Book Review: Grow what you love, by Emily Murphy

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book-cover.jpgGrow What you Love

12 Food Plant family to change your life

By Emily Murphy

RRP: £18.95

ISBN 978-02281-0020-1

I’m bordering on a glut of gardening books. However, this book, is the first one which is appears to be written by someone I feel gets me. Is like me. Is writing for me as a friend, not a student, or a stranger.

I don’t know Emily Murphy, although I’ve followed her on Twitter and Instagram for a while. She appears about my age and, like me, looks to be super practical, loves plants and loves food. She not only grows the plants, harvests the fruit and vegetables, but prepares and cooks them herself too. This is me. I do all those things. Most people I know in real life who grow food (I’m not including the people I know on social media), don’t do all of this. They sow it and grow it. But then it’s up to their other half to prepare it and serve it. This is how I read most of the books I have under my coffee table. It’s sown, grown, picked. End of. The buck is passed.

Not so with Emily.

And hooray!

So much more thought goes into what she’s growing and what she’s writing about growing. The clue is right there in the title, Emily grows what she loves. And to me, that means not only what she loves to eat. It’s what she loves to grow and prepare too. There’s an important difference. And actually that’s a life changer too. “Grow with a recipe in mind” Emily writes and I could not agree more! We young gardeners (girls and boys) are a generation of growers of ingredients, which we will ourselves turn into meals for our friends and family.

plant directoryEmily’s book is divided into chapters as a plant directory, sensibly grouping fruit and vegetables into seasonal groups or ingredients which could be harvested together.  She covers tender and perennial herbs, summer greens and winter greens, root vegetables, pods and beans, edible perennials (one of my favourite categories as these super faithful plants feed my family year after year with minimal effort), berries and edible flowers and companion plants – something which I’ve enjoyed experimenting with over time.

asparagus 2It’s no coincidence I suppose that most of the food that Emily writes about is food which I have also attempted to grow. In fact, there’s barely anything in her book that I have not tried. With the exception of broad beans (but I’m not a particular fan of those), there are two other plants I’m now super keen to try I’ve read Emily’s book: Mậche (Lambs lettuce) and Wild Purslane.

She covers all my favourites in wonderfully practical detail, with beautiful Instagram-ready photos: onions, beetroot, carrots, courgettes, snap peas, asparagus, rhubarb, a world of herbs, blueberries, cane berries, strawberries, calendula, nasturtiums, geraniums and sunflowers. It’s my allotment, covered.

Throughout the plant directory, there’s some fabulous recipes alongside their ingredient plant. I’m certainly going to be making the “Roasted Root Vegetables with Citrus, Herbs, Chilies & Pomegranate” later in the year when I have some carrots to pull.  There’s also an alternative recipe for poor mans capers on p.207. That’s something a few of us Garden Bloggers were trying out last year with our plentiful nasturtium pods, but it’s always great to have a different concoction to try pickling with.  Watch out for the smell after the brine stage if you try this recipe, the 2-day old brine soak absolutely wreaks.

Emily also provides simple guides on growing: seeding, planting and propagating, tending and training. Which is presented as step-by-step workshops. An amazing resource for a beginner. How I wish I’d had this book as guidance when I started out. For me now, it’s a comforting book, it’ll be something I can dip in an out of for reassurance.

sunflowersAnd this reassurance comes from someone I feel I have so much in common with: the photo of Emily with sunflowers on p.242 reminds me of my September walks home from the allotment my arms-full of huge sunflower blooms catching smiles from people driving past me in their cars. And, Emily’s note on p216 reminds me so much of my daughter:

“The first seeds I planted as a child were pumpkins and potatoes (they’re easy for small hands to manage). I tucked them into the soil, copying my parents, and added my own quiet whisper before patting the soil nice and snug. It went something like this: Dear seed, I love you. Please grow. I can’t wait to see you. Emily.”

This is not a standard fruit and vegetable growing guide. Grow What You Love is indeed a love story, disguised as a book about growing and food-making. It’s the perfect guide for me and my generation of growers.

Note: I was kindly sent this book as a free copy to review.  I wouldn’t pretend to enjoy something if it wasn’t true and that means that I can’t guarantee a written review for every product that is sent to me for review.

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