The best books for garden gourmets

William Woys Weaver Author Of Flavors from the Garden: Heirloom Vegetable Recipes from Roughwood
By William Woys Weaver

The Books I Picked & Why

The Golden Peaches of Samarkand: A Study of t'Ang Exotics

By Edward H. Schafer

Book cover of The Golden Peaches of Samarkand: A Study of t'Ang Exotics

Why this book?

Schafer transports you into extraordinary gardens of the past, in this case, Tang Dynasty China (pre-900 AD), it’s a scientific travelogue revealing the magic of discovery and the way people react to exotic foods.  In that sense it inspired me to seek out the unusual and to celebrate the cutting edge, which I certainly do in my own book. Also, as anyone can judge from the title, Schafer is keen on revealing inner “poetry” in the language of plants. 


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Leaves From Our Tuscan Kitchen, Or How to Cook Vegetables

By Janet Ross

Book cover of Leaves From Our Tuscan Kitchen, Or How to Cook Vegetables

Why this book?

The objective of Ross’s book was to teach the English how to cook vegetables the Italian way (as opposed to boiling them to shreds). But this is also a romantic fling with the Mediterranean way of life and moving through it at a more humanizing pace. Ross also includes recipes, the part I like most, and like her, I also include recipes because if you are going through the trouble of growing your own food as an experiment in living a better way, come harvest time, it is important to know what to do with them. That should be the spiritual and culinary reward because it all comes together at the table.  


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Acetaria: A Discourse Of Sallets

By John Evelyn

Book cover of Acetaria: A Discourse Of Sallets

Why this book?

John Eveyln’s book is classic. He was the first person (in English anyway) to discuss exotic vegetables, even common weeds, in terms of healthy salads. The man was literary, very smart, and he knew how to cook. I have often used his recipes and surprising enough, he is as trendy today as he was in 1699. Furthermore, this book is a talisman for real foodies. My enthusiasm for Evelyn was shared by the late English author Jane Grigson, whose book is also on my list. 


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Jane Grigson's Vegetable Book

By Jane Grigson

Book cover of Jane Grigson's Vegetable Book

Why this book?

I have all of Jane Grigson’s books and to me each one is special. Jane was a personal friend and while she lived in the UK and I lived in the US we often spent hours on the telephone discussing the finer points of pawpaws or persimmons.  We also shared the same birthday. Jane discovered she had cancer and decided to meet it head-on by shifting to a plant-based diet. That is her overarching philosophy, and it pervades her books. And while her books reflect that personal journey toward healing, they are also useful because like me she was an epicure with hoe, her food writing was not an abstraction, she wrote from hands-on experience. 


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Epicure’s Garden

By Roy Genders

Book cover of Epicure’s Garden

Why this book?

Genders and Jane Grigson were kindred spirits, although Genders started out much earlier than Jane Grigson. I have all his books mainly because he deals with the unusual and enjoyed the challenge of trying something new (or in the case of rare heirlooms something old and forgotten). Genders’ books are practical guidebooks, so much so that they never go out of date. Serious cooks and gardeners keep his books close at hand because when you are stumped, just look it up in Genders: he will walk you through the problem. And not the least, he understood the meaning of freshness and flavor. He was a culinarian with a spade in hand. 


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Closely Related Book Lists