Book Review: The New Heirloom Garden

Next up on my Summer Reading List is The New Heirloom Garden by Ellen Ecker Ogden.

The subtitle is “Designs, Recipes, and Heirloom Plants for Cooks Who Love to Garden.” I’m either a cook who loves to garden or a gardener who loves to cook. Either way, I thought this book would be right up my alley, but it was….disappointing.

This book is broken up into three sections. Part 1 is “Step-By-Step” Garden Design, Part 2 is sample garden designs, and Part 3 is recipes organized by plant family (e.g. “The Cabbage Family” or “The Knotweed Family”).

The Step-by-Step garden design instructions are fairly basic and obvious: map out your garden on paper (include where large permanent structures are, watch were the sun is), create paths, improve the soil, compost, etc, etc. Nothing new really. (Although I definitely should have mapped out the sun before building my garden bed this spring.) I wasn’t expecting much new, anyway.

The next part is 12 sample garden designs. This part was particularly disappointing. Every garden design seemed to be situated on a flat rectangular plot of land with full-sun. Very boring. Plus, it’s hard to glean inspiration from something that really doesn’t apply to your own space at all. Even the pictures were lackluster. Most of the photos were close-up shots of vegetables styled prettily on a table. There weren’t many landscape photos to provide inspiration.

Lastly, the recipes….I usually love cookbooks, but I was thoroughly bored by the time I got to this section, and “Roasted Root Vegetable Platter” and “Sautéed Chard with Ginger” did nothing to redeem this book. The one recipe that piqued my interest was Carrot-Orange Marmalade. I’ve never heard of that! I can’t decide if it sounds gross or tasty?

Perhaps I’m being too harsh. Margaret Roach interviewed Ellen Ecker Ogden for her podcast a while back. You can read the transcript here to perhaps get a more favorable impression of the book. If I’m understanding the interview correctly, it sounds like Ogden’s goal was to highlight heirloom varieties of flowers, fruits, and vegetables and demonstrate how different heirloom varieties can be grown together in a garden. I guess she accomplished that mission??

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