The best books about food gardening written by women

Amy Goldman Fowler Author Of The Melon
By Amy Goldman Fowler

The Books I Picked & Why

Grow Your Own Vegetables

By Joy Larkcom

Grow Your Own Vegetables

Why this book?

Joy Larkcom knows her vegetables, and how to grow them, like no other. She is a Brit, now living in Ireland, with deep experience. Her knowledge and wisdom applies to interested readers on both sides of the pond. 

Grow your own Vegetables is the best how-to book on vegetable gardening bar none. I recommend it to beginning, intermediate, as well as advanced growers. As for myself, I do well to thumb through its pages on occasion for best practices and refresher courses – especially when it comes to, say, spacing requirements for cultivating some of the unfamiliar vegetable crops. Eighty different kinds of vegetables, from artichokes to turnips, are included. No expert is infallible including Joy; she recognizes that your experience is the best teacher.


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The Complete Book of Edible Landscaping: Home Landscaping with Food-Bearing Plants and Resource-Saving Techniques

By Rosalind Creasy, Marcia Kier-Hawthorne

The Complete Book of Edible Landscaping: Home Landscaping with Food-Bearing Plants and Resource-Saving Techniques

Why this book?

Rosalind Creasy is one of my heroes. It was she who first turned me on to heirloom fruits and vegetables over 30 years ago, when I read her newly published Cooking from the Garden. That seminal tome celebrates the food garden’s bounty and uses in cookery. 

Creasy is best known as a pioneer in the field of edible landscaping aka foodscaping: the practice of integrating edible plants into the landscape for beauty and sustenance. Think yummy delicious arbors, allées, groundcovers, borders, hedges, espaliers, foundation plantings, and potted plants. She spells out all the how-to’s, wheres, and whyfors in her first book, The Complete Book of Edible Landscaping; and updates it all in the second edition, Edible Landscaping. If you’re looking for practical advice, detailed instructions, design schemes, and recommended plants to feed body and soul, then allow me to point you in Ros’s direction.


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Gathering: Memoir of a Seed Saver

By Diane Ott Whealy

Gathering: Memoir of a Seed Saver

Why this book?

Gathering: Memoir of a Seed Saver is a heartwarming story about the heirloom seed movement in America, charmingly told, with evocative details, by one of its prime movers. In 1975, Diane Ott Whealy, co-founded the Seed Savers Exchange (SSE), the nation’s premier non-profit seed-saving organization, with a gift of seeds passed down from her beloved paternal grandparents. The story goes from there. That heirloom fruits and vegetables are now ubiquitous in gardens and on kitchen and restaurant tables across the land, owes much to the dedication of Diane and her former husband, the SSE board, staff, membership, and supporters.

What Diane helped create is about a big idea: collecting, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants to promote their conservation. Get the inside scoop in Gathering. I owe my own evolution as a gardener and advocate to my affiliation with SSE over the past 30 years. 


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The Potted Herb

By Abbie Zabar

The Potted Herb

Why this book?

This book is a classic in gardening literature. I prize it so much that I keep grimy paws off my first-edition hardcover copy, and use a later paperback edition as a working copy. Abbie Zabar’s prose is authoritative and delightful to read; her drawings in pen and ink are exquisite. 

Zabar loves beautiful things in miniature. She dedicates this oeuvre, “To all those who want a little garden in their lives.” As in a little garden in a pot comprising annual culinary herbs or perennial herbal topiaries. Everything you need to know about pot culture, choice of container (she is mad about unglazed clay pots), herbs best suited for potting, and the art and craft of topiary is contained therein (pun intended). To round out the book are some simply delicious recipes (I can vouch for the lemon verbena tisane) and pleasing little projects employing potted herb cuttings.


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The Garden in Every Sense and Season: A Year of Insights and Inspiration from My Garden

By Tovah Martin

The Garden in Every Sense and Season: A Year of Insights and Inspiration from My Garden

Why this book?

The Garden in Every Sense and Season isn’t strictly speaking about food gardening, but Tovah Martin loves homegrown fruits and vegetables as much as I do, and that comes shining through on the pages of this book. She “lives on lettuce,” describes herself as “brassica-centric” (picture broccoli and cauliflower as the main event at lunch), is passionate about Jade bush beans and will have no other, and lusts for Chester Thornless blackberries. You get the idea?

What appeals to me most about Martin’s book, apart from her astute observations and deep knowledge about all kinds of plants – edible as well as ornamental; cultivated as well as wild – is her exuberance. About the rhythms of nature, the growth cycle, and the sensual pleasures to be had, every day in every season. I find her voice simply infectious. Reading this book is sure to make you smile, and perhaps help you (as it helped me) to appreciate the minor miracles of everyday life even more.


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