Books about Gardening (but not the How To kind)
August 28, 2009 1:52 PM   Subscribe

Looking for interesting books related to gardening/growing food other than the usual How To manuals. To put it another way, what would be on your syllabus for a course called something like "Gardening Books: Science, History and Literature"?

Examples of stuff I have in mind (but have already read): Michael Pollan, Botany for Gardeners, and Letters from an American Farmer.
posted by gwint to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle springs to mind, which is more a narrative about starting an organic farm than just gardening, but hey, it's still growin' stuff.
posted by martens at 2:22 PM on August 28, 2009

I'm hearing a lot of buzz about the new book Farm City, about urban gardening/farming, by Novella Carpenter.
posted by Miko at 2:36 PM on August 28, 2009

The Original Victory Garden Book by E. G. Kains. I would also look at the iconography of the American victory garden in the 20th century as depicted in posters produced by the U.S. government.
posted by MonkeyToes at 2:43 PM on August 28, 2009

My state's Master Gardener's Handbook.
posted by electroboy at 3:12 PM on August 28, 2009

Victory Garden iconography (and more) from the National Archives.
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:13 PM on August 28, 2009

Well, since I seem to keep jumping in this thread every time I remember another recommendation, I might as well put all of them together.

I have several gardens, most of them filled with vegetables. It didn't start out that way. The one-two punch of Eric Schlosser's "Fast Food Nation" and Morgan Spurlock's "SuperSize Me" made me realize that most of what I was eating was, quite frankly, crap. So I dug up my back yard and put in tomatoes and basil and peppers and garlic. A used book sale turned up E.G. Kains' "The Original Victory Garden Book" and I realized that gardening in order to feed one's self had a long tradition that I really hadn't given much thought to. My garden got bigger.

The Ball Blue Book (and then the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving) was my next stop, because I was pulling 60 pounds of tomatoes out of the garden every three days and what the hell was I going to do with all those tomatoes, if not can them in various ways?

I moved to a rural area. My garden turned into several discrete patches. I read Michael Pollan, not just "The Omnivore's Dilemma," but also his shorter pieces (scroll down). Barbara Kingsolver's "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" convinced me to try raising my own meat, so I got pigs; like Kingsolver's daughter, my son earns his "egg money" and helps look after the chickens. The Storey guides have been invaluable references, as far as livestock. Last year, I read William Alexander's "The $64 Tomato" and wept/laughed with recognition, then resolved to put in even more tomato plants (thanks a lot, tomato blight). Michael Pollan asked "Why bother?" and--I might have said this aloud--I answered "Because I have the ability to grow and raise good food, close to home, so I should do so." Midnight reads of Ruth Reichl and M.F.K. Fisher (foodies, not gardeners) reminded me about the primacy of food and its connection to love--in particular, Fisher's words: "When I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the love of it and it is all one." It made me rethink the garden, and its harvest, as an act of the heart. (My husband, ever more practical, looked at the pigs and ordered Michael Ruhlman's "Charcuterie" and shortly thereafter built the foundation for a smokehouse.)

Watching "Food, Inc." probably sealed my doom. Today, I watched a fence go up so I can raise beef cows. J'accuse, Schlosser, Spurlock and Pollan!

It has been worth every weed, every canner load--and every bite.
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:55 PM on August 28, 2009 [3 favorites]

Mas Masumoto's Epitaph for a Peach.
posted by jocelmeow at 3:59 PM on August 28, 2009

The One Straw Revolution was monumental in influencing the 1970s back to the land movement.
posted by cda at 7:28 PM on August 28, 2009

I think Weaver's Heirloom Vegetable Gardening is so chock full of good history etc. that it qualifies as the kind of book you're talking about. It also is extensively enough researched that it will probably provide other ideas in the notes.
posted by OmieWise at 9:57 AM on August 29, 2009

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