This is a list of books I’ve found helpful, informative and interesting. Click onto the book image for purchasing details.
GENERAL & REFERENCE
Boxer, Arabella; Innes, Jocasta; Parry-Crooke, Charlotte, and Esson, Lewis, The Encyclopedia of Herbs, Spices and Flavourings.
A good general reference book with notes on creating herbal oils and much more.
Campbell-Culver, Maggie, The Origin of Plants; The people and plants that have shaped Britain’s garden history (London: Eden Project Books, 2004; c2001).
This work is somewhat tinged with nationalist sentiment, but is nevertheless an interesting work that charts the history of the great British plant explorers and collectors such as John Tradescant the Elder.
Huikari, Professor Olavi, The Miracle of Trees. (New York: Walker & Co, 2012)
This is a beautiful small book written by one of the world’s foremost experts on trees and forestry. He was until recently head of the department of forestry at the University of Helsinki, Finland. This small book is full of wonderful drawings and illustrations and packed full of fascinating botanical information. It would make a lovely gift for the naturalist in your life.
Jahren, Hope, Lab Girl: A story of trees, science and love. (London: Fleet Books, 2016).
Amazing read by a leading scientist. Inspirational.
If this is a measure of a great read, I confess I was sad when I got to the end of the book. Thank goodness she has another book, recently published! …
Jahren, Hope, The Story of More; How we got to climate change and where to go from here. (published March 2020).
Works about climate change can be depressing to read, but with Hope Jahren’s clear-eyed, scientifically infused perspective should offer readers not only a concise summary of where we are now vis-a-vis global climate change, but also offer glimmers of hope. I can’t wait to read this one!
Kingsolver, Barbara, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: Our Year of Seasonal Eating. (Faber & Faber, 2008)
This book is part memoir, part journalistic investigation, and is full of original recipes that celebrate healthy eating, sustainability and the pleasures of good food. Barbara Kingsolver is an amazing American writer and novelist whose works I thoroughly recommend. I saw her speak in London at the Royal Festival Hall – she is witty, engaging and very informed about biology and has a background in science and botany. (See my listing of Biophilic Novels).
Podlech, Dieter (Translated and adapted by Martin Walters), Herbs and Healing Plants of Britain & Europe [Collins Nature Guides). (London: Harper Collins, 2016).
This is a traditional field guide, which comes with fantastic guides to identification, including leaf shape and flower inflorescences (eg the arrangement of flower heads, such as spices, umbels, panicles etc.) The book is organised by flower colour, from blue, yellow, red, white and green). A valuable reference for biophilic ramblers.
RHS, Pruning Plant by Plant; How to prune more than 200 popular plants. (London: DK London, 2012)
Super useful addition to any gardener’s bookshelf. It’s also quite small so could easily be taken with you into the garden. This is a fabulous little reference book, with a double spread entry for each herbaceous perennial, shrub and tree included. Has a section dedicated to fruit trees and soft fruit (eg currants, gooseberry, blueberry etc.) There are easy to follow illustrations showing optimal pruning techniques for each plant. Also includes useful plant profiles, but does not unfortunately include propagation information.
Thomas, P. A., Trees: Their natural history (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000)
This book is highly recommended by Hope Jahren in Lab Girl: “..for readers who find themselves wanting to know more about the living green that surrounds us, I recommend that they waste no time in getting hold of P. A. Thomas’s book Trees…, a clearly written introductory textbook full of fascinating information.” (Jahren, Lab Girl, Endnote, p.369).
La Place, Viana, Verdura; Vegetables Italian Style. (London: Grub Street, 2006).
This is a wonderful cookbook dedicated entirely to vegetable dishes, with recipes for garden-grown vegetables. Not every cookbook will have recipes for zucchini flowers, but this one does! Also includes many delicious recipes for globe artichoke. Yum!
Lawrence, Pete, The Allotment Cookbook; Grow, cook and eat with the seasons (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2016).
A lovely, narrative cookbook gifted to me by my very good friend Amy. Written in an easy style, this book is full of simple, seasonal recipes that make the best out of your homegrown or farmer’s market-bought produce.
Slater, Nigel, Tender; Volume I.
Although I confess that Nigel Slater’s television series never moved me, his recipe books are a wonder – well written and thoughtful, packed with easy to replicate recipes that are invariably delicious and tasty. A gardener himself, this is a fantastic cookbook for anyone who loves to grow their own, and each plant featured has growing as well as cooking advice and tips. A marvellous reference!
Slater, Nigel, Tender; Volume II.
A follow-up to the first volume, this one focuses entirely on soft fruits that can be grown in a kitchen garden. A modern-day classic.
Wilson, Carol, Preserving: Jams, Jellies, Pickles and More.
A good basic guide to preserving of all types. Simple enough for beginners.
Mabey, Richard, Food for Free. (London: HarperCollins, 2007).
First published in 1972 and subsequently illustrated and updated, this is a classic book and ahead of its time, and will help you identify 240 wild foods, with illustrations and recipes.
Ó Céirín, Cyril & Kit, Wild And Free: Cooking From Nature. 100 Recipes & Folklore of Ireland’s Wild Harvest (with new introduction by Sally McKenna). (Dublin: The O’Brien Press, 2015, c1978).
This is a classic foraging text dedicated to wild harvests in Ireland, and peppered throughout with recipes and plant folklore (which I love!) This book provides all the information you need to create jams, soups, desserts, syrups, liqueurs and more. A veritable treasure-trove of plant lore.
Wright, John, Hedgerow (River Cottage Handbook No 7; introduced by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall). (London: Bloomsbury, 2010).
This is properly speaking a reference for foragers, as opposed to gardeners. It comes with good general information about foraging and the law in the UK, and includes charts that details times of the year for wild harvesting, and also includes recipes.
Pingback: overnight magic | Philosophising…