I had mixed feelings about reviewing The Food Lover’s Garden: Growing, Cooking and Eating Well (Jenni Blackmore; New Society Publishers; 2017; $29.99). To be clear, the book is fantastic. It’s just that my gardening ambitions this year collided with the adoption of a new puppy who is a bit … energetic. My tiny garden has been reduced to a scraggly patch of overgrown herbs surrounded by an ugly chicken wire fence that has poodle shaped holes in it. Kimi is obsessed with oregano, though he will decimate parsley in a pinch. Most of my gardening time this summer was spent Googling “is it okay if my dog eats …?”. Fortunately, this book did give me a ton of great information that will help make next year’s garden — once the new fence is built — a great success.
Jenni Blackmore is a writer, artist and permaculture design consultant who lives on an island off the coast of Nova Scotia. She practices her passion for sustainable micro-farming on her own homestead, Quackadoodle Farm. She blogs about her adventures there at quackadoodle.wordpress.com. Blackmore describes herself as a former “kitchen klutz” who learned to enjoy making good food in order to feed her family well. Her focus is on vegetables that are tasty, nutritious and easy to grow. Her standards for being easy to grow are high, as the harsh Maritime climate makes gardening a challenge.
The Food Lover’s Garden is more gardening book than cookbook, so it’s full of fabulous photos — and the author’s original artwork — of vegetables and herbs. Unfortunately there are not a lot of pictures of the finished dishes. Do not let this deter you. Some of the best recipes I found were tucked away in side notes or as anecdotes. The best photos are those of gorgeous vegetables still showing some garden soil and waiting to be turned into supper long before they make it to the fridge. Every time I opened The Food Lover’s Garden I found a new dish, a new way to prepare a vegetable or a new gardening tip that I’d missed the last time I looked.
I liked the recipe for Pseudo Greek Salad because it’s a dish that’s a staple at my house. I loved the fact that the recipe is really more of a guideline than a set of directions. That’s also standard around here.
I’ve been obsessed with pickling things this year so I’m eager to try the Blackcurrant Sweet Pickle. Tangy, sweet and spicy — you can’t really go wrong with that. I have a feeling that it will be amazing with roasted pork.
Some cookbooks I keep around just because they inspire me but I rarely follow their recipes. The Food Lover’s Garden is the exact opposite of that. I can see myself dipping into this book from the late winter planning of my garden to the autumn canning of the harvest. It’s the sort of book that quickly gets dog-eared and coffee stained from hard use. A book that gets passed along to close friends and mailed to far away ones. I have a feeling that Jenni Blackmore would be happy about that.
Recipes are excerpted from The Food Lover’s Garden: Growing, Cooking and Eating Well. Copyright © 2017 Jenni Blackmore. Published by New Society Publishers. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.
Pseudo Greek Salad
I call this a “Pseudo” Greek Salad because I think technically a true Greek salad uses sliced red onion, and a non-sweetened oil/vinegar dressing with lots of oregano. Typically I tend to find this a little harsh in taste. I prefer to use green onions and a sweeter dressing, and fresh cilantro. I’ve also been known to add some homemade corn relish or some canned corn, which I’m pretty certain breaks the rules but certainly adds a beautiful yellow sparkle to the other colors, along with the added sweet corn flavor.
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1 large or 2 small cucumbers, partially skinned and cubed
1 cup chopped green onion (or red onion if preferred)
½ cup cilantro (and/ or parsley) coarsely chopped
1 cup black olives, pitted and sliced
1 cup feta cheese cubed
1 cup corn relish or corn niblets (optional)
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
2-3 Tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp prepared sweet mustard (optional)
1 tsp oregano or to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine in jar and shake.
Blackcurrant Sweet Pickle
4 cups blackcurrants
3 cups moist brown sugar
1 cup seedless raisins
1 cup chopped apple
2 Tbsp crushed mustard seeds
2 Tbsp chopped onion
1 Tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp salt
2 cups white vinegar
Cover currants and apple with vinegar, cook gently until tender.
Let cool, then mix in other ingredients. Stir well.
Boil for 10 mins, spoon into sterilized jars, and process in a water bath for 15 minutes.