Book Notes: The Family Kitchen Garden


“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,
Kathryn xoxo
Footnote: photos courtesy of and copyrighted by Annette Wendland

8 Responses to “Book Notes: The Family Kitchen Garden”

  1. Wonderful find, mom! Sounds like a must-have, and great addition for many households! What an important subject, and excellent timing.

    Love you,

  2. Hi, Antonia! I do think this is a Must Have. It’s a great compliment to the resource books we tend to rely on. Thank you! Love, Mom xoxo

  3. Kathryn, I didn’t see Friday night’s program, but I’ve been catching interviews with Jamie for a couple of weeks. I’m utterly appalled that these children have never seen fresh vegetables! One interview said that the US has “Food Deserts” not only in urban settings, but rural and suburban as well. These are areas where the only source of food is a convenience store where there is no fresh produce. This partially accounts for the high consumption of junk food and the obesity epidemic. Even if you know what you should be feeding your children, if the fresh fruits and vegetables aren’t available you’re probably going to serve hot dogs and french fries.

    You’re absolutely right; it’s imperative that we start a movement to get back to the soil with our children. This could turn around the obesity problem in children if it’s successful.

  4. Hi, Loma. So glad you understand. Yes, I just sat there in stunned silence that a classroom of 6 year olds in West Virginia could not produce ONE child who could ID the vegetables Jamie brought to their class.
    Not ONE! Not a potato. Not a tomato! But they knew what french fries were. Jamie, “See these french fries? They come from this!” Holds up a potato. Blank stares. Unbelieveable. And very very sad. So, yes, lots of work to do to help bridge this horrific gap. Isn’t it ironic that rural communities full of, hello, DIRT, are eating fast food because there is “no produce”?? Our ancestors must be weeping in their graves. Time to get to work! Love, Kathryn xoxo

  5. Hi Kathryn!
    What an inspiring and uplifting way to begin the day! I start a job today, and what this says to me that each person can make a positive change in the world. One of the most basic things we do is eat, and to grow healthy things to eat in the earth and share that with children is to be part of the rhythms of life and a grand circle…It is all right there in the garden.
    Thank you, Kathryn.

  6. Good morning, Philip! How wonderful that you start your new job today! Congratulations! And thank you for the kind and illuminating comments! Blessings on the new job and all right livelihood! Kathryn xoox

  7. Where on earth are they going in West Virginia? You can’t drive any back road, no matter how narrow, without finding beautiful and rich vegetable and flower gardens next to the homes, no matter how poor. Are these “inner city kids”? And where, in West Virginia is anyone finding “inner city”? This is NOT the story of the West Virginia that my husband’s family settled when it was out, back and beyond western Virginia. I admit that Walmart is the largest employer in the state, but mountain people are wonderful at surviving. Having said that and being not just a little shocked that people actually have this vision of a wonderful state where many of our relatives have advanced degrees and there are not a few PhDs in the mix, I’ll relate our local Worthington attempt to get gardening into the schools. Our son, Adam, was asked to build raised garden beds for his senior gift to the Linworth Alternative Program in Worthington when he graduated in 1999 Linworth is an amazing program in large and little ways. The then Biology teacher, Carol Landis, wanted to start a garden program as part of the biology class. She filled the raised beds with organic soil and for a number of years ran a very active gardening program. She’s been gone now a few years but I just heard that someone else wanted to revive the raised beds and start anew. Since Linworth has no lunch program, kids were known to make a meal out of what was ready to harvest. Not a perfect story, but one of many where community gardens are sprouting up all over the greater Columbus area. We also have one of the oldest Farmers Markets in central Ohio here in Worthington. This is the 2nd year it has run all winter. Local eating and sustainable communities are becoming more common in this part of the hearland and it’s about time!
    Hugs, Cousin Julie from central Ohio where it is supposed to be 70 tomorrow after 3 inches of snow last Friday.

  8. Hi, Julie, My understanding is that this particular town was ID’d as the town with more obese folks than any other in the country. Ouch. But I do believe that by series end they will largely have turned that around, and hopefully will have ignited healthy food programs all over the country. Being a gardener I feel like my entry point is to support the concept of community gardens in schools. How wonderful that your son initiated one that kept going after his departure! Maybe Jamie’s show will revitalize many projects! I hope so! Love, Kathryn xoxo

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