Press had sent me last year, which I had only briefly considered reviewing, The Family Kitchen Garden: How to Plant, Grow, and Cook Together. Perfect! Fittingly the authors are also from the UK, and the book evolved out of their experience of discovering a 17th C kitchen garden in the heart of London, which they secured permission to transform. In the subsequent years they opened up the vegetable garden project to local schoolchildren resulting in over 1,000 schoolchildren passing through and contributing to the yields of the Chiswick House Kitchen Garden.
“Growing your own vegetables and herbs will transform both your cooking and the way your children eat.” ~ Alice Waters
This concept fell right along with my own thinking, that the ultimate solution to transforming school luncheon programs is most likely in the teaching and cultivating of community gardens and school gardens nationwide. In essence, this is one more marker indicating our need to return to our agrarian roots, to locavore philosophies and to a dire need to reconnect to our beloved planet Earth. Indeed, if we are not connected to its beauties and rhythms how would be possibly be attuned to its needs? And thus our own.
I must admit that reading The Family Kitchen Garden I found myself wishing I’d had such a book from the outset of my gardening journeys. Why? Because it’s all laid out, step by step, answering the most basic of questions, timelined by each season’s activities, be that deciding what to plant to when to harvest what. In other words, the basics. I will guarantee that the most experienced gardener will find new information, all presented in such a witty fashion as only the English do so well. Additionally, anyone who does intend to include children, grandchildren, schoolchildren in their kitchen garden process will find the authors, with their years of experience working with all sorts of schoolchildren, will have anticipated the challenges (and solutions) to working with the younger set in our lives. Priceless!
The Family Kitchen Garden, focused solely on creating an organic garden, is conveniently structured by month by month activities. Do we need this? I think we do. Then a bonus in the book can be found at the back where all sorts of invaluable lists and calendars are included, such as “Average Time Between Sowing and Harvest,” “How Much Do You Need?,” and a “Sowing and Planting Calendar.” I love that they are simple to read and color coded.
The Family Kitchen Garden is a lovely, invaluable resource, which, if implemented, could transform the way we as families spend our time, eat our food and live our lives. Only good can come of this.
Love and gardening blessings,
Footnote: photos courtesy of and copyrighted by Annette Wendland
Posted on March 29th, 2010 by Kathryn
Filed under: Book Notes