Book review: New Urban Farmer by Celia Brooks Brown

The full title of this book is New Urban Farmer – From Plot to Plate: A Year On the Allotment.

In quick summary, it’s the grow-your-own-food book I really hoped that somebody would write because it’s exactly what I wanted to buy. It has the advantage of being written by a foodie and professional cook, so it starts with delicious fruit and veg you’d want to eat rather than just basic stuff you can grow.

It’s a very impressive book, and is so beautifully laid out and illustrated that I’d have to describe it as ‘allotment porn’. First and foremost, you don’t actually need to have an allotment to get the most out of New Urban Farmer – it’s fine if you have a small garden, a raised bed, or containers such as pots or window boxes. Best of all, if you’re new to food gardening or coming back to it after a break, it gives you a comprehensive overview of what’s possible in a smallish space and tell you the basics of what you need to do to get started and keep going. The most important points of pest and disease control are covered, as are green issues.

The chapters run month by month, and there’s a handy table in each chapter to tell you what to plant indoors, what to plant outdoors, what you can plant in containers, and what to pick for eating. Next to each what-to-pick there’s also a page reference for growing tips or recipes. The recipes really make the book, and are all innovative and either vegetarian or vegan. Every chapter gives you a list of the most important jobs to do around the garden that month too.

The writing style is conversational and largely practical, and the author communicates her enthusiasm very effectively. At the end of the book there’s a helpful list of recommended suppliers (I’ve used many of them in the past and have to agree), and another list of further reading. If I was being picky, I’d say that one minor fault in the book is a lack of mention of specific plant varieties, so you get generic ‘beetroot’ without mention of, say, the ‘Boltardy’ variety that new gardeners might find easy to grow. However, that is a minor gripe and there’s a limit to how much information you can put into a book of this nature without making it overlong.

To conclude, New Urban Farmer is an extremely attractive book aimed at new or returning food gardeners. It’s inspiring and engaging, and would make a lovely gift or you could just buy a copy as a treat for yourself.

New Urban Farmer by Celia Brooks Brown, published by Quadrille on 5th March 2010, with an RRP of £14.99

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