After seeing it reviewed by MrBrownThumb, I knew I had to get a copy of Grow Your Own, Eat Your Own by Bob Flowerdew. For the past couple years, I’ve done a decent job of growing fruits and vegetables in my garden, but I’ve always been pretty bad at keeping the surpluses. My hope is that with the instruction and guidance provided by this book, I’ll be able to do a better job of preservation.
The book starts off with some very practical advice about raising your own fruits and vegetables. Recommended tools, basic practices, and amenities are all covered. The tools include things like old french fry baskets (for washing produce) and discarded refrigerators (for cramming in a shed and using to store picked fruit). These suggestions are an example of the refreshing charm of the book. I’d characterize it as more economical hobbyist than hardcore environmentalist or political activist. The book seems geared toward people that view their garden as a delicious diversion and not a political statement. I consider myself an environmentalist, but not everything I do has to be measured in carbon.
Skill, Luck, and Ingenuity
When discussing the gardening and storing of foods, Bob often mentions that certain techniques take skill, luck, ingenuity, or some combination. The simple descriptions that he gives make everything seem possible, and this is a bit of a danger for casual folks like me. I think it’s important to recognize your own limitations up front and don’t fall into the trap of believing you have the time or skill to try everything in the book. Instead, commit to trying one or two things each season and find out what works for you.
With all the great advice in the book, it’s easy to get overconfident. There are so many ways to jam, jelly, pickle, freeze, or smash up pretty much any fruit. It’s important to balance this against what I’ve discovered in the past: Don’t grow what you don’t eat. If you don’t eat squash from the grocery store, what makes you think you’ll eat it from your garden? It’s important to try new things, but before you plant a whole row of something and dream up all kinds of big plans for canning it, ask yourself: Will I ever actually eat any of this?
So Little on Peppers?
One nitpick I have with the book is the tiny amount devoted to peppers. While there are roughly four pages devoted to growing and preserving apples, there is barely 1/4 of a page for peppers, half for sweet, half for spicy. Considering that jalapenos are a big part of my crop each year, and I love spicy food, this is a bit of a disappointment. I’d love to see more advice about canning or pickling peppers, but I suppose I’ll have to look elsewhere.
Buy or Not Buy?
I’m definitely very glad I picked up this book (or glad that Sarah got it for me). The simple advice makes me believe that I will be able to accomplish at least some of the preservation techniques described inside. Considering the great sense of satisfaction I got from making my own crushed red pepper, I’m eager to try something more advanced, like pickled peppers, canned tomatoes, or raspberry jam. Uh oh…I think I’m getting overconfident again…